Photo Credit:; Noah Sydnor; cc

Photo Credit:; Noah Sydnor; cc

A colleague who works with international students told me the following story.

There was a student from China whose practice during class was to sit and listen, and not take notes.  One of his professors noticed this, and was puzzled by it.  Finally, one day in the middle of class the professor asked this student “Why aren’t you writing anything down?”  The student was stunned, even embarrassed.  He did not respond.  He thought the professor was angry.  The professor asked him again, and the student remembers saying something, but he does not remember what.  In telling his story to my colleague later, he explained that as a student in China, what he was taught to do was to listen to the teacher, think about what the teacher said, and try to understand the concepts.  If he took notes, he could not pay adequate attention.

Stories such as the one above indicate that it is easy to misinterpret student behavior.  There are many differences in classroom culture that international students are negotiating.   And, no two international students are the same.  For every student who learns best by listening, there is another student who diligently takes notes.  There are students who believe that they should not speak up in class, and others who enthusiastically ask questions whenever they have them.  Some students will admit when they do not understand something; others will not admit this and try to figure things out on their own, with varying degrees of success. Some of these differences may be due to personality, educational or other social experiences, or individual learning preferences, but they may also be related to culturally specific norms.

  • As instructors, how do we negotiate these cultural differences, and support our students so that they succeed in our educational context?
  • What responsibilities do we have, and how do we help our students take appropriate responsibility?
  • How can we facilitate our own and our students’ cultural adjustment?

These are some of the questions that we hope to raise with this Thursday’s workshop by InterACT Theatre Project for Social Change:

InterACT: Strategizing with International Students and Their Instructors

Thursday April 3, 2014


150 Younkin Success Center

We hope that you will attend and add your voices and stories to this discussion.

Best regards, Laurie Maynell, UCAT Instructional Consultant

Find out more about InterACT here: