Resources for International Faculty and Teaching Assistants

Three educators consulting around a desk Three educators consulting around a desk

Introduction

Welcome! This web page is dedicated to providing various resources for current and future international Miami faculty, teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and scholars.

Miami University's commitment to diversity and inclusion has been demonstrated in various departments, committees, workshops, and Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) by welcoming and supporting students, faculty, and staff from diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic, educational, and religious backgrounds.

In the FLC titled, "Empowering Non-Native English Speaking (NNES) Faculty and International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) at Miami," nine members represented six countries of origin, nine departments, and four divisions in Oxford and the regionals. They participated in extensive discussions, read scholarly articles, gained various perspectives from guest speakers (i.e., international faculty, international graduate students and scholars, and domestic undergraduate students), and reflected on their teaching effectiveness. The main goal of this FLC was achieved by supporting these international faculty and TAs to utilize their multicompetences from their differing global perspectives.

The contents of this web page are based on the 2017-2018 FLC members' interests and compiled by Eun Chong Yang, the FLC facilitator; American Culture and English (ACE) Program.

Full-Time Faculty by Ethnicity and Gender

A review of data at Miami University for 2017/18 reveals the following information about instructors.

  • Total full-time faculty on all campuses: 1,130
  • Ethnic Diversity: 221 (19.6%)*
  • Non-Resident Aliens: 68 (6%)
  • Male/Female Ratio: 615/515 (54%/46%)

*(Black/African, Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, Multi-Racial, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander) 

Miami Organizations and Associations to Support International Instructors

If you have any discipline-focused questions or general teaching concerns, please find the relevant FLC members below and contact them. The following instructors are willing to support (or mentor) new/current international faculty, teaching assistants, and/or graduate assistants.

2017-19 Faculty Learning Community (FLC) Members

Associations for Faculty and Staff

International instructors can join various organizations at Miami: Diversity and Inclusion Faculty/Staff Organizations

Associations for Graduate Students

Graduate Students can visit the Miami University Hub (organization directory) to search the organization(s) that best match their interests.

Miami Offices and Departments That Support International Instructors

    • Academic Personnel Services supports personnel actions of faculty, academic department salaried staff, and graduate assistants. The office staff assists academic departments and divisions, the regional campuses and Academic Affairs support units in all areas of personnel matters, including the following:
      • search and hiring procedures
      • reappointment, promotion, and tenure
      • compensation
      • retirement
      • leaves, professional and FMLA
      • disciplinary procedures and grievances
      (retrieved from https://miamioh.edu/academic-affairs/academic-personnel/about/index.html) Employment Verification Letter (e.g., for Driver's License) can be obtained at Academic Personnel. Please contact Celia Ellison, Director, at knightcm@miamioh.edu for more information.
    • The Center for Teaching Excellence ( CTE, The Oxford campus) has as its mission ”to model and promote engagement with scholarly and reflective teaching practices to support the academic development of all faculty and students.” The Center is committed to helping all instructors enjoy successful and satisfying careers. We support both long- and short-term communities for faculty growth and inquiry. In addition to our faculty learning communities, New Faculty Teaching Enhancement Program for full-time faculty and the Part-Time Educators’ Program for part-time faculty support faculty in their teaching while helping them develop relationships with others in order to feel they are a part of the larger Miami community. Our seminars address topics of interest to Nonnative faculty. We support innovative teaching through projects, grants, and awards (e.g., small and large grants to support teaching; the E. Phillips Knox Distinguished Teaching Award; support departments and programs in their work to assess their effectiveness as educators in their discipline; and work with other programs to enhance and celebrate teaching and learning at Miami.
    • Global Initiatives leads and supports the institutional commitment to advance global learning by promoting dynamic, comprehensive internationalization of the university through the infusion of multicultural and comparative perspectives in scholarship, teaching, service, and academic support. Focused on user- and constituent-friendly services, the international student and scholars support staff are committed to supporting our global scholars through programming, consulting, and networking opportunities.

      In collaboration with the Center for Teaching Excellence, International Student & Scholar Services supports workshops and learning communities of interest to international staff and scholars. The Global Partnership staff in the unit consult with faculty and staff on global grant, fellowship, contract opportunities, supporting visiting speakers and scholars, and collaborating to support globally focused events.

      Global Initiatives is enthusiastically supporting the launch of the International Faculty and Staff Association at Miami (IFSAM).

    • Faculty Writing Support

      The Howe Center for Writing Excellence (HCWE) recognizes that all writers have more to learn and provides free support to Miami faculty, students, and alumni in this work. For faculty, the offer a variety of programs and resources, including workshops, individual consultations, and handouts. Faculty and students can also schedule individual consultations at the Howe Writing Center and English Language Learner Writing Center (ELLWC). The HWCE can help with academic, personal, and professional writing at any stage in the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing. The ELLWC offers more specialized help for students whose first language is not English, and who need particular assistance with grammar, word usage, style, and punctuation. For students requiring or preferring support online, the HWCE additionally offers live online appointments (via video or chat) and written online appointments (via Google Docs or email).

      International faculty and TAs within the Farmer School of Business are more than welcome to visit the Howe Writing Initiative (HWI) to receive one-on-one assistance with their writing. They are also available to discuss the teaching of writing and oral presentations, the design of assignments, the evaluation of writing and presentations, or any other business communication concerns. To arrange a faculty consultation, please contact hwi@miamioh.edu.

    • The Office of the Dean of Students seeks to support all faculty in the management of student concerns. Students may experience a wide variety of issues (physical health, mental health, disability, behavioral, etc.) that can manifest in the classroom. If this behavior becomes a concern for a faculty member, it is important to know what resources are available. At any time, faculty can report a student to the DoS office by submitting a concern through the online Student of Concern Management System. Submitted concerns are evaluated and acted upon in the most appropriate fashion given the information provided. *Please note that this site is checked during normal business hours and is NOT to be used for emergencies -- please call Miami University Police at 513.529.2222 or 911. Additionally, lower-level concerns such as attendance, performance in class, or extensive absenteeism tardiness should be referred to the Student Success Services office by calling 513.529.0007.

      The office of the Dean of Students is also available for additional consultation when concerns arise. They encourage faculty to consult with their department chair first, however, if more guidance is needed following this consult, please feel free to call the office at 513.529.1877 or email at deanofstudents@miamioh.edu. Following this consult, faculty will be asked to submit their concern in writing through the Student of Concern system if they have not already done so. If the concerning behavior involves a potential Code of Conduct violation, additional support is also available through the Office of Community Standards. This can be accessed by clicking the "Report an Incident" button on the Community Standards website and submitting a description of the incident.

    • Office of Diversity and Inclusion

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).

  • 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.

Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness

Teaching Portfolios

Teaching portfolios show the evidence of effective teaching. They can be used for job applications, promotions, and Faculty 180 (e.g., the Miami faculty annual report). The definition, purposes, contents, goals, and portfolio samples categorized in disciplines are available in The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions (Seldin et al., 2010). Copies are available in the Center for Teaching Excellence Library and Miami University Libraries .

Seldin, P., and Associates. (1993). Successful use of teaching portfolios. Boston, MA: Anker.

A special issue of the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching also focuses on The Teaching Portfolio (Cox & Richlin, 1995).

 

CTE Whitepaper

Midcourse evaluation is a powerful tool that can be used to improve instruction and student learning. Midcourse evaluation strengthens communication between students and instructors to enhance teaching excellence at Miami University. The Center for Teaching Excellence website provides selected readings and tools for faculty who wish to conduct midcourse evaluations.

Peer Reviewed Literature

Journal on Excellence in College Teaching

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.

FAQ

Visa Information

I have a question about my H-1 visa, whom do I contact?

"The Office of General Counsel is responsible for assisting with most employment based immigration matters. The most common employer  sponsored work authorization from Miami University is for the H-1B work visa. However, not all positions qualify for H-1B sponsorship and the Hiring Department must be willing to bear the associated costs. In addition, the Office of General Counsel must agree that there is a suitable basis for pursuing H-1B status." (Office of the General Counsel)

Read more about H-1B nonimmigration visa.

