Joanne Smailes

  • Diverse student needs: the challenge of teaching international. A Business School Case Study

    Joanne Smailes, Northumbria University

    Research Paper

    Themes: learning and teaching methods, assessment, learning environments, supporting learners, staff development strategies

    The pedagogic environment under which most UK academics work is very different to that of five or so years ago. Successful widening participation strategies have lead to the creation of significant clusters of students with disparate experience. At Newcastle Business School (NBS), Northumbria University the most significant clusters are international students. In 2003-04, international students account for 26% of the full-time undergraduate cohort with the majority of students originating from China and the Pacific Rim. Indeed, Northumbria’s vice chancellor believes that Northumbria has the highest number of students originating from China in the UK HE sector

    The increased influx of international students, although a recent development in the UK, has been the norm for some time in Australia and has produced a plethora of academic research into the challenges they have faced. The main issues are neatly summarised by Cronin (1995) and include:

    • Unfamiliarity with skills such as critical thinking, decision making and independent thought.
    • Adjusting to new ways of thinking and presenting material.
    • Becoming confident in speaking up, participating and asking questions in class.
    • Wanting to uphold Confucian traditions such as respect for teachers.

    Following a staff survey at Northumbria University in May 2003 many of these issues were reiterated by NBS staff who concluded that the increased number of international students had either a highly or fairly significant impact of their teaching.

    In the light of this information a number of studies initiated within the university have been drawn upon to examine the international student experience at Northumbria. These have included questionnaires and focus groups conducted on a pre-sessional English course (ELAN) prior to NBS entry, followed up by questionnaires, group feedback analysis, and observation involving all NBS students.

    This paper draws upon the findings of these research instruments and constructs a snapshot of international students within one UK HE institution. Examination of the data has revealed that the perceptions highlighted by the research literature (Ballard & Clanchy (1997), De Vita (2002) Watkins & Biggs (2001)) and Northumbria’s academic staff is not necessarily mirrored within the international student response.

    The paper goes on to consider, by utilising Newcastle Business School as a case study, how academic staff may be assisted to prepare an appropriate learning environment to support, enhance and draw upon the strengths of the diverse student population.

    Indicative References

    • Ballard, B., & Clanchy, J. (1997). Teaching international students: A brief guide for lecturers and supervisors. IDP Education Australia.
    • De Vita, G. (2002) Cultural equivalence in the assessment of home and international business management students: a UK exploratory study. Studies in Higher Education. 27 (2), p 221-231.
    • Watkins, D.A. and Biggs, J.B. (eds.) (2001) The Chinese Learner: cultural, psychological and contextual influences. Hong Kong: Centre for Comparative Research in Education/Camberwell, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research, 25-41.