You may have students in your program and classes from a variety of different countries and cultures.
How can you best support their writing in class and as they prepare for employment?
Here are some recommendations we have gathered from a variety of other colleges and universities, as well as from Confederation College faculty.
Students from different cultures will have different traditions of language use, communication, and writing style. You can address these differences while introducing the “Canadian” way or any specifics from your program area.
- familiarize yourself with the writing traditions of the students in your class so that you know what to emphasize in your teaching; ask the students about the written assignments they have completed in their own culture or country
- at the beginning of the semester, clearly state your expectations of classroom behaviours such as punctuality, use of technology, group/individual work, lab practice, language use, etc.
- provide an outline or agenda at the beginning of each class so that students can take notes
- assign readings related to the class prior to the class
- provide additional class content information in Blackboard, i.e. notes, PowerPoint, links etc. in Blackboard for students to use outside of class time
- clearly identify required information vs. additional information
- identify any important sources of information for the students i.e. handbooks, websites, etc.
- encourage students to speak English during class time
- pronunciation issues: if you cannot understand what a student is saying, ask them politely to repeat or to re-phrase the question
- have students practice discussing topics or concepts from class before they write about them
- some students from different cultures may bring cultural, political, and historical tensions into the classroom from their homeland; proceed cautiously until you know how the student is going to respond
Students from other cultures will need you to provide practice and examples of writing, so they will know what to produce. Also, you may have to highlight key vocabulary, pronunciation, and terms expected in writing assignments. Lastly, you can support student writing in group assignments by structuring groups with diverse membership.
- explain any terms or jargon that you use or that are common to your field of study i.e. nursing, aviation, business, technology expressions and terminology; if possible, provide reputable online resources for additional information
- encourage students to keep lists of vocabulary used in class and in assignments
- use of technology: specify when, where and how students can use technology such as translators, cell phones with internet access or laptops to access grammar and spelling checkers
- give writing samples of reports, emails, paragraphs, essays etc. so that students can see what is expected of them; explain these examples in class.
- review the Academic Integrity policy with students and include a note on all assignments/rubrics regarding the consequences of plagiarism or using someone else’s material.
- give a rubric or checklist along with an assignment description for all writing assignments, activities and tests
- post assignment descriptions in Blackboard
- for group projects, regularly restructure the groups so that students must work with new students from diverse cultures (i.e. don’t always put students of the same culture in the same group)
- provide details regarding marks allotted for content, grammar and spelling, organization, etc.
- identify cultural attitudes/experiences that may be different in Canada than in other countries, for example, gender roles, social values and attitudes, health and safety issues, sexist language, government and industry standards, etc.
Tips for Marking Assignments and Tests
- read the student’s assignment/test and grade for content and accuracy in ideas, quality of explanation, concepts etc. Read the assignment a second time to deduct marks for grammar and spelling according to the marks allotted.
- make note of any common or recurring errors in language, concepts, ideas or understanding, or writing structures in the individual student responses and also within the class. For example, if most students have misused or misunderstood a specific term, review this in class or provide additional information.
- provide a detailed weekly schedule of topics/assignments for students on Blackboard
- review the use of Blackboard, College email and Library resources with students at the beginning of the semester
- textbooks often provide student resource materials online that may be useful supports for international students i.e. online quizzes, chapter PowerPoints, “practice” or knowledge-checking exercises, etc. Make these available via Blackboard to your students.
- encourage students to participate in language groups, tutoring and workshops offered through Tutoring http://www.confederationcollege.ca/tutoring-services
- If students are struggling with writing or speaking and it is affecting their success, refer them directly to tutoring; contact their Program Coordinator.
- students can visit the writing centre to receive support with their writing