Global Learning in the Classroom

In the fall of 2012, Graduate Admissions at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln received 2,453 applications from international students, representing 110 different countries. This shows us that an intercultural climate exists in many classrooms.

In his 2012 State of the University Address, Chancellor Perlman encouraged the University to send UNL students to study in a foreign country, because studying abroad helps prepare “students for their global future.” While all UNL students may not be able to study abroad, all students benefit from opportunities to connect, communicate, and collaborate with others locally and globally in the classroom. In order for students to develop an understanding of cultural differences and appreciate the resources and expertise that exist outside of their own countries, they need to have an opportunity to learn with and from others, not just about them. Here are some strategies from the Global Learning Faculty Development Program at Purdue that you can implement to provide a welcoming culture in the classroom as well as a satisfying academic experience for all.

  • Encourage communication. Group projects and in-class activities promote better communication between intercultural groups. Both international and domestic students may prefer to work in their own cultural groups, but having intercultural groups working together decreases stereotypes and helps students improve academically. They can then learn to foster intercultural friendships in settings outside the classroom.
  • Promote peer-pairing between international and domestic students. This will increase interaction and improve cultural awareness in domestic students. 
  • Consider using problem-based learning. Presenting problems from within and outside the U.S. allows the students to develop solutions together.
  • Hold class debates. Separate students into mixed groups and have them complete their research together, then stage a full debate during class. This helps students learn to articulate an argument orally, and they can use this strategy in other classes. Involved students have an easier time overcoming barriers in the classroom and are more successful academically.
  • Invite guest speakers. Speakers who are from other countries or have traveled outside the U.S. provide a different cultural perspective and expand global understanding.
  • Include international sources in references and examples. Use international professional associations and websites and consult with students about them. When possible, design assignments so students can help collect resources.
  • Know your students.  At the start of the semester, look at your students’ countries of origin and familiarize yourself with name pronunciation. This fosters respect between you and your students.

Opportunities for global exchanges and interactions in the classroom and beyond will continue to grow. By incorporating these strategies, you can create a learning environment that fosters global competence and exchange in your class. Remember, increasing opportunities for cultural exchange benefits everyone, not only the international students.

References:

Calahan, Charles. The Global Learning Faculty Development Program. Purdue Center for Instructional Excellence. http://www.purdue.edu/cie/aboutus/global%20learning.html.

Bryant, M. “Fostering Community in the Classroom.” CENGAGE Learning eNewsletter. 2012. http://learn.cengage.com/content/enewsletter7-fostering.

Moorman, H. & Klein, J. “Get Real with Global Competence.” Education Week. January 10, 2013. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2013/01/get_real_with_global_competence_1.html