I have a question about my F-1 or J-1 visa, whom do I contact?

Most students who come to study in the U.S. have an F-1 visa, and this is the most common type of visa for students at Miami. For questions regarding eligibility, dependents, work authorization, change of status, and two-year residency requirements, please contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Read more about F-1 visa or work authorization.

Read more about J-1 immigration visa.

Supporting Students

How do I help students in distress?

Some students may show signs of social or emotional distress. The staff of the Student Counseling Service (513.529.4634) is available to provide consultation to any member of the Miami community to guide them in supporting students who show signs of distress. Students, faculty or staff who think a student is experiencing significant distress should pass this information on to the office of the Dean of Students (513.529.1877) or go to the Student Concern Management System website. In an emergency, contact the Miami University Police at 911 or 513.529.2222.

An Emergency Response Information brochure, which includes emergency procedures and contact information. is available to view online, see Emergency Preparedness. You can read more about common signs of distress online. (Office of Student Counseling).

What support is available for documenting student illnesses and absences?

Faculty notifications. The Dean of Students Office does not "excuse" student absences (Student Handbook 1.9) from class. However, the office can verify absences and will notify faculty in cases of (1) student hospitalizations, or (2)death in the immediate family (grandparent, parent, or sibling). Notices about ill students will be distributed by the Student Health Services if it determines a notification is warranted (513.529.3000).

Student personal emergencies. The Dean of Students Office recognizes that students will occasionally face personal crises (other than hospitalization or a family member's death) that may result in class absences. The office does not attempt to verify the details of these personal emergencies and generally does not send out faculty notifications in these situations. Instead, we encourage students to work directly with their instructors, as we trust the expert judgment of Miami faculty to make any warranted exceptions.

How can Miami faculty promote safety?

To receive text messages about emergencies on or near campus, sign up for the Miami Emergency Notification System. Email addresses are already in the system.

Please review Miami's Emergency Preparedness protocols, including how to respond to an active shooter.

Miami has an Institutional Response Team and an Employee Institutional Response Team to plan for and respond to emergencies.

A variety of other safety resources and reports are on the Campus Safety website. The site also contains information on sexual assault response and prevention.

Supporting Instructors

What is MUPIM/University Policy Library?

The Miami University Policy Library provides official administrative policies and procedures for Miami University. The content includes policies related to academics, administrative, governance, employees, and students.

University Policy Library Table of Contents

What are my responsibilities and rights as an instructor?

All faculty members are responsible for adhering to Professional Ethics (MUPIM 5.3), adhering to the Statement of Good Teaching Practices (MUPIM 5.4), meeting all classes as assigned (MUPIM 5.9), establishing and maintaining regular office hours (MUPIM 5.7), fulfilling academic advising responsibilities and departmental, divisional and university service responsibilities (MUPIM 7.4A).

Department Governance Guidelines

What are considered as "Good Teaching Practices," and how do I know if I'm meeting Miami expectations?

Every instructor at Miami University is responsible for performing good teaching practices to support instructors and students and to promote an effective teaching environment. This site provides the statement of "Good Teaching Practices" and the expectations of Miami instructors inside and outside of class. (MUPIM 5.4)

My student filed a complaint about a grade. What will happen?

"The student should recognize the difference between questioning a grade and charging an instructor with a violation of the Statement of Good Teaching Practices. The latter is a serious act and should neither be undertaken lightly nor should the desire to have a grade reviewed and changed be the primary motivation. A student initiating a grievance procedure should be aware that the University Senate has ruled that the final determination of a student's grade remains with the instructor, regardless of the outcome of any appeal procedure. In all cases the student should first meet with the instructor to voice a complaint and to receive an explanation and possible redress. If the student is not satisfied with the explanation, he or she should confer with the chair of the department and ask for a review of the grade through the departmental grievance procedure." (Student Handbook 1.7.B) More information regarding the academic grievance procedure.

My student wishes to file a complaint about the quality of my instruction. What are the procedures?

"When a student wishes to make a complaint about the quality of instruction, the student should approach the administrator (e.g., chair, director) of the department or program located on the campus where the course is offered. Under ordinary circumstances, a student approaching an administrator to complain about a member of the instructional staff will be encouraged first of all to confer with the faculty member and seek a resolution. When a student is unable to resolve a difficulty with an instructor to the student's satisfaction, there are two acceptable ways in which the student may lodge a complaint against a member of the instructional staff before an administrator or any person who has administrative duties. The student may file a formal grievance or the student may submit a letter of complaint to the administrator. Anonymous or unsigned statements must be disregarded and destroyed. Formal letters of complaint are to be filed in the department student complaint file.

Upon receipt and before acting upon a letter of complaint, the staff member shall be informed of the complaint and given timely opportunity to rebut the accusations or explain the circumstances as viewed by the staff member. If submitted, documents presenting the staff member's position also are to be placed in the departmental  student complaint file.

The student who files a complaint is entitled to know how the complaint was processed and what actions were taken in response to it." (MUPIM 5.5/OAC 3339-5-15)

How do I respond to disruptive student behavior in the classroom?

If a faculty member is experiencing disruption in the classroom, it generally falls into one of three categories, which then determines the appropriate response.

  1. Minimally disruptive behavior (tardiness, absenteeism, under-performance, sleeping in class, lack of direction following, etc.) should always start with a one-on-one conversation between the student and faculty member to address the concerning behavior and attempt to develop an acceptable plan to address future behavior. If the student doesn't want to meet, doesn't agree to a plan, or doesn't follow through with an agreed upon plan, the student should be informed that this is the next step and that they will be receiving an outreach from the Student Success Services office once the faculty member places a call to provide the student's name and background information. This referral also includes students who have stopped attending and/or with whom you have had no contact or response to outreach.
  2. Serious disruptive behavior (student is being disruptive at a level where the faculty member is concerned for the safety or well-being of the student or others in the classroom/office) should always lead to a phone call to Miami University Police (513.529.2222) or 911. Once the police have arrived and assessed the situation, the faculty member should submit a report on the Community Standards website at their earliest convenience by clicking the "Report and Incident" button. Both the police and the Community Standards office may be in touch with the faculty member for more information and follow-up.
  3. Moderate disruptive behavior (anything that doesn't fall in either of the above two categories or minimally disruptive behavior that escalates) may result in the faculty member wanting/needing to first consult with their department chair. If more guidance is needed after this consult, faculty are encouraged to contact the office of the Dean of Students. The most efficient way of doing this is by submitting a concern through the online Student of Concern Management System. This site is available to all faculty through their My-Miami portal. The office of the Dean of Students can also provide support by phone and e-mail, although faculty will be asked to submit their concern in writing through the Student of Concern system if they have not already done so.

What are different types of academic dishonesty and sanctions? What are my responsibilities as an instructor?

As part of good teaching practices, "every instructor is responsible for assuming the positive obligation to confront students of suspected academic dishonesty." (Student Handbook 1.5) This Student Handbook provides the following: definition, acts, procedures for reporting, adjudicating cases, and sanctions for academic dishonesty. Please contact Brenda Quaye, Coordinator for Academic Integrity, ( quayebr@miamioh.edu) for more questions or visit the Academic Integrity website.

Policy for undergraduate students

Policy for graduate students

I'm not sure about the policies on intellectual property. For example, I created a new syllabus for my class. Does this belong to me, my department, or the university?

Generally, the person who created a copyrightable work will be considered the rightsholder, however there are certain situations where the development of a work such as a syllabi could be considered a "work made for hire." In these situations the copyright may vest with the department/organization that hired the person to create the class materials, or there may be co-ownership of the copyright in the work. For more information, please review the MUPIM Intellectual Property Policy.

FLC Member (Instructor) Reflections

Esther Claros Berlioz, Educational Leadership, 2018

Preliminary Lessons for an International Teaching Assistant

It should not have come as a surprise to me that I would end up an interdisciplinary scholar whose research foci gravitated towards that which has continually influenced my adult life: race, ethnicity, gender, art, education, and Immigration. But this piece is not about my research, rather, how I came to be the person that does this research.

