Seminar on teaching international students held for faculty

Jeff Hamilton from Center for Global Engagement speaks about communication with students and techniques of structure in regards to challenges faced by international students. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Journalist

By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer

The Academy for Teaching and Learning held a seminar about teaching international students on Tuesday afternoon in Jones Library with speakers Jeff Hamilton, Xin Wang and Daniel Barish.

Seminar speakers said Baylor plans to increase the number of international students from 4%-8% by 2023, and the event provided around 50 faculty members with the opportunity to learn more about handling different challenges that international students may face.

It also pointed out on-campus resources such as The Center for Global Engagement that will soon be announcing a new initiative at the Sid Richardson building where international students will be able to receive aid with understanding English comprehension on syllabi and assignments.

Dr. Jeff Hamilton, vice provost for Global Engagement, said that faculty members can refer their students to this resource which will then be able to refer them to other academic resources such as tutoring.

“The whole idea is that if we are expanding the number of international students, it’s very important to us that they succeed,” Hamilton said. “We need to give both the faculty and students the tools to succeed and not just cross our fingers and hope for the best and so we are rolling out more resources, the seminar is one of those and this resource center.”

Faculty members will soon be receiving an email with more information regarding this resource.

While these seminars typically feature one presenter, this event hosted a panel discussion. Hamilton first gave the audience a general overview of Baylor’s work with international students as well as the desire that Baylor has for growth in the next few years.

Members from the modern languages and cultures department and history department gave a faculty perspective of working with international students. Baylor’s main demographics of international students include: China, South Korea, Mexico and Nigeria.

Dr. Christopher Richmann, assistant director of The Academy for Teaching and Learning was in charge of organizing and planning this session.

“You can help reach a lot of faculty and staff who are interested in the international student experience by focusing on the Chinese experience,” Richmann said. “Although that, of course, doesn’t cover everything, but you kind of have to see where your efforts are most useful.”

Hosts of the seminar said they hope to bring light to western academic practices that may be difficult for international students such as expressing opinions, challenging the instructor, group projects and argument.

Hamilton said that things such as casual and informal conversations can make a big difference.

“Sometimes faculty will use a lot of colloquial expressions without giving it much thought but if you have a class that does have a number of international students in it, you might try and explain or avoid [those phrases,]” Hamilton said. “Some of it’s just being conscious of who your audience is.”

Three follow-up seminars including “Strategies for Understanding Cultural Backgrounds,” “Strategies for Teaching and Grading” and “Strategies for Reaching Non-native Speakers of English” will be held in February, March and April in Jones Library to follow up Tuesday’s seminar.

“A big part of teaching international students is helping the students know where they can get more specific help than what the faculty member might be prepared to give, especially when it comes to language and writing,” Richmann said. “Those are challenges for many international students that faculty aren’t necessarily equipped to specifically deal with but there’s plenty of help at Baylor for those students.”