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

This entry was posted in Case Studies, Creative Education, Inclusivity, Internationalisation, Student Engagement, Student satisfaction. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Quick wins in your teaching to better support international students?

  1. Pingback: Student Induction: Mitigating withdrawal and enabling retention? | UCA Creative Education Network

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