The truth is that I am my research and my research is me. This narrative is how my research and the tenure of my time here in the United States have been ultimately defined by life in educational systems as dictated by my legal status. It is immigration that has forced me to come to terms with the wheel houses that I am allowed to move freely in, the doors that I am allowed to walk through, and equally important, the length upon which I am allowed to be in them.

Throughout my time in the United States, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working closely with students, faculty, staff, and administrators at both a two-year and four-year institutions of higher education. While my time here at Miami University has been short, the experience of being the only Honduran doctoral student to have enrolled at Miami University is not dissimilar to that of my prior educational experiences. My friend Leno refers to this phenomenon with a poetic reference to us being “raisins in rice”—a far more positive spin to being minorities and exceedingly better than the expression that I had become accustomed to in the past: moscas en leche (Flies in milk).

Why I ever allowed for the latter expression to sit well with me only reflects the effect that hegemony held over my mind, body, and spirit. Understanding that term and recognizing the effect that structures of oppression have over bodies of the “Other” has been instrumental to my emancipation. More than recognizing the actions of others, over which I have no control of, it allows me to find what triggers my own insecurities and why I had chosen to buy into some structures that often keep me at arm’s length from permanence in this country.

This is the very reason I sought to join this Faculty Learning Community. As I move through the process of going from a doctoral student, to a doctoral candidate—all the while existing in a liminal space of my student visa—the urge to find others to help guide me through the process of finding a home in academia became more urgent. More than just feeling welcomed and encouraged, I needed to hear from those who underwent similar experiences of one who cannot claim the privilege of being a resident or citizen of this country.

While I have been an adjunct instructor several times over the last six years, at an associate degree College as well as this four-year institution, I had the fortune to teach courses that resonated with my lived experiences. The most recent being the instructor of EDL 151- American University, a course that all first-year international scholars are required to take. As instructors, we had freedom when developing the curriculum, and I found myself guided by a Pedagogy of Care, whereupon we built on the relationships we fostered across that semester and almost two years since. We made a connection based on lived experiences of being Othered, seeking permanence, and maximizing our educational, cultural, and personal experiences as sojourners.

Interestingly, this experience took place during the 2016 U.S. elections. All of a sudden, I found myself having to address the heated context of the times as it pertained to being an international student. Whether my students understood it then or not, this would be a matter that would affect their experience in this country as their entire undergraduate experience would be under the administration of the 45th President of the United States.

The majority of my students were from different parts of China, with other Asian countries and Eastern European countries represented as well. It was my responsibility as their instructor to introduce this conversation into the curriculum, and they responded well to it. More than their major and their country of origin, I needed to understand the context of how they came to share this space at Miami at this specific time during this country’s history, what it would mean to travel home and return to the United States, especially for those students whose home country’s relationship with the United States was changing, especially in the context of immigration policy and enforcement.

This was one case with the students I taught; but it was a different case for the graduate students I work with. Many of them from countries who were being threatened with a travel ban, whose religion was being targeted and considered synonymous with terrorism, colleagues who were trying to carry on whole living for themselves, their spouses, and children on what felt and still feels like quicksand. Life during and after their graduate program is directly affected by the choices, efforts, work, and connections they make while in this country. As colleagues, domestic and international, we must be made aware of the multifaceted nature of being an immigrant to this country. More than this, they are partners, parents, siblings both inside and outside the borders of this country. We must make an effort to factor all of these roles into supporting them and making educational environments a safe and welcome space.

There is no doubt that the current U.S. immigration policy is influenced by matters of race and ethnicity. In the case of my EDL 151 students, my understanding of the intersections of race, ethnicity, and immigration made its way into my curriculum and allowed me the opportunity to rise to the occasion and help mentor my fellow international scholars. It was important to stress the understanding that their lived experiences and cultural assets were a significant contribution not just to the classroom but to the institution as a whole remains paramount. That being said, we also needed to discuss the arena which we had willingly chosen to exercise these assets. Not everyone would see that a hint of accent is proof of knowing more than one language, not a deficiency that needs to be ironed out. That claiming another country as home is only evidence of having traveled across oceans, continents, and time zones, to turn the dream of an experience into a reality.

The fact is that this reality sometimes falls in stark contrast with the reality of this University. More often than not, the experience of a campus tour is not something that international scholars are afforded. Especially at the undergraduate level. With a wish and prayer, you apply to institutions based on the academic rigor and prestige of a program, the reputation by way of word of mouth, and the testimonies of others that came before you. It doesn’t become real until you step through the Looking Glass into the stark reality of the institutional culture you pledged to be a part of. Miami University, or Mother Miami as it is affectionately called, welcomes into the warmth of its bosom those who look and act a certain way, who claim membership in a certain socioeconomic status, and who strive to have a specific academic and extracurricular experience influenced by the strong longstanding traditions that promote the tenets of Whiteness. This is not the same case for other campuses known as the Regional Campuses, nor for the programs offered on the Western campus. Often, racial, ethnic, and social economic diversity is kept to the margins of the Oxford campus.

Campus environment and diversity is something that must be taken into consideration by international scholars, staff, and faculty members; both factors that have an influence over the interactions they will have both in and outside of the campus.

This includes our own educational experiences as scholars in both our graduate and undergraduate programs. The educational systems of our home countries might differ significantly from the educational experiences domestic undergraduate students have become accustomed to.

As one of my first courses in my Educational Leadership program, I enrolled in an Educational Policy course. It was there where I was awakened to the realities of the educational system in the United States. One very different from that of my native Honduras. When it comes to interactions inside of the classroom, international Teaching Assistants and International Faculty, must be made aware of the systems of schooling the students in their classrooms have had prior to the postsecondary education. One of the books that helped me understand life before and after No Child Left Behind policies that indoctrinated the scholars we work with into a system that does not translate well into postsecondary life. Freire’s notion of banking in education described as

. . . an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. (p. 1)

Our students’ indoctrination into a system that requires accountability and quantification of what they have learned is something we must be cognizant of. It asks for us to be flexible to their apprehension to different approaches to teaching.

For International Teaching Assistants, the cohort model is often a anchor that helps them create community within an educational institution. This is tremendously helpful. That being said, one of the most humbling and enlightening experiences that I have had as an international TA and an international scholar has seeking the mentorship of other International Scholars who are tenure track and full professors at U.S. institutions of Higher Education. Among them is the understanding that language proficiency and the evidence of an accent is neither a deficiency nor something that needs to be apologized for. Rather, it is an opportunity to share in vulnerabilities with our students. Yes, English may be our second language, but that is only evidence that we are not monolingual. Plakans (1997) cites Bailey (1984):

Because TAs are a North American invention rarely found in higher education systems in other parts of the world, these newcomers are frequently unaware of what to expect. Nearly everyone familiar with graduate education knows of the problems this situation presents linguistically, interculturally, and pedagogically, but solutions have been elusive (Wilson, 1991). (p. 96)

Not only does the pressure of English proficiency and academic excellence fall on international TA’s, but the quality of work and degree of their efforts is being evaluated. More than simple a native speaker’s grasp of the language, International TA’s must be familiar with the content of the course, as well as how it is delivered. The undergraduate students are paying for a course and have expectations in mind. Expectations that often go unsaid; and many times challenged given the precarity of permanence International TA’s have within the institution.

This is an added stress for international TA’s, as they themselves are juggling high academic rigor in their own courses as well as trying to successfully traverse academic, personal, and professional demands in a new culture and environment.

A means of addressing this is for senior faculty and administration within the department to offer International TA’s the support of the department, whether it’s ensuring classroom observations to provide feedback to all TA’s or through mid-semester performance reviews of the course. This is a symbolic and tangible extension of support and confidence in the TA’s place within the department.

Secondly, international TA’s can also enrich their experiences by learning from a variety of mentors about what it means to be a pedagogue. Often co-teaching and co-planning are an ever-valuable opportunity to engage in collaborative teaching and mentorship for International TA’s where they get the opportunity to shadow a senior faculty member, integrate their own voice into the curriculum, as well as build community with the students. This also allows International scholars to expand their scholarship and their expertise, as well as make connections across departments and disciplines.

