Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Higher Education: A Self Study of Teaching Practice

Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Higher Education: A Self Study of Teaching Practice

Jamie Harrison (Auburn University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9989-0.ch004


This chapter discusses the concepts of cultural and linguistic diversity in relation to the higher education classroom. Essential components of culturally and linguistically responsive teaching are considered and a self-study of teaching practice explored. Applications of second language acquisition theory are applied to pedagogical practice to inform the reader about what effective instruction of culturally and linguistically diverse students in the university setting looks like. Conclusions and recommendations are made.
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The United States (U. S.) has long been a leading destination for international students to pursue postsecondary education in an English-medium setting (Institute of International Education, 2018a) and according to Open Doors 2018, the number of international students in the U. S. has exceeded one million for the past three years. There are currently 1.09 million international students in the U. S., and increase of 1.5% from 2017 (Morris, 2018) which represents 25% of the world’s globally mobile students (Institute of International Education, 2018b). These international students not only bring diverse perspectives, but also tuition dollars, both valued in increasingly competitive higher education markets (Reddin, 2014). While the numbers have steadily grown for decades, in recent years there has been a slight decrease in first year international student enrollment (Institute of International Education, 2018b). Decreases are evident from the top four leading sending countries: China, Indian, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia (Reddin, 2018). In response to this decrease, universities are turning to corporate recruitment partners to attract these high revenue students to campuses across the United States (Reddin, 2014). There are now over 50 such corporate agencies, like Shorelight and INTO, for example, working for profit in conjunction with universities, and universities are reporting mixed results in student enrollment from these efforts (Reddin, 2018). Budgetary concerns largely drive these partnerships, as recruitment agencies can increase international student enrollment more quickly than traditional recruitment procedures (Choudaha & Chang, 2012). International student recruitment remains a priority for universities who seek to diversify campuses, both culturally and linguistically, as well as benefit from the increased revenue that comes with the enrollment of this population of students (Reddin, 2014).

Intense recruitment efforts belie the complex academic environments that these, often, non-native English speakers (NNES) must thrive in. Cultural differences, classroom expectations and norms, isolation, and linguistic challenges contribute to the complex experiences of internationals students at U. S. universities (Lin & Scherz, 2014). Cultural and linguistic complexities are critical factors to consider when seeking to understand the experiences of NNES students on U.S. university campuses.

Additionally, faculty whose courses are highly impacted by NNES enrollment are often blind-sided by the linguistic needs of these students, who they assume, sometimes incorrectly, will be highly proficient in English. Bifue-Ambe (2011) suggests that instructors often make the mistake of thinking that because a NNES student has reached the required TEOFL score for university entrance, he or she will also be fully prepared for that immersive English experience. In fact, language proficiency itself is complex and even attaining university approved scores on language proficiency tests to gain entrance does not ensure complete success in such academic settings (Bifue-Ambe, 2011). Many other factors may also influence academic success for NNES students including motivation, study skills, classroom pedagogies and course curriculums.

While the phenomenon of supporting English language learners (ELLs) in K12 schools is not new in the United States and schools nationwide are grappling with training in-service teachers along with adequately preparing pre-service teachers (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008), these discussions have remained largely silent in the university setting. Writing centers have traditionally assumed the role of NNES student support, yet, the needs of struggling NNES at the university level are larger than the kinds of support offered at writing centers (Wang & Machado, 2015). According to the TESOL International Association (2010), postsecondary academic success requires the navigation of specialized knowledge of language along with the myriad sociocultural factors embedded into classrooms in U. S. higher education institutions. Faculty and instructor awareness of and attention to the culturally and linguistically diverse students in their classrooms is vital in ensuring a positive academic outcome for these students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse: One of many labels used to describe a person in the United States whose home background and language difer from the mainstream culture and English language. Other terms often used include: English language learner, non-native English speaker.

Sheltered Instruction: Method of teaching that focuses on language acquisition in conjunction with academic content provided in accessible ways based on language proficiency level.

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