Faculty Tips for Working with International Students

International Students in the Classroom: 10 Practical Tips for Faculty

  1. Be proactive in communicating with international students.  Even a short conversation after class about the student’s home country can help the student feel more comfortable and can build rapport. Do your best to learn how to pronounce students’ names, even if it takes a few attempts.
  2. Normalize “office hours on the first day of class as most international students are reluctant to visit faculty offices unless they are compelled to do so. Keep in mind that in many parts of the world, professors and students rarely interact directly so some international students may seem initially distant or avoidant.
  3. Check –in with students after assigning group work and offer suggestions. Clear group/individual expectations are also helpful as international students may not be accustomed to cooperating in an academic environment.
  4. Talk to students individually about participation and encourage students to share their unique perspectives; ask questions like “how would this issue be perceived in your country?” to inject an international perspective on global issues.
  5. Be conscious of discussions/topics that presume a nuanced understanding of American history and politics. International students will often nod along in agreement although they may not follow the discussion.
  6. Recognize that language proficiency is not usually their primary barrier to academic success; most international students struggle more with academic writing and the volume of reading assigned. Help international students to prioritize readings and refer students to resources like the Writing and Math Centers for more help.
  7. Clarify your expectations on class policies including attendance requirements, homework submissions etc.  If you notice an international student missing a deadline or arriving late to class consistently, use these situations as teachable moments and emphasize the importance of promptitude and deadlines in the United States. Remember that international students are going through a process of cultural adjustment.  Classroom culture is only one of the many ways they have to confront cultural differences every day.
  8. Provide examples of successful coursework.  Often international student struggle to understand what qualifies as an “A” paper or presentation. Providing samples of “A” work can help international students to track their progress and to identify areas where they need to improve.
  9. Understand the difference between degree-seeking and exchange students.  Exchange students make up the minority of international students at USD (though many assume the opposite) and are less likely to be familiar with US academic culture and may experience more initial challenges.
  10. Collaborate with the Office of International Students and Scholars. Unsure if an issue with one of your students reflects a cultural difference? Working directly with our office is a great way to handle challenging interactions with international students. Keep in mind that international students may have to make academic decisions to protect their immigration status. In these cases, it’s best to advise students to seek help in the International Center.

Read the full article "Helping Faculty Teach International Students"

Need some assistance in working with a specific student? Contact us:

Office of International Students and Scholars    

Serra Hall 315 x 4598