Ultimately, this testimony seeks to act as kindle to stoke a conversation—a critical one centered on the treatment of international faculty, teaching assistants, and staff members. They may fall target to racialization and Othering, resulting in them consistently having to develop and adapt mechanism of defense and justification for belonging in a given institutional space. The fact remains that they have proven their worth and value in multiple languages, across various environments, facing adverse personal and professional circumstances. And they will thrive when they have a community that supports them.

References

Freire, P. (1970). The “banking” concept of education. Retrieved from http://puente2014.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/87465079/freire_banking_concept.pdf

Plakans, B. S. (1997). Undergraduates' experiences with and attitudes toward international teaching assistants. TESOL Quarterly, 31(1), 95-119.

Esther Claros Berlioz, Educational Leadership, 2019

Being part of this FLC was a pleasure. And in 2018-19 it was a different experience because there were more international TAs, which was powerful given the current political and economic market and how it influences the job market.

The mentorship across generations was imperative as we explored how to approach the job market and what committees look for. The conversations centered on the teaching statement were particularly helpful.

From the voices of these FLC's came the development and application of IFSAM, an organization that has a far-reaching impact for the current members of the International scholar and staff community at the University level.

Being able to commiserate and seek the feedback from mentors, colleagues, and friends in a safe space. A space where we could be vulnerable and process our emotions without fear of judgement.

Learning from senior mentors on how they navigated the misconceptions and microaggressions of students, other faculty, and staff was equally important. It was great to hear about examples of good teaching practices especially since many of our colleagues teach courses to all majors.

Having the opportunity to take the conversations we were having at a personal more intimate level and expanding it towards a larger platform was amazing to see. This would not have been possible without the leadership of Dr. Yang and Dr. Torlone.

Challenges and Pedagogies that we have developed over the last two years:

  • Challenge: Staying in front of the classroom when addressing students about my research topic
  • Improvement: Always be encouraging students to participate by engaging them with my body language. If I move from different part of the classroom, I maintain their attention for longer periods of time.
  • Challenge: Using a textbook and PowerPoint
  • Improvement: Reducing the number of words in the PowerPoint to an image and relying on the dry erase board as a means of connecting facts, dates, and terms with the image.
  • Challenge: Student use of technology
  • Improvement: Students use technology as their means of taking notes, which I find distracting. Using the lecture dynamic and disrupting the layout of the classroom are just some thoughts.

Tips for future instructors:

  • Do a daily check in with students, even if you use index cards.
  • Break up large projects into timely parts so students can gain the benefits of seeing their work evolve through the process.
  • Constant communication is important, and staying abreast of daily world events is crucial. Find ways of linking the theory and material with things going on in the world.
  • Be a part of writing groups through the Howe Writing Center.
  • Collaborate across disciplines and engage in department lecture series.
  • Join IFSAM and continue the work and the mission.
  • Stay abreast of what the Center for Teaching Excellence has to offer.
  • Give back to others by mentoring graduate students and new junior faculty.

Mariana Ivanova, German, Russian Asian and Middle Eastern Language and Cultures, 2019

I want to begin with what I learned in the FLC and what I was able to share with my colleagues. I appreciated the format of the FLC, i.e., the opportunity to meet on a regular basis (once a week) and to discuss various aspects of our research, teaching, and academic life as international and multilingual scholars. We discussed challenges but also went beyond the debates on culture shock and cultural differences, inability to communicate across cultures, or low self-esteem, all of which international and multi-lingual faculty experiences in US academy.

Here are some examples of what I learned:

  • To embrace the challenge of teaching and working in an environment that is not my home, my homeland, or a community of speakers of my native tongue.
  • To be bold about sharing my own experiences in the classroom, both successes and perceived "failures."
  • To realize that I am not alone in the struggle to become a better teacher and that native speakers, internationals, and multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, or diverse in their identity teachers also experience similar struggles.
  • To define what might be a challenge that I face uniquely because of my background, education, or pedagogy that I have imported from my own culture.
  • To understand and embrace what might be a unique advantage that I bring to US academia because of my background, education, or pedagogy that I have imported from my own culture.
  • To be able to work with others, be open about problems and solutions, be open to dialogue, to debate, be able to perceive and appreciate various perspectives in terms of culture, upbringing, or elements of race, gender, and sexuality or identity politics that we carry with us.
  • To be able to define, discuss and debunk stereotypes or myths that serve as a hurdle for international faculty in their self-perception, work and teaching.
  • To be able to understand and discuss similarities and differences in the perception and teaching of internationals in various positions, such as graduate students, teaching assistants, teaching assistant professors, clinical faculty, visiting faculty, tenure-track faculty; I believe that the mix in this FLC of all these groups was unique and helped me understand diversity and challenges that we all face better; but also to understand that there is power and synergy in helping each other and providing support to whoever is in need of it.

I want to conclude that for me this FLC is more than a support group, more than a workshop, more than an opportunity for new friendships - it was a mix of all these, and yet, it was simply important and unique that we have an opportunity to discuss our challenges and grow together at Miami University. I want to encourage the Center for Teaching Excellence to continue to facilitate such learning communities, as to me that was the only place where I found such a group of people ready to share, to listen and to solve problems together. I have shared my experiences with friends across the US, and each colleague stated that they do not have such opportunities at their home institution and that a learning community might well prevent or help with burn-out, depression, and lower quality of research and teaching that faculty and graduate students from countries outside the US otherwise experience on daily basis.

Next, I want to move on to discuss challenges and pedagogies that we discussed in the FLC and those that worked or did not work out for me. I will involve here a discussion of my midterm course evaluations and the improvements that I undertook.

The courses I taught this semester were GER102 (Beginning German, second semester, two sections) and GER410M (400-level course taught exclusively in German and designed for minors and majors in my program).

Both courses offered different challenges, and being a non-native speaker of both German and English was noticed and discussed in all these courses as well as in the FLC. While the students in GER102 were much more open to my multi-lingual identity and teaching abilities, my designed that class based on my expertise of contemporary German cinema, which is part of my research.

  • Challenge: Lecturing about "life and culture" in Germany from my own cultural perspective (e. g. as I experienced it as an exchange student in the late 1990s)
  • Improvement: Providing authentic materials such as websites, interviews, videos, film reviews, texts used in a German-speaking environment
  • Challenge: Discussing and dissecting the typical "German" perspective in a text or film, seeking to identify cliches and cultural stereotypes
  • Improvement: Comparing the perspective in German-language texts from Austria, Germany or Switzerland to the US perspective; brining examples from learners' real-life; exercises where students can re-write a film plot or a story to "adapt" it to their own culture or generational understanding
  • Challenge: Lecturing about migrants in German-speaking societies
  • Improvement: Assigning readings and creating a role-play (debate among representatives of many different social or cultural backgrounds) and discussing in a more nuanced way global and labor mobility, the advantages and disadvantages of migration. Here I want to mention that the role-play that I staged in my class was very similar in terms of pedagogy to a role-play debate that we had in the FLC and that was initiated and moderated by Galina, one of our colleagues.
  • Challenge: Creating a PPT and uploading it onto the Canvas site; uploading 3-4 readings and expecting students to prepare in advance (often this led to frustration both on my part and on the students' part)
  • Improvement: Providing more opportunity for inclass reading and presentations by students. Reducing the number of readings, but exploring them in more depth. Provide guiding questions. Increasing the opportunity for group work, voicing one's opinion. Increasing opportunities for in-class writing (both individual and in groups).
  • Challenge: Frustration over outcomes that were not met in adequate for me way; Anxiety about sharing my thoughts with students; fear of being exposed as a teacher (cultural incompetence?)
  • Improvement: Dialogue with students about what works for them and what they want to learn in the class. An SGID that proved extremely useful. Beginning each class with a Q&A session and answering questions about upcoming assignments. Modeling future assignments and stating clearly what I expect. Providing handouts with steps and expectations to future assignments. Peer review of essays. Additional feedback provided by me on preliminary outlines of future assignments.

