Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Challenges Facing Asian International Graduate Students in the US: Pedagogical Considerations in Higher Education

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Challenges Facing Asian International Graduate Students in the US: Pedagogical Considerations in Higher Education

Article excerpt

The number of international students in the United States in 2008-2009 reached an all-time high of 671,616, reflecting an eight percent increase in student enrollment (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2009). In particular, Asian students represented 62% of the international student population (Kim, 2012). These numbers reflect an unprecedented and significant trend of mobility and migration, as well as an increase in cultural and linguistic diversity within higher education (Altbach, 2004; Carroll & Ryan, 2005; Kim, 2012). According to Al-Sharideh and Goe (1989), international students in the United States often encounter difficulties in adjusting to their new cultural environment. They come to the classroom with different worldviews, different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and varying strategies for learning. In addition, they vary widely in academic ability, motivation, prior educational experience, and English language proficiency (Arkoudis, 2006; Kim, 2012).

Many international students experience cultural and linguistic challenges different from those of domestic students (Arkoudis, 2006). They often struggle with academic language in English while also learning the content and conceptual structures of various graduate level disciplines (Beaven, Calderisi, & Tantral, 1998; Lin & Yi, 1997). Differences in writing styles, linguistically and culturally driven logical thinking, and appropriately formulating thought into writing structures may vary widely and play a significant role in students' academic and interpersonal experiences (Levi, 1991; Zhu & Flaitz, 2005). Furthermore, to interact socially with American peers, instructors, and community members, international graduate students have to personally adjust to American culture and learning expectations. As an example, in some Asian cultures instructors have absolute authority and are not to be challenged by students (Ariza, 2010), which is very different from higher education in the United States. Although students often employ strategies for overcoming cultural and linguistic challenges, these culturally influenced strategies are not always understood nor valued by instructors and student peers (Arkoudis, 2006; Beaven et al., 1998; Millar, 2009). Western university instructors often categorize Asian students as either the brainy Asian or the rote learner (Marton, Watkins, & Tang, 1997). Researchers, however, have found that the learning patterns of Asian students reflect the type of curriculum and assessments encouraged by schools in their home countries (Barron 2002; Li & Kaye, 1998). In addition, Asian students tend to adopt spontaneous collaborative approaches in researching and writing assignments. Studies suggest that the employment of this type of group learning is highly influenced by the Confucian cultural values that focus on group work (Gatfield & Gatfield, 1994; Ramburuth & McCormic, 2001; Tang, 1996).

Given the increasing global diversity in student demographics in higher education, it becomes critical for instructors to understand NNES international graduate students' cultural and linguistic challenges in order to facilitate effective teaching and learning for all students. To create positive learning environments that prepare all students to interact and engage with others different from themselves, instructors must address cross-cultural and linguistic dimensions within the student population (Altbach, 2004; Wong, 2006). Considerations include the following: How do instructors understand and address cultural and linguistic challenges within the classroom? How do instructors create a sense of community within their diversely populated classrooms? How do instructors provide and create culturally and linguistically inclusive teaching and learning environments that are relevant and stimulating to NNES international graduate students as well as to other student populations?

Theoretical Framework

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Cultural responsiveness reflects the awareness of an individual to variances within cognition, behavior, language, and education among individuals who have differing racial, ethnic, social, gender, linguistic, religious, political, or other backgrounds and experiences. …

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