Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students in American Pathway Programs: Learning English and Culture through Service-Learning

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students in American Pathway Programs: Learning English and Culture through Service-Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract

As the number of international students studying in the United States continues to grow, the body of literature about service-learning in English Language Learning (ELL) curricula is growing in tandem. The primary goal of this paper is to explore how service-learning impacts the development and transition of pathway program students in the United States. Authors present recent demographic shifts in ELL student education, a concise introduction to pathway programs, an overview of literature about service-learning with international students, and theoretical and practical factors to consider for facilitators of Learning English and Culture through Service-Learning (LECSL) based on data from 250 students at Northeastern University.

Keywords: International Students, ESL, ELL, Service-Learning, Pathway Programs, Student Development, Transformative Learning

The number of international students studying in the United States has never been higher. This can be attributed, in part, to the growth of conditional acceptance programs (generally referred to as pathway programs or foundation years) designed for English Language Learning students (ELLs) to learn the language and cultural skills necessary for success in United States colleges and universities. This study seeks to contribute specifically to knowledge regarding the experiences of ELL students in pathway programs who participate in service-learning in the United States. Authors of this paper (2013) refer to this as "LECSL;" Learning English and Culture through Service-Learning (Authors, 2013).

This paper draws on relevant literature as well as lessons learned from a large-scale service-learning initiative for pathway program students at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. The primary goal of this paper is to explore how service-learning impacts the development and transition of students in pathway programs in the United States.

Questions addressed include:

* How does service-learning create transformative learning experiences that contribute to the development of ELL students in pathway programs?

* How does service-learning prepare pathway program students for subsequent crosscultural collaborations with peers in their degree programs?

* How does service-learning prepare pathway program students for the English language proficiency needed for success in their degree programs?

* How does service-learning contribute to pathway program students' sense of agency (i.e. organization, time management, and self-advocacy)?

As the authors of this paper are facilitators of service-learning, we also discuss theoretical and logistical factors for facilitators to bear in mind when integrating service-learning into pathway programs. Framing these concepts are lessons learned about partnership dynamics, as well as programmatic challenges and opportunities associated with integrating service-learning into pathway program curricula for ELLs.

Literature Review

International Pathway Program Students in the United States

The following information has been adapted from the 2013 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report. In the 2013/2014 academic year, approximately 900,000 international students were enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. If the future is anything like the recent past, the growing trend of international students on American campuses shows no sign of slowing down (Institute of International Education, 2014). The fastest growing trend in international student education is the growth of non-degree programs, which includes pathway programs. The goal of pathway programs is to prepare international students, academically and linguistically, for undergraduate courses in the United States. The program model originated in Australia and the United Kingdom and eventually migrated to North America (Gillett, 2011; Fiocco, 2005; O'Hallron, 2004). Pathway programs are universityaffiliated programs with a prescribed set of courses, all of which integrate intensive English language training and preparation for undergraduate and/or graduate courses. …

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