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Teaching Strategies: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Managing a career development division at Global UCF Pathway Programs required me to develop global learning outcomes tailored specifically to international English-language learners and cross-cultural students from all over the world. At Global UCF, our personalized university experience provides an immersive experience to become a part of the UCF family, while exploring United States culture. Many of our services and training programs assist students in their adjustment to life in the United States with academic tutoring, career development, and cultural events. Once students complete their IELTS, TOEFL, and ITEP English language placement tests, we determine which level is best suited for each student coming into the Global UCF Pathway Program and their academic and professional journey in the U.S. begins.

This requires an understanding of global, international, and comparative education, as well as understanding the strengths and challenges experienced by culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. I have found that the best way to serve our international students is to be aware of the obstacles they face, as well the proven strategies that can mitigate the challenges experienced in their studies.

Common Obstacles Faced by International Students

  • Classroom Participation Expectations: Sometimes students may not expect the structure of the United States active-learning activities. Students may not expect to be called on to participate, offer their opinions, engage in critical-thinking, and group work.

  • Cultural Norms: Students may come to the United States with different ideas about communicating respect for authority such as not disagreeing during classroom discussions, or not making eye contact.

  • Writing Styles: Students may have learned different native dialects of English, such as British, Australian, or North American, among many others. Students may struggle with learning a new dialect of English for academic writing purposes.

  • English Language Proficiency Levels: Students are coming into the US with different English language level proficiencies, determined by their IELTS, TOEFL, and ITEP exams.

  • High vs. Low-Context Communication Expectations: Students may be accustomed to a different form of intercultural communication.

Inclusive Strategies to Support our International Students

  • Country of Origin: Making it a point to take an interest and embracing our students' identity and country of origin shows them we support them and who they are.

  • Classroom Syllabus and Expectations: Students may be used to a different format for the course syllabus and expectations of the class. It is important to be clear about expectation in the syllabus as well as in person.

  • Classroom Management: It is important to structure classroom participation in a manner that supports our students as they are exposed to active-learning. Being clear about the learning outcomes and how active-learning and discussions support student learning will assist our students in understanding the connection and emphasis on interactive expectations.

  • Creating Connectedness on Campus: Students may feel a sense of isolation during an immense cultural transition such as studying in the United States. Creating an inclusive culture where students are informed about campus resources, opportunities, and organizations will assist is helping them create a sense of belonging to the UCF community.

  • Awareness of Cultural Viewpoints: It is very important to learn about different cultures and their traditions, values, and customs. The more we know and learn from our students, the best we can support them.

In my research, I have found that global learning competencies and EFL strategies are necessary as we approach program design and implementation with diverse populations. The beauty of serving our international students is that we are truly playing a part in making their dreams of studying in America, come true. It is a great pleasure to not only serve our students, but to embrace their cultures and honor their cultural identities. My goal as a manager of an EFL/ESL career division is to best equip myself with the knowledge I need to be of service to all students, while making them feel welcome in their new academic and professional home in the United States.

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