5 steps to ‘internationalise’ your classroom

What would it feel like for a student from a different culture or language background to be participating in your classes?  How often do your students have the opportunity to talk and engage with one another and share their different experiences? These are the kinds of questions that help highlight what opportunities students might have to develop social and cultural awareness.

Embedding a culture of internationalisation involves encouraging all students to recognise and demonstrate the value of diverse perspectives and practices by the time they transition into the workforce or further study.

You and your teaching practice?

Internationalisation can include all areas of the organisation, across the whole of the student lifecycle, but where better to start than the classroom (online and on-campus)? It’s where students spend most of their time and where teachers can have a great influence on their experience.

1. Make connections early on.

Think about what your students experience in their first interactions. The first week of your course is where you can set the tone of cultural awareness and internationalisation. In the first week of semester, plan Icebreaker activities to encourage cross-cultural interaction, begin discussions on diversity and encourage students to learn about each other and where they are from. An example is a treasure hunt around campus with students working in pairs from different cultural groups. This example has been used successfully in Edith Cowan College in Perth, Western Australia to encourage students to work with others, meet their peers and also orient themselves to their new surroundings. For the online class space, consider making a Welcome Video to set the tone. Depending on your discipline context, think about how you can invite students to share their perspectives.

2. Manage the classroom with cultural awareness.

Think about how you might embed cultural awareness in your learning activities, whether online or on-campus. Using plain English is a great start. For students from a non-English speaking background, reducing the complexity of language to minimise confusion will help them grow in confidence and aid their understanding. There is lots of literature around the development of expertise that reinforces the importance of starting with simple language and examples, which grow in complexity as the learning continues. Some examples are Alexander (2003), Sweller et al (2007), Van Lehn (1997) and Vygotsky (1987). Using questioning techniques such as think, pair, share allows students to safely discuss their thoughts, compare ideas with others and prepare a response. This can avoid the awkward silence and sense of social risk when individuals are asked to test their knowledge or respond to questions in front of a large group.

3. Celebrate differences.

When you choose case studies, images and examples, aim to include them from different perspectives. Make this explicit and take advantage of teaching points about culturally diverse perspectives and building global outlooks. These will be valuable skills for the graduates, so draw attention to them as you go. For example, role play activities can be used to require students to take on different cultural perspectives. In another example, some Navitas ELICOS colleges have used simple technologies to connect students from different countries, for example via quiz competitions using  Kahoot.

4. Consider first impressions.

Before they even arrive in your classroom, consider the language and messages your students first see when they engage with your course. For example, include global perspectives in the description of courses and learning outcomes where possible. Would your students benefit from building graduate capabilities or employability skills such as ‘intercultural communication’?  Examples from disciplines could include:

  • comparing approaches to law/ business/ management etc in different countries;
  • communicating with different cultural groups;
  • analysing case studies of intercultural miscommunication in the areas of (for example) management, negotiations, or marketing;
  • Interpreting cross-cultural experience from more than one worldview.

A useful rubric as a starting point for your ideas is the ‘Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric’ created by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

5. Reflect on your practice (for you and your students).

Some learning is incidental and some may not be obvious to students unless you encourage them to reflect on how far they have come. You can make explicit the skills being practiced when working with others in groups, and equip students with the awareness to consider what worked and what they’d try next time. Encourage students to reflect on their perspectives in comparison to others. The STAR process might be useful in this context, which prompts reflection on the ‘situation’, ‘task’ ‘activity’ and ‘result’.

Diving deeper

These ‘intercultural communication’ and ‘global awareness’ capabilities are often included in ‘employability skills’ which are seen as valuable for graduates, so make the focus on their development explicit.

To access a summary of key themes and examples of practice around internationalisation, click here. If you want to share ideas or experiences around internationalising the classroom, we would love to hear from you! You can continue the conversation with Navitas colleagues on Yammer.