Here I want to mention that focusing on readings and discussions about cultural expectations by and from teachers and students in the FLC opened my eyes for practices that I was used to and that were simply not working in an American classroom. Furthermore, the FLC sessions on facilitating dialogue with students and on creating our teaching philosophy and portfolio made me think in a new way (different than when I was a graduate student going on the job market) about the goals and strategies of my teaching - specifically at Miami. Reading other FLC members' teaching philosophies was extremely inspiring, instructive and enlightening. I am grateful for this opportunity to reflect on my own teaching not only as a multi-lingual scholar but also as part of the Miami University community.

If I were able to be part of the FLC again, I would try anything I can to do that. Meeting my colleagues every week was invaluable and I view this FLC as a seedbed of future encounters and learning or working or reading groups. So, here are my tips for instructors, faculty, and graduate students who like me are international, interdisciplinary, and multi-lingual:

  • understand you identity and perceived "difference" as a strength; start by asking yourself, "What can I give to my students that is unique to me, to my culture, and to my background?"
  • understand that a culture contact is necessary; start by asking yourself, "What can I learn from my students?"
  • never take anything for granted or interpret behavior or comments as negative; move beyond the perception that students underappreciate you or want to hurt your reputation.
  • sincere dialogue is the best tool in combating anxiety and low self-esteem as a teacher; be open and prepared to share with your students why and how you do things and to listen to them and understand why and how they do things/ learn/ what are best practices in the classroom for them.
  • Find productive ways to bring in your identity and culture in the classroom - use comparison, share stories, use a lot of visual and media.
  • Make assignment descriptions very clear; divide them into steps if needed; discuss in class with students. Do not assume that students will read them on their own and understand everything.
  • Always be open for questions, provide Q&A sessions in your courses, while you teach and on Canvas.
  • State clearly your expectations at the beginning of each course.
  • Avoid irony, satire, mocking as a result of difference in cultures (e.g. "this is how we do it in my country and it is so much better") - try to establish an eye-level contact with your students; vice-versa, do not underestimate your own training or culture; show your students the advantages of approaching a question or issue from a culturally different perspective.
  • Create a classroom that nurtures and thrives on accepting each other’s opinions, ideas, creativity, perspectives, and otherness. Everyone can be "other" in various situations- create awareness of this reality in each class you teach.

Jing Luo, International Student and Scholar Services, 2018

I. Background of my working and teaching experiences at Miami University

I have been serving as the International Student Coordinator in the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) under the division of Global initiatives since 2014. My responsibility includes planning and executing orientation and developing training programs (workshops and other social, cultural and educational programs) to elevate onboarding experience and mitigate culture shocks for international students. In addition to the orientation organized by ISSS, the Department of Educational Leadership administers one transitional class for new international students. I am passionate to deepen my understanding of how orientation and the transitional class could supplement each other and influence students and their experience at Miami University.

In the Fall of 2016 and 2017, I taught the class EDL 151: The American University, an equivalent version of UNV 101 as a transitional class. Unlike UNV 101, which is for domestic students, EDL 151 is aimed to ease the transitional period for international students and provide structured guidance for their first semester. There were about 15 new international students in the class each semester. In each section, about 10 students were from China, 1-2 were from India, 1-2 were from Vietnam, and 1 was from another country/region (Thailand or Macao).

II. Challenges or unique situations in my teaching settings

  • As an international employee, I recognize that immigration status has an outsize effect on me personally and professionally. The same anxiety is shared among many international students. Providing emotional support and cultural guidance take a toll on my personal life and occupy much time and space in my work setting.
  • As an instructor, I share with students my experiences of transition and integration and it helps me easily gain trust and build relationship with students.
  • I always advocate for diversity and inclusiveness in my class. I am intentional to avoid any appearance of favoritism to any group of students. I want every student to feel comfortable sharing their stories with me.
  • Managing the class and creating a safe space can be difficult and challenging sometimes. Because of unique situations of individual students, not every student is willing to open up and share. It is my responsibility to develop trust with them and co-create a space with them.
  • Students carry their own story or baggage to Miami University. This class served as a platform for them to share their concerns in a safe space with lots of room for encouragement. It emboldens them to step out of their comfort zone and make friends with domestic students.
  • Some students are more engaged than others. Given that EDL 151 is a 2-credit class and does not count toward the GPA, there are students who simply ignore the class. Work needs to be done to create enthusiasm among students for the class. The gap between orientation and the academic semester still exists.
  • There are some students that are experts in public speaking, while others are shy and prefer private discussion. The proposed curricula considered different personalities and would provide a safe space for students to share their experiences in a way they prefer.

III. Pedagogical approaches and effectiveness in teaching

  • Networking is important. I have good relationships with many campus partners. To gain support from them, I invite them to be guest speakers in my class so that students can connect with campus resources through face-to-face interaction and later be willing to follow up and utilize resources. Fresh new ideas provided by guest speakers supplement the course material I prepare. One of the valuable learnings students had, as evidenced by their course feedback, was the opportunity to connect with people from different backgrounds and various offices on campus, and to practice communication skills with domestic students and professors.
  • To ensure a fair learning environment, I require all students to speak English in class. I elaborate my requirements and expectations in the first class and encourage them to ask any questions. The syllabus serves as a reference and clarification for everyone to look at if necessary.
  • In Fall 2017 I felt more comfortable and confident because I was able to change teaching plans, revise curricula slightly, and use a UA (Undergraduate Associate) as a peer advisor to bridge the gap between students and me. The UA was one of the most engaging students from my EDL 151 class in Fall 2016. She was able to relate her first-year experiences to the other students. As a result, students were more engaged and were more willing to reach out. In the course evaluation, they indicated they would like to have more group projects and discussions in class, which was unexpectedly incredible!
  • Though this class serves as a transitional support, I would like to see it provide more integration opportunities. As right now at Miami, EDL 151 and UNV 101 are separate, and it is very hard to facilitate integration while the two transitional classes are taught separately. I would like to see pilot programs to combine these two transitional classes. We would be able to review feedback from an integrated transitional class to determine its effectiveness.
  • The teaching experiences also enriched my ISSS job and motivated me to think about how to make sure students have a good transitional experience between orientation and their first semester. Apparently, the ISSS administrative job and the teaching experiences are supplementing each other. Being able to support students beyond orientation makes my entire work at Miami more meaningful and substantial. Based on my experiences working with international students, it would be easier to make a personal connection beyond my regular job. I would encourage students to get their voices heard, step out of their comfort zone, and represent themselves at Miami!

IV. Share my experiences and expertise with new international faculty or TAs

  • Establish professional identity. In the first class, I would clarify my role in this class and give a historic overview of this class to get students’ buy-in and excitement. Introducing myself in a professional way helped me deliver the message to students about the purpose of setting up this class and the benefit they will gain after successful completion of this class.
  • Make the syllabus structured and detailed. I revised the standard syllabus so that students have a clear version of my expectations and requirements. I require my student to speak only English in class with each other and with me. I want my students to know their responsibilities and consequences if they show up late, are absent without excuse, or disrespect each other.
  • Give an overview at the beginning of class. In every class, I often review the conversation from the last class, and I give a brief overview for today’s agenda. It helps me track progress and set up students’ expectations.
  • Use a visual tool. Visual tools help instructors convey the message. They also help the students’ attention span. The transitional class does not require extensive readings. Shared experiences, pictures, video clips, and well-structured PowerPoints do increase classroom engagement, as evidenced by extra questions from students and quicker answers to instructors’ questions.
  • Check in with students. Students may be on different page/pace in class. Checking in with them will help them focus, and help instructors understand their progress. A check in also shows students that we care about them and are willing to slow down if needed.
  • Provide peer support while challenging students to grow:
    • Pairing students with each other for group work will help them gain peer support. I found that group work with detailed instruction is easier for students to understand and helps them to ask clarifying questions. With step-by-step instruction and requirements, students know how to plan and execute the project.
    • Using UA/TA helps bridge the gap. I found dramatic improvement from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 as UA is added to the class. UA did a good job of mentoring the peers in a way that I as an instructor cannot.
    • Requiring each student to have a role in a group work is helpful to put out conflicts in a group project. It also serves as an educational moment for all students to learn how to work with people with different personality. Asking all of them to evaluate their team members encourages them to work harder and more collaboratively.

