Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Strategies to Enhance Student Success: A Discourse Analysis of Academic Advice in International Student Handbooks

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Strategies to Enhance Student Success: A Discourse Analysis of Academic Advice in International Student Handbooks

Article excerpt


As the population of international students continues to rise at U.S. colleges and universities, multiple academic obstacles pose barriers to success. Research on strategies of intervention has primarily included face-to-face interactions while an exploration of other assistance approaches is minimal in comparison. This study explored the role that mediated discourse plays in supporting international students with navigating paths through U.S. colleges and universities, by examining seven institutions' assistance handbooks. Discourse analysis allowed for an in-depth investigation of the academic advice available to international students concerning classroom culture, instructional styles, relationships with instructors, assessment, and academic honesty.

Keywords: International students; student handbooks; student success; discourse analysis

An investigation into the experience of international students in the United States is an essential task to understand the cultural politics of U.S. higher education further. Studies on international student experiences are marginal in number in light of the rapidly increasing population of international students and contributions to American higher education in recent years (Bevis & Lucas, 2007). Davis (1997) explained that 457,984 international students attended U.S. institutions of higher education in the mid-1990s, which was a "...1,200 percent increase since 1954" (p. 67) (as cited in Peterson, Briggs, Dreasher, Horner, & Nelson, 1999). As of November 2011, this number increased to 723,277 (Open Doors, 2011). Peterson et al. (1999) asserted that the international student presence is becoming increasingly vital to an institution's economic development, reputation, and instruction of rarely studied subject material. Although colleges and universities recognize the advantages of having a more diverse community, there still remains a "need to articulate the benefits of international students to many publics" (p. 68).

One area of inquiry that lacks investigation is the role of campus resources available to assist international students in their educational endeavors-in particular, those resources that are not delivered through interpersonal interactions. In the current era when students look for assistance beyond regular meetings with peers or faculty, it is imperative to investigate the role of other types of resources available to international students. Using mediated discourse, this study explored the role that international student guides and handbooks perform in providing assistance to international students at U.S. institutions of higher education.

By further exploring the discourse within such handbooks, this study will broaden an understanding of assistance strategies that are offered by institutions of higher education to help international students adjust to U.S. college and university life. It will also help answer the following research question: What experiences do U.S. colleges and universities wish international students to have as members of the U.S. culture of higher education?

Literature Review

Barriers to International Student Success

As the interest in attracting more students outside the United States has steadily increased, so has attention toward investigating the experiences that international students have in their educational and cultural interactions while away from their home countries. Much of the literature over the past thirty years has focused heavily on topics concerning hurdles that international students face while attending schools in the United States (e.g. Hanassab & Tidwell, 2002; Owie, 1982; Schram & Lauver, 1988). Pedersen (1991) claimed that numerous international students experience unique difficulties in transitioning to the college or university setting. The need for resources of assistance is essential when considering the research findings that education in the United States can be a difficult transition because of culture shock or adjustment difficulties (Olaniran, 1996; Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2005), fear of failure (Hanassab & Tidwell, 2002; Pedersen, 1991), and isolation (Zhao, Kuh, & Carini, 2005; Olaniran, 1996; Owie, 1982; Mori, 2000; Pedersen, 1991). …

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