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Resources for International Faculty and Teaching Assistants

Teaching Strategies: 30 Tips for Teaching College Students in the U.S.

Improve your teaching effectiveness by checking your teaching style, pedagogies, engaging your students. The following tips offer a quick checklist for international faculty and teaching assistants, (adapted from Sarkisian, 2006).

Tips and Strategies

  • Students come from very different backgrounds, and they take courses for very different reasons.
  • Students will perform better if they know exactly what is expected of them.
  • Students will learn more through active participation.
  • All students should have an equal chance to participate in class.
  • Students can be very sensitive to criticism.
  • Students like to feel noticed and appreciated but not pre-judged.
  • Students want to feel that the professor is accessible and that their teaching assistant is helpful.
  • Teachers can feel challenged by students' viewpoints of questions.
  • Teaching assistants are a link between the professor and the students.
  • All students must be treated according to the same standards.
  • Students do not want you to let others know about their academic performance or their private lives.
  • Students have lives outside the classroom.
  • Some students may expect you to take more interest in them than you can or want to offer.
  • Students may ask questions or favors you do not expect.
  • Some students can be very demanding and present problems for you.
  • Do not be afraid to introduce yourself.
  • Say something about your command of English.
  • Know your students as well as possible and be open with them.
  • Keep a sense of humor.
  • Write down words and use diagrams or pictures.
  • Use verbal signals when you speak.
  • Use specific examples.
  • Say the same thing in a few different ways and avoid jargon.
  • Keep lines of communication open.
  • Plan questions carefully.
  • Listen to your students and encourage them.
  • Keep the discussion focused.
  • Be aware of silences.
  • Check your body language, voice, eye contact.
  • Explain what you are doing in class and why
  • First day of class
    • Do some research.
    • Visit the room ahead of time.
    • Think through your plan.
    • Clarify your students' expectations.
    • Find out something about your students.
    • Learn their names as quickly as possible and use them.
    • Say something about yourself.
    • Do some actual work.

Peer Reviewed Literature

A special issue of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching (V23, n3) on the topic of "Supporting Non-native English Speaking Instructors to Maximize Student Learning in Their Classes" is available online free to the Miami community. Articles of special interest from this volume include:

"In Search of Permeable Boundaries: A Case Study of Teacher Background, Student Resistance, and Learning", Mthethwa-Sommers

This article draws from an action research case study undertaken by an African-born faculty member who speaks English with a foreign accent. The study employed co-teaching as an intervention method to (a) test the hypothesis that co-teaching with an instructor born in the United States from the dominant racial and linguistic group might reduce levels of resistance to the content of the social justice in education course and (b) to examine student-instructor interactions on the basis of instructor background. Data were collected from the reflective journals and teaching evaluations of instructors as well as from students' journals and assignments. Critical race theory was utilized as the framework to analyze these documents. Results reveal that the students' judgment of the African-born instructor's teaching efficacy appeared to be closely linked to her background as an African-born faculty member who speaks English with a foreign accent.

"Teaching Experiences of Native and Nonnative English-Speaking Graduate Teaching Assistants and Their Perceptions of Preservice Teachers", Ates & Eslami

The authors report on a qualitative multiple case study exploring the perceptions of nonnative English-speaking (NNES) and native English-speaking (NES) graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) toward undergraduate preservice teachers at a university located in the Southwestern United States. Three NNES GTAs and one NES GTA participated in the study. Online journal entries and interviews were the data sources that facilitated an in-depth analysis of the GTAs' perspectives. The study underscores major challenges NNES GTAs faced in their efforts to be recognized as legitimate and competent instructors in their classrooms. The authors present the common themes that emerged from the study and provide recommendations for ESL teacher education programs and ITA educators to evaluate the support provided to GTAs before and during their teaching experiences.

"'Being Underdog':Supporting Nonnative English-Speaking Teachers in Claiming and Asserting Professional Legitimacy", Reis

The author reports on a case study investigating how one nonnative English-speaking teacher (NNEST) struggled to claim professional legitimacy as a university-level ESL writing instructor. Using Vygotskian sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986; Wertsch, 1985) and Bucholtz and Hall's (2005) indexicality principle, the author explores the relationship between the participant's professional self-concept and teaching practice as well as how in-service professional development experiences impacted his thinking, discourse, and action. The findings suggest that coursework and professional development addressing the native speaker myth can provide NNESTs with mediational tools through which to reimagine themselves as legitimate speakers and professionals in English Language Teaching (ELT).

"The Intersection Between Intercultural Competence and Teaching Behaviors: A Case of International Teaching Assistants", LeGros & Faez

What is considered effective teaching varies across cultures, institutions, and disciplines. Concepts of effective teaching reflect the values and expectations of the educational culture and language in which it occurs. This study examines how participation in a course on intercultural communication affects the observable teaching behaviors of international teaching assistants (ITAs). The participants in this study consisted of 27 ITAs from nine countries enrolled in a research-intensive institution in Canada. Data were collected from videotaped microteaching components and teacher behavior inventories. The findings reveal that the ITAs developed interculturally competent teaching behaviors and improved their overall teaching performances, suggesting that intercultural training positively contributes to ITA teaching behaviors.

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