We opened by saying Hello to each other then listened to two panelists say Hello in their language. When one of them started speaking a lot I got a little confused. It turns out that it was an intentional strategy to develop empathy among educators. We debriefed about what it felt like.

Courage

As the students shared their stories something that stood out was the courage it takes to be an international student. That is a great point to remember as educators.

Hands with the globe on them
Image by stokpic from Pixabay

No Discrimination

A student shared that at Laurentian there is no discrimination in the classroom. It is a safe space for them to engage. In one of their home countries they were fearful that the teacher or others in the class would make fun of their English. In the safe space at LU they were able to learn to improve their English skills. What a testimony to the welcoming environment here.

Canada is Cold but the People are Warm

Student Quote

Quality education, openness and safety are the reasons why international students choose Canada. Laurentian supports their students in a variety of ways that are similar to what we do at Cambrian. Maybe this is already happening, but it seems that maybe we could collaborate across institutions to offer supports like the English courses that students are offered to come into the Nursing program. To my knowledge we don’t have that (yet) at Cambrian.

Strategies and Student Voices

Students described how the supports at Laurentian made it possible for them to succeed. The moderator also encouraged them to talk honestly about their challenges. Advisers and english courses were key aspects of their success stories.

Challenges included how difficult assignments were. Failing impacted their ability to sleep. A professional consultation helped them navigate the challenges with recovering and being academically successful. Another challenge was when professors could not be found and only responded to the first of nine emails. As a result the student changed professors.

Some shared how accessible teachers were, which was something that they were not use to in their home country. Three of four of them talked about how important the small classes and quiet atmosphere was to their success. These stories speak to how important small classes and teacher availability is to student success, especially when they have the additional challenges that come with being an international student.

Opportunities to practice English were critical to their ability to learn and interact with others. As institutions it seems that facilitating this practice is important through events as well as in-class opportunities.

It seems that they tend to become friends with other international students instead of domestic students. Some are slowly making friends. A teacher shared that even in a class with both domestic and international students the two groups do not mix.

As teachers they suggest that we encourage international students to for groups that have both domestic and international students. That way domestic students will not avoid them due to difficulty communicating. It will help students make friends as well as practice their English. The notion of assigning or self-selecting groups was discussed as it poses some pedagogical challenges. The outcomes of the course, learner needs and preferences may play a role in what is most appropriate for a particular course.

They also suggested that we encourage and remind students that we are available. They may not be use to that so they need reminders.

Show that you are easy going. Show that you are open minded to questions. Actions speak volumes.

Integration in daily life is important to consider. Interacting outside the classroom and making friends is a challenge. When students want to make friends we need to think about how we can facilitate that.

We want to make friends.

Student quote

Ideas to Support Success

  • How do we help students ask questions during class? Student response systems (like Mentimeter) are an excellent idea.
  • Low-stakes interactions in the class
  • Tailoring approaches to be inclusive
  • Promoting exposure to opportunities for exchange for everyone
  • Funding opportunities for exchange – “We have some of the brightest people in ht world coming to [Sudbury]. We need to take advantage of that.”

Really, it comes down to universal and inclusive classroom experiences.


NurseKillam

Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.

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