The International Center for Academic and Professional English at Lehigh University is a support service for students and faculty.
Our instructors have years of experience preparing English language learners for academics. If you feel like international students in your class are struggling and suspect it is due to language or cultural barriers, please contact our office to schedule a consultation or classroom observation.
In addition, the director of ICAPE, Mark Ouellette, with his colleague Ellen Skilton-Sylvester, has prepared these suggestions for teaching multilingual students. They are adapted from Fredel M. Wiant and Johnnie Johnson Hafernik's book, Integrating Multilingual Students Into College Classrooms: Practical Advice for Faculty.
Suggestions for Faculty
Set an example of peer respect for and value of different accents, different cultures, and different perspectives.
Listen to what is being said/written by students rather than solely how it is being said/written.
Allow assignments and discussions to draw upon individual knowledge and experience as they relate to course content.
Provide all students with explicit written instructions for major assignments, along with the rubric for grading and models for what you expect.
Schedule brief “check-ins” for major assignments, providing specific feedback to students.
Consider allowing for drafts or “second tries” on some assignments, with specifications for grading and improvement.
Inform students of various resources available to them on campus, online, and in the local community.
Explain what you specifically mean by “critical thinking” with each assignment.
Speaking and Listening Tasks (Formal and Informal)
For presentations, encourage students to practice and provide feedback to each other in multilingual groups.
Clearly define for students what you consider as full “class participation,” and consider how you might broaden that definition to accommodate differences in individual learning styles, preferences, and cultures.
Allow students to think and plan before speaking in class.
Facilitate effective participation in group projects and discussions by assigning and clearly defining group roles, and then rotate such roles.
Use the “I-message” when holding office hours and encountering violations regarding appropriateness and implicit rules of interaction (e.g., “When you say X to me, I interpret this to mean Y; Is that that the meaning you intend to convey?).
During lectures and even conversations, avoid nuanced, idiomatic, or colloquial language.
(e.g., “Stick that thingamajig in the doohickie”); try also to avoid culturally specific references without explaining them (e.g., “Some have understood this condition as a type of ‘Marilyn complex’”).
Try to explain sarcasm, humor, and other forms of implied meanings, if important.
Consider providing students with organized outlines for lectures, and use clearly articulated framing structures (e.g., “There are three main reasons for…”) and discourse markers (e.g., “first, second, however, for example, in contrast, etc.) that index the organization of information.
During lectures, use paralinguistic (e.g., intonation, pausing, emphasis) and nonlinguistic
(e.g., hand gesture, body movement, and facial expression) cues to organize in formation clearly
Consider allowing students to audiotape lectures.
Consider allowing students 5-minute “note-negotiations,” especially during longer lectures
(e.g., “Now take just 5 minutes to compare and contrast your notes with the person sitting next to you”).
Reading and Writing Tasks (Formal and Informal)
Provide students with study questions or points to think about for assigned readings.
Encourage students to use the SQR3 (i.e., Survey, Question, Read, Respond, Recite) method of academic study and to only look up key words when necessary.
Explain culturally specific genres for readings and how students should read them.
Inform students of what constitutes an original word or idea and what constitutes plagiarism/cheating in your class and discipline, along with the potential consequences for transgression. Particularly, discuss acceptable forms of “help” and “collaboration.”
Avoid essay topics that marginalize or “silence” students and consider how topics relate to their world experiences (e.g., avoid canned or reproducible topics).
Consider allowing students to submit their own written work online for plagiarism detection (e.g., Turnitin.com). That is, facilitate an internal “monitor.”
For major written assignments, require several stages or steps that are graded, allowing for sufficient time in the semester for student completion.
Write essay prompts that guide and facilitate student thinking without restricting critical thinking.
Provide students with a variety of writing assignments and genres that are graded.
Provide clear and explicit feedback and correction to students and ensure that students understand what the feedback is referring to, what it means, and what they should do with it (e.g., avoid “Awkward” or “Vague”).
Consider what you understand as an “error” in English language use in terms of the gravity of the error as well as the extent to which it is a matter of your own individual preferences or dialect (e.g., “When there is single central atom in the molecule, CH2ClF, SeCl2, O3 (CO2, NH3, PO43-), central atom is first atom in chemical formula.”).
Explain clearly what constitutes effective peer review and what appropriate language can be used to provide constructive criticism.
Point out to students, using the “I message,” when students write an inappropriate email or other type of informal written communication (e.g., online posting, etc.).