Mysore Narayanan, Engineering Technology, 2018

What have you learned from the FLC?

I have learned a lot of things and have been exposed to a variety of new ideas and ways to help new international teaching and research faculty as well as teaching assistants at Miami. I have tried to list them alphabetically. There are many more. However, I have listed a dozen of them here.

  1. Accommodate: This is a very important aspect that every instructor should focus on. Both parties involved will benefit if they are willing to work together to solve the problem at hand.
  2. Begin: Begin a conversation to identify the source of the problem. Next, dissect the identified problem to determine if the source is real, imaginary, or simply non-existent. It will then be easier to solve the problem or eliminate the source of the problem.
  3. Collaborate: Communicating effectively with each other is something that is always very effective. The dialogue that took place during the FLC meetings has provided me with an opportunity to generate new ideas. It is very important to directly address the issues that face the faculty, staff, and students.
  4. Dynamics: I have largely benefited from the dynamics of the FLC group. Each member has been able to contribute to the discussions and has helped others to learn from their experiences. Every member is given an opportunity to voice his or her opinion.
  5. Explore: Many of the FLC members outlined specific scenarios in detail and described how they have explored the possibilities to handle the situation effectively to the satisfaction of all the parties involved.
  6. Find: It is very creative if one can find multiple ways to deliver the same content material. This makes it easier for the instructor as well as the student. Visual, verbal, and vocal communication skills should be developed.
  7. Gather: Try to gather all of the resources that are available. Examine them carefully, and try to exploit them in a suitable manner that will be beneficial to all of the parties involved.
  8. Help: Help is available at Miami University. MUPIM helps individual faculty and TAs to a large extent. It provides specific guidelines as to how to handle a situation in an approved, acceptable manner.
  9. Institution: Miami University as an Institution provides guidance at different levels. Many times senior faculty, chairs, and deans provide directives to help students as well as faculty resolve issues.
  10. Join: Joint effort is always productive. It obviously makes sense to join forces with other faculty who are also facing similar issues. Working closely with another individual opens up room for new opportunities and development.
  11. Knowledge: One can easily see how Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences takes an important role in classroom learning experiences. This is especially effective for new international faculty. I have successfully implemented Gardner’s ideas in the engineering classroom.
  12. Learn: Learn from other colleges, universities, institutions and businesses. Lot of data is available on the internet and they may provide us with an insight as to how admirably a situation can be handled.

How your pedagogy can help new international faculty or TAs at Miami

I have been able to successfully implement my pedagogy to help my students accomplish their educational objectives. My success is mainly due to the enormous contribution by the following world-famous and well-established educational methodology researchers:

  1. Howard Gardner: Theory of Multiple Intelligences
  2. Fleming and Mills: VARK learning styles.
  3. Angelo and Cross: Classroom Assessment Techniques
  4. Barr and Tagg: A new Paradigm
  5. Pascarella and Terenzini: How college affects students
  6. Benjamin Bloom: A taxonomy of educational objectives.
  7. Hunter Boylan: Best Practices in Developmental Education.
  8. Marcia Baxter Magolda: Learning Partnerships
  9. James Keefe: Profiling and utilizing learning style
  10. Barbe and Milone: Modality.

I have published and presented dozens of papers in this area in international conferences. In my publications, I have documented and analyzed the data collected. Based on those, I have arrived at certain conclusions. A very brief summary of my dozens of publications is presented below.

Socratic inquisitions, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the Discovery Approach Applied in Engineering Classrooms

An instructor’s responsibility is to create and promote an active learning environment in which the learners themselves participate and take the center stage with the process of knowledge acquisition. Obviously this reduces students’ dependence on the professor. Furthermore, the instructor must encourage the establishment of a dynamic dialog that requires a deeper level of processing. We all agree on the fact that almost all professors ask the students to take ownership of their own learning. The discovery approach used by the author tries to build on these principles to establish an innovative instructional design by marrying content with presentation style in theory as well as in practice. Utilizing real-world problems as a stimulus for student learning is not at all new and has been in practice for a very long time.

Educators have understood that scholars have defined problem-based learning as minds-on, hands-on, focused, experiential learning. Instructors have also been encouraged to act as cognitive coaches who can nurture an environment that can support open inquiry. The author was inspired by the unique ideas presented by these scholars and researchers. He has tried to build on such intelligent ideas to develop a discovery approach of instructional technique.

Discovery approach aims to help the students to accomplish more and achieve independence instead of interdependence. The author has tried to successfully utilize some of the scholarly ideas of leading researchers while implementing the development of discovery approach into his current classroom activities. In this presentation, the author describes how he has incorporated the principles of Socratic inquisition to assist the adaptation of the discovery approach. He also presents analyses of the feedback data he has collected and provides guidelines for continuous improvement.

The Five Principles

Discovery approach has largely benefited from the introduction of computer technology in to everyday classroom activities. The design, documentation and delivery of educational material has undergone a revolutionary process and this has proved to be very beneficial for the instructor as well as the student (Allen, et.al., 1996). Typically, the process of designing and developing classroom course curriculum content – not to mention, modifying content – could be effectively streamlined in a productive electronic environment. This has enabled the educators to examine the reusability of products.

Furthermore, rapid development tools have facilitated the learners to admire and appreciate state-of-the-art technological innovations (Boyer, 1990). Discovery approach can be successfully implemented if an instructor intelligently incorporates and follows the five principles outlined below (Narayanan, 2010).

DEFINE: First, the instructor must clearly define the objectives of the course in question. In addition, the instructor should also provide the students with a detailed plan and the path traced for attaining these goals. Such a structure will prepare the students to admire and handle the course with great enthusiasm and creative productivity.

DESIGN: Secondly, the instructor should design learning modules that can generate interest and motivate the student body towards becoming metacognitive learners. In other words, one should be able manage one’s own learning. Any selected module should build on the previous module, thereby creating and supporting a value - added mechanism. The objective is to add to the knowledge base the students already possess. Ultimate goal should be that students should learn, “How to Learn.”

DEVELOP: Third, the course should be structured and developed in a systematic manner so that the learner can appreciate the fact that the course is being built on the previous knowledge acquired. For example, knowledge of physics and mathematics must be effectively utilized in a mechanics course. It is important to recognize that a methodical approach has always been the principle behind solid fundamental knowledge acquisition.

DEPLOY: Once the first three ideas have been secured in place, it is now necessary to implement them at the required level with appropriate advantage. Here, the instructor should utilize multiples modes of delivery techniques. Such methods have been suggested by Fleming and Mills (Fleming and Mills, 1992). Lectures, Reading, Writing, Visual Aids, Tactile and Kinesthetic modes of delivery help to reach students with diverse learning skills.

DECIDE: Finally, there should be separate assessments of the course, the curriculum, the student body, the instructor and the discovery approach. In particular, the techniques used should specifically study the impact of the discovery approach on the learning environment. It is important to conduct separate assessment of all the abovementioned five. Once the five sets of data are analyzed, examined and placed in their appropriate context, one can judge the impact of student learning based on the discovery approach as a whole (Narayanan, 2007 & 2008).

Washington State University’s Critical Thinking Rubric

It is important to emphasize that the above research activity is only partially complete. The above mentioned discussions are not meant to be all conclusive. In reality, they try to provide a starting point for a newly proposed instructional activity. This paper mainly concentrates on providing the instructor with the necessary background pertaining to practicing discovery approach. It is important that pertinent theoretical aspects must be discussed during lecture meetings and problem solving tutorial sessions. At present, the author is trying to design various hardware laboratory projects to supplement the discovery approach methodology of teaching. When student groups work on their experimental projects, they will understand and appreciate the needs and necessities of laboratory measurement techniques. They will also be able to effectively utilize and apply the knowledge gathered and gained during the lecture classes, study sessions, and in a variety of courses.

There is plenty of work to be carried out and the author tries to obtain feedback from the students and faculty at regular intervals. Washington State University’s Critical Thinking Rubric has proved to be extremely valuable in documenting the effectiveness of systematic use of discovery approach. This has helped the instructor address perceptual dimensions of learning most students acknowledge and appreciate. This will give the instructor proper guidance for moving in the right direction.

Furthermore it should be recognized that each topic or subject matter may be different and the difference may be huge and significant. Each instructor’s delivery style is different and one may even arrive at two different sets of data for the same subject and topic when two different instructors are involved. The author agrees and understands that these data may vary significantly depending upon subject matter, instructor’s delivery styles, material content, discipline, student body, etc.

It is possible that Visual and Kinesthetic modes of learning may be preferred by students engineering disciplines. Such assessment data provides the instructor to make appropriate changes in the manner in which the course is developed and may necessitate changes in Instructional Delivery Styles (Narayanan, 2007).

The important aspect here is to move away from a teaching paradigm to learning paradigm that is based on the discovery approach.

The principles assessment methodology can be summarized as follows:

  1. The participants should be capable of generating or selecting an assessment plan, that is productive and that is best suited for their chosen discipline.
  2. The participants should make a choice of developing a set of rubrics that can be effectively utilized in administering their assessment procedures.
  3. The participants are required to finally generate a set of graphs that can provide them with appropriate feedback pertaining to student learning capabilities.

It is quite common for colleges and universities to offer several types of precollege-level courses. These types of courses are basically designed to teach the essential academic skills that are necessary for success in some chosen upper level courses (Brier, 1984). For example, a pre-calculus course may be necessary for a group of students who may be quite competent in English literature. Another example would be a technical writing course that could help scientists, mathematicians and engineers with their journal publications.

Implementation

For the implementation of the discovery approach, the author tried to address eight important questions while he tried to design a new course curriculum content. The author has previously used a similar approach in other research projects to obtain meaningful results.

  1. What should be counted as appropriate goals and accomplishments in an undergraduate engineering course that has a significant laboratory component?
  2. Does the discovery approach practices utilized by the instructor providing reasonably acceptable paths toward accomplishing the specified learning goals in the chosen course?
  3. What do students actually accomplish in the designed course and the laboratory exercises? How has discovery approach helped them in meeting their learning goals?
  4. How has the instructor’s organizational techniques contributed towards students' intellectual development and progress?
  5. Has the discovery approach methodology effectively responded to address students' learning difficulties?
  6. Does the teacher revise his discovery approach methodology to address such problems encountered by the students?
  7. What impact does this type of discovery approach have on students' life-long learning attitudes?
  8. Does the discovery approach help the students to develop the ability to “learn, how to learn”?

One must remember that the ultimate goal of the discovery approach, however, is to deliver the needed information to learners in the best possible manner, that suits the receiver’s optimum learning style.

The author also strongly recommends and encourages students to utilize the resources that are readily available at the university, such as University Library, Divisional Documents, Departmental Research Reports, Computer Laboratory, Writing Center, etc.

References

Allen, D. E., Duch, B. J., & Groh, S. E. (1996). The power of problem-based learning in teaching introductory science courses. In L. Wilkerson & W. H. Gijselaers (Eds.), Bringing problem-based learning to higher education: Theory and practice (pp. 43-52). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Barbe, W. B. &, Milone, M. N., Jr. (1980). Modality. Instructor, 89, 44-47.

Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995, November/December). From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change, 13-24.

Baxter Magolda, M. B., & King, P. M. (Eds.). (2004). Learning partnerships: Theory & models of practice to educate for self-authorship. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2001). Making their own way: Narratives for transforming higher education to promote self - development. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Bloom, B. (1956). A taxonomy of educational objectives. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.

Bloom, B. (1976). Human characteristics and student learning. New York: McGraw Hill.

Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Boylan, H. R. (2002). What Works: Research-Based Best Practices in Developmental Education. Boone, NC: National Center for Developmental Education.

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (10th anniversary ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Keefe, J. W. (1991). Learning style: Cognitive and thinking skills. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Keefe, J. W. (1988). Profiling and utilizing learning style. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Keefe, J. W. (1987). Theory and practice. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Narayanan, M. (2007). Assessment of Perceptual Modality Styles. Proceedings of 114th ASEE National Conference, June 24-27, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, HI.

Narayanan, M. (2008). Assessment of Water Conservation Education. Proceedings of World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2008, May 12- 16, 2008. Honolulu, Hawaii. (ASCE.)

Narayanan, M. (2010). Assessment of Problem-Based Learning. ASEE 117th Annual Conference and Exposition, Louisville, KY. June 20–23, 2010. Paper # AC 2010-15.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from 20 years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Paul, R. (1995). Critical Thinking: How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World. Tomales, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.

John Ni, Management, 2018

Student Demographics in My Classes

Since I joined the Miami University in Summer 2017, I have been teaching two courses on supply chain management. One class is an intro-level class that is open to all students in the Farmer School of Business. The majority of the students in this class are juniors or sophomores, with less than 15% of the class being major or minor students. The other is a senior-level class in which the majority of students are majors. These two classes present very interesting contrasts, which lead to different challenges, as I will elaborate in the next section.

From a diversity standpoint, both classes are predominantly domestic American students, with only about 10% international students. Compared to other classes offered in the business school, the composition of the students in these two classes is very typical.

Challenges as an Instructor

There are several challenges when teaching the two classes as I mentioned above, especially for a first-year instructor at Miami.

Because most of the students in the intro-level class are non-major students, there is a strong lack of motivation at the beginning. For a typical non-major student, the class is probably a required class that the student has to complete in order to graduate. In addition, the content in this case could be very philosophical and mathematical. For instance, demand forecasting and inventory models could be very hard to present in the class, especially for those students who are not very comfortable with mathematics. Given the class is at the introductory level, it covers a variety of topics, which could make students feel very confused. Therefore, the main challenge in teaching the intro class is how to pique the interest among students to learn while helping them achieve a good understanding of the abstract concepts.

Compared to the intro-level class, the senior-level class poses different challenges. Because major or minor students are the audience of this class, there is strong interest in or appreciation for the subject matter. However, because this class is among the last major courses in the students’ final semester, how to find new and exciting topics to present in the classroom is a tough design question for the instructor. In addition, most of the students are in the process of finding jobs in their last semester. Therefore, class attendance can be another issue in the class.

Furthermore, participation in the class poses another challenge. From the instructor perspective, we would prefer a more participatory and engaging class for several reasons. First, it provides us with instant feedback about how well the content has been received by the students. Second, active student participation is conducive to a better learning experience, encouraging other students to share their thoughts and be involved in a “collective” problem solving process. Last, strong participation facilitates knowledge processing among students so that they can understand the content much better. However, to motivate student participation is not easy, especially given the distraction of laptops and cellphones in the class.

Pedagogical Approaches and Effectiveness in Teaching

In the intro class, students are required to read one or two business articles related to each chapter prior to coming to class. Before the semester started, I selected a number of recent business stories about a number of well-known companies from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Because students are familiar with these companies, it is easy for them to understand the successes, problems, and challenges they face. More importantly, they have gained a deeper understanding of these issues from the perspective of business management. First instance, in the first class, students read two articles about Zara, which has been very successful with their “quick fashion” business model through fast new product introduction. While students might be very familiar with the idea of “quick fashion,” the articles provide an interesting insight look into how the quick lead time was able to be achieved by Zara. In the class, we discussed the unique design of the supply chain network in Zara: the independent design team, direct input from store managers, and suppliers located in Europe rather than Asia. By having engaging discussions, students not only understood the importance of supply chain and supply chain strategy, they also observed the actual impact of different supply chain strategies on firm performance.

In addition to using the business articles, I also utilized video or other teaching aids (e.g., podcasts) to make the class more interesting. In the class where we discussed service management, I showed an 8-minute clip from the movie The Owner, which is about the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc. In the clip, students had the chance to look at why McDonald’s decided to reduce the number of product offerings, as well as how the company re-designed the kitchen layout in order to reduce the service delivery time.

