Quick wins in your teaching to better support international students?


Girls with book round

As our international student community begins to grow at UCA, we may find ourselves reflecting on our teaching approaches to better support learners with English as an additional language.

UCA’s Learning Development Tutors have spoken to a number of teaching colleagues at UCA, to gather together some ‘quick wins’ and case studies of good practice of working with international students at UCA that we hope you will find useful.

Subject Glossaries…?

A number of academics are currently collaborating with Learning Development and EAP tutors to produce course specific glossaries. This is something that can be done ahead of a new academic year, and either included in the unit handbooks or put up on myUCA. This can be combined with encouraging students to create their own glossaries, which can be added to, when key discourse is signposted in sessions. Try writing down new terms for your students on whiteboards or flip charts, so that they get a chance to observe spelling and write it down correctly.

‘How to’ Guides…?

The LDT team produce a range of guides and learning materials which are available here: https://www.uca.ac.uk/library/academic-support/study-guides/.  These are also available in the unit areas of myUCA.  LD Tutors can also help you to produce templates for various types of written assignments (essays, reports, critical evaluations etc.).

Small group tasks….?

Why not break the lecture up (‘flip the classroom?) by giving students small group tasks to discuss key concepts? You can then provide feedback in the plenary to check that students understand key vocabulary and concepts in relation to the subject of the lecture/seminar/demonstration.  As well as checking students’ level of understanding, this also keeps them engaged and enables peer teaching and learning, which also improves relationships and support amongst members of the cohort.

Mix up your cohorts..?

With a mixed cohort, give questions or talks to pairs or small groups.  Don’t set an open question to the whole group as some students may be reluctant to speak out in front of a large group.  By giving questions or talks to pairs or small groups, this gives students time to think ‘out of the spotlight’ and puts more responsibility on students to contribute and allows more hesitant students to participate.


Increase the language bank of your students by doing the following:

  • Give a quick paraphrase, explanation, example to clarify any terms you feel your students might not know.
  • Check students understanding of a key terms or concept by asking pairs or small groups to give an example to illustrate.
  • Slow speed of speech slightly.
  • Pause at key points

Breathing spots..?

Have short 5 minute breathing spots within lectures to give students the chance to reflect and assimilate.  You could give pairs/small groups a question to consider on the content just covered.  Or, you could ask pairs/small groups to think of a question they want to ask for further clarification.

Sources for skills and language..?

As well as straight subject content, include sources for skills and language development, e.g online dictionaries, grammar checkers, links to you tube instructional films, e.e on giving pitches.

Additional targeted tuition…?

If you have a number of international students join you in the second year of a BA course, It is a good idea to provide additional targeted tuition sessions.  These can focus on the better understanding of the assessment and feedback practices and transitioning new students to the expectations of academic study on a creative arts course. Make sure you inform the students that these classes will not be ongoing and that you are expecting them to become more autonomous over time.   If you get this right, students will become more independent and eventually not need any extra tuition.

 Guided reading tasks..?

You might want to build in pre-questions as part of a guided reading tasks early on, to support students getting to grips with academic texts. At UCA, this has been set up initially and then gradually phased out, the aim being to clarify expectations early on and to encourage independent learning.

Don’t worry about the pauses..?

It is worth noting that when speaking to International students, you don’t need to be concerned by pauses or what may feel like long silences. In many cultures the pause between when one speaker ends and another begins is longer than in Britain, and it may also be because the student needs longer to process what they have just heard (eg your question) and to formulate a response. For this reason, it is a good idea to give students some preparation time, so they have the chance to formulate what they want to say.

Talk about learning and teaching formats..?

It is always helpful, early on in the course, to explain to students what kinds of teaching formats they are going to experience on the course; this is because seminars and one-to-one tutorials may not be commonly shared experiences, so students do not understand what is expected of them. Some international students might believe, for example,  that the only reason you would have a one-to-one tutorial with your lecturer was if you had done something really, really bad…so if your student is speechless, it may be because they are struck dumb with nerves, not that they don’t know any English.  To combat this problem on one course, a Learning Development Tutor ran paired (2:1) tutorials timetabled into two courses. This encouraged peer feedback and provided some preparation for group participation in a group crit. Alternatively, prior to crits or tutorials, why not give your students questions or a checklist for them to prepare what they are going to discuss?

Guide to Creative Arts study..?

The Guide to Creative Arts is on all myUCA course areas, so you can refer any of your students to it.  It might also be useful to send this out to your students as part of your email welcome?  Hard copies are in the library along with the Harvard Referencing Guide for students to take away. On myUCA, your students will also find an A-Z academic terms to help with academic terminology, and a guide to finding your way around course documents,

Additional support required..?

Should you feel that your students would benefit from some additional support, there are in-sessional EAP classes being run on all campuses from September 2019.  Alongside this support, Learning Development Tutors are available at each campus to support you in your teaching/supporting learning.  The Creative Education team at UCA have also recently published an Inclusivity Handbook which includes a section on supporting international students.  Content from the handbook will feature on our Creative Education online.


Liz Thomson and Annamarie McKie, 28 June 2019

Posted in Case Studies, Creative Education, Inclusivity, Internationalisation, Student Engagement, Student satisfaction, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

PGCert Online Exhibition


Ever wondered what happens on the PGCert in Creative Education?