I think using business articles and teaching videos in teaching has at least two main teaching benefits. It makes the abstract concept (such as supply chain strategy and service design) much easier to understand. It also provides opportunities for students to participate in the class discussion due to their familiarity with the company or the brand.

To make sure students are well prepared for the class discussions, each class has a quick five-minute quiz at the beginning. These quizzes are designed to test whether students have read the designated article(s) or chapter(s) prior to coming to the class. Students are asked to use a mobile app to finish the quiz so that they receive instant feedback once they finish. These quizzes are counted as a part of the final grade (about 20% of the total grade) in the class. Therefore, students have strong incentives to prepare for class, rather being passive recipients in a traditional lecturing setting. To alleviate anxiety about the quizzes, I allow students to bring their study notes. In addition, to provide incentives for in-class participation, I also tabulate the number of comments raised by each student during the semester. These counts are updated every week and also counted toward their final grades.

Share My Experiences and Expertise with New International Faculties or TAs

Through my limited teaching experience, I have learned the most important thing is to feel comfortable about yourself. As international faculty members, we face the challenge not only of delivering the content to students, but also of adjusting to a learning environment that is very different from the one we experienced in our own undergraduate programs. Below are several thoughts I would like to share with new international faculty and teaching assistants.

One of the “thorny” issues is about our speaking accent. Admittedly, it is very hard to “rectify” one’s accent, which could take years of practice. The problem sometimes can be traced back to our self-doubt (i.e., we feel terrible that “we don’t sound like an American”). A more realistic approach might be that we should feel comfortable with our accent. As long as students are able to understand us, having an accent is not really a major issue. I have found that speaking slowly in short sentences works better when trying to explain a difficult concept to students.

We also need to adjust our expectations in our teaching. It is very easy for a new faculty member who just graduated from a Ph.D. program to have high expectation for herself or himself. Unknowingly, these high expectations could also be projected to the students in the classroom. Certain topics, such as optimization or linear regression, might be very easy for us. However, for many students, these topics are very hard to grasp. To be effective in a classroom, we probably should not be spending too much time on deriving the equations, but rather on explaining how to use or apply these tools is solving problems. In addition, dividing the entire lecture into small segments, interspersed with practice problems or questions, gives students time to think and process the information just received. Peer teaching, or having students work together, is also very helpful in clarifying issues encountered by the students.

Being responsive and considerate to student requests could also lead to a better teaching experience. From time to time, I explicitly ask students to give instant feedback about the content just taught in the class. For those students who are not comfortable with providing direct feedback, I also hand out comment cards for them to provide anonymous comments. Don’t be afraid to make timely adjustments to the teaching plan based on the students’ feedback. Showing respect for students could go a long way.

Last but not least, seeking help from colleagues is very important. Suggestions and advices from colleagues could save us a lot of trouble of going down the wrong path. Colleagues, especially senior colleagues, can give us valuable insights about the characteristics of the students in the class, effective methods to deliver the content, even share the slides that they have used in the classroom. I have been very fortunate working in a very collegial department in which colleagues are willing to share their teaching experiences and materials. These great assistance helped me quickly transition into teaching new classes at Miami.

Vijay Keshaorao Paralkar, Educational Leadership, 2019

A Way Forward to an International Faculty in Higher Education: A Brief Reflection

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly reflect on my learning experience as a member of the 2018-2019 Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on "Enriching Teaching Experiences of International Faculty, Teaching Assistants (TAs), and Graduate Students" at Miami University.

Following are the two main subtopics I would focus on:

  1. My teaching experience as an instructor for EDL 151: The American University
  2. My learning experiences from this FLC and its possible impact on improving my future teaching, learning, scholarship, and practice.

Background

Currently, I am a PhD candidate in Educational Leadership at Miami University. Being an international graduate student here at Miami since August 2015 and consistent with my interest in internationalization and globalization of higher education, I chose to write several of my class assignments and present on the topics related to international students, internationalization of university and college campuses, study abroad programs and global citizenship, etc. Considering my special interest and future focus on college teaching, I took and successfully completed 2 credit hours in the Graduate Student Teaching Enhancement Program (Core) offered by Miami’s Center for Teaching Excellence during the Fall 2016 semester.

My teaching experience as an instructor for EDL151: The American University

I am passionate about teaching and improving my skills to develop myself as a future educator and scholar particularly in international setting. The Department of Educational Leadership administers one transitional class for new international students. Hence, in the Fall of 2016 and 2017, I taught one section of EDL 151: The American University, as a transitional class. EDL 151 is aimed to ease the transitional period for international students and provide structured guidance for their first semester. This course focuses on building intercultural competencies for international students to succeed in an American University and in the broader U.S. cultural context. Other course components include introduction to resources on campus to assist in transition and adjustment; develop, adjust, and use academic skills and resources needed to understand and navigate study load, test counseling and health issues, and extracurricular activities. I designed and presented a module on Campus life: Health, Wellness, and Safety on campus to the four sections of this class. On an average there were about 25 new international students in the class each semester, most of them from China and few of them from India, Vietnam, and other countries.

Challenges and opportunities I experienced in my teaching

  • Being an international student in the U.S., it was relatively easy for me to understand the needs of my students and get connected with them as an instructor.
  • I shared with students my experiences of transition and efforts of integration that helped me provide them cultural awareness and emotional support. Combining and delivering my first hand experiences with the curriculum helped me easily gain trust and build relationships with students.
  • Some students were more serious and engaged than others. Given that EDL 151 is a 2-credit class and does not count toward the GPA, there were some students who didn’t pay required attention in class although they were physically present in classroom.
  • I know students bring their own experiences, concerns, and related stories when they step in the campus and classroom. With my intentional focus on inclusive classroom environment, this class served as a platform for them to share their concerns and stories with mutual trust and encouragement. This was very helpful for every one of them, as they shared almost the same transition.
  • Although I was intentional to avoid any appearance of favoritism to any particular student, especially from my own country, sometimes somebody tried to take advantage. This was challenging for me to handle without compromising the quality of their learning experiences within the boundaries of Miami’s code of student conduct and ethics.
  • Group work was helpful for students, not only for their learning by sharing but also for finding and making friends having similar interests.
  • One valuable learning my students had, as evidenced by their course feedback, was the opportunity to find and connect with people from different backgrounds and various offices on campus in order to build initial confidence in practicing communication skills through our Photo Safari assignment followed by classroom presentations to practice their presentation skills.
  • Some simple ice-breaks like greeting each one verbally and nonverbally in all of their languages, including the one from my own country/region, was very effective in creating a feeling of initial respect and connectedness to each other’s language and culture.
  • I felt more comfortable and confident in designing and delivering a special module on Health, Wellness, and Campus safety, because it was related to my doctoral dissertation topic. In the course evaluation, students indicated they enjoyed and liked it, which was unexpectedly flattering for me!
  • This teaching experience enriched my interest and future prospects in teaching with confidence.

My learning experiences from this FLC and its possible impact on improving my future teaching, learning,scholarship, and practice.

The first and foremost to me is that this FLC succeeded in creating a real and inclusive environment through semi-formal and flexible (not through a strict set agenda every time only by the facilitators) structure where I (maybe each one of us) felt truly belonged to and very much comfortable sharing and contributing my/our thoughts and experiences and learning from each other in a most comfortable way. I didn’t experience any ego, gap, or hesitation among and between all of us to put our concerns, questions, beliefs, thoughts, etc., on the table, as I often found in my past professional experience for more than 15 years. For me, it was a kind of demonstration of how to create truly inclusive group (maybe FLC itself) in my future professional practice. My sincere appreciation goes to our facilitators and all members.

My participation and interactions during this FLC helped me increase my awareness of challenges and opportunities of an international faculty and improve my competence and confidence in teaching and learning practice as a future faculty of international origin.

With the help of relevant readings and, particularly, a simulation exercise, I now better know the challenges and opportunities to effectively address and meet cross-cultural needs and expectations of both international and domestic students together in a multi-stakeholder setting in order to promote an inclusive teaching.

Readings during this FLC and working on my teaching philosophy statement helped me learn appropriate evidence-based teaching methods and student engagement techniques to choose and use while teaching diverse student populations.