Well, now you have a chance to find out! We’re very proud to announce the launch of our first ever PGCert online exhibition, in which PGCert participants have curated some of their experiences on the course.

If you couldn’t attend the private view, don’t worry – you can wander round the exhibitions online until 30th August 2019. Inside you’ll find memes, videos, reflections and a walk-through immersive game, all of which provide insights into what and how participants have learned on the course.

Come and find out what the PGCert in Creative Education is all about!

Posted in Active learning, Art & Design Education, Creative Education, Educational enhancement, How Students Learn, Professional Development, Student Centred Learning | Leave a comment

Mental health – be prepared


Mental health issues now affect a significant number of university students. In this post, UCA’s Ray Martin highlights key warning signs for both Home/EU and International students, and provides guidance about what you can do.

What are the statistics?

  • 29% of university students have mental illnesses.
  • 78% think they have had a mental problem at some point.
  • 1.5% disclose to HEIs.
  • 75% disclose their mental health conditions to fellow students.
    (UMHAN, 2017)

Key warning signs

  • Changes in mood e.g. elevated or decreased mood, increased anxiety
  • Irritability or tearfulness
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Reduced concentration and memory
  • Loss of initiative or desire to participate
  • Decrease or increase in speech speed
  • Increased difficulty making decisions
  • Placement non-attendance e.g. unexplained absence or sick leave
  • Reduced communication or withdrawal
  • Changes in presentation and cleanliness
  • Reduced performance
  • Poor organisation and time management
  • Changes in ability to think logically
    (UMHAN, 2017)

Continue reading

Posted in Inclusivity, Internationalisation, mental health, Retention, Wellbeing | Leave a comment

Inclusive fashion curriculum

Welters and Lillethun

We are delighted to have our first guest post from Professor Victoria Kelley, UCA’s Director of Research and Education.  Here, Victoria reflects on a recent seminar she attended on decolonising the fashion curriculum.  The speaker, Dr Elizabeth Kutesko discussed decolonising the fashion curriculum, based on her research on fashion cultures in Brazil.

It is all too easy to assume that ‘fashion’ is an exclusively western phenomenon, a symptom of modernity that has its roots in capitalist economies and societies—and to allow the canonical history of western high fashion to be over-dominant in teaching fashion. Fashion historians have debated both when and where fashion first appeared, but most of the answers they have come up with have been Euro-centric. As Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil assert ‘most of the world, including Africa and Asia, as well as great parts of the Americas and Eastern Europe, are sidelined and often totally ignored in histories of fashion’. I’ve found their collection, The Fashion History Reader: global perspectives (2010) to be a great starting point in taking a wider view. Linda Welters and Abby Lillethun’s new publication, Fashion History: a global view (2018) also looks very useful. Continue reading

Posted in Art & Design Education, BME, Curriculum Design, diversity, Educational enhancement, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Opportunities for professional development

Girls with book roundUCA offers a range of professional development opportunities for staff. Whether you are looking to obtain a formal teaching qualification, or explore new ways of enhancing your teaching or supporting learning, we can provide you with the support you need.

  • PGCert in Creative Education: this is an 8-month online course that is a recognised teaching qualification for staff working in Higher Education. The course enables you to learn about inclusive learning, teaching, and assessment in creative contexts, and to relate your role to the wider context of the Higher Education sector. The course enables you to achieve professional recognition as an Associate Fellow and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Find out more.
  • HEA Professional Recognition: this is a 5-month programme that enables you to become an Associate Fellow, Fellow or Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). These routes to fellowship of the HEA are also recognised teaching qualifications for staff working in Higher Education. Our Professional. Recognition programme provides you with opportunities to review and reflect on your experiences of teaching and/or supporting learning, and to make connections with colleagues from across the university. Find out more.
  • myLearning and Development: this area contains a range of e-learning modules. These provide a quick and easy way for you to develop your knowledge and skills in a range of teaching related areas, including:
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High impact learning strategies

Sometimes you come across research that you just can’t ignore. While a lot of educational research can be context-dependent and difficult to generalise, just occasionally somebody pulls it all together. In his seminal book on teaching and learning in higher education, John Biggs highlights a piece of research done by Hattie (2009) into ‘what works […]

via High impact learning strategies — tonyjreeves

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Engaging students with the reading by re-thinking the reading list

People Studying In A Library

In her recent article for UCA’s journal JUICE entitled ‘Rethinking the reading list’, Ray Martin offers the provocation that the reading list might be dead. Ray observes that there are lots of things we should be doing  in our teaching practice to recognize diversity in all its forms. But how do we enact this in practice, particularly when we have so little time to reflect on our teaching practice and we may feel hide bound by quality assurance guidelines?

James Walker, Senior Lecturer in Illustration at UCA Farnham, decided to have a radical re-think of the way he was engaging students with the reading for first year study in Illustration.  He devised a ‘Pecha Kucha assignment ’, whereby Year 1 students research an artist and select a particular piece of work to build a presentation around. Their research must include at least 3 books, 2 journals. To help students with this, James  devised an Inclusive Resource List of Artists.  The artist list is more international in focus in attempt to move away from a overly Western focus. It also provides a link to an article or interview on the artists to help students.

For further help on developing a more inclusive set of readings for your students, Martin (2018) gives the following advice to course teams undertaking validation and review: Continue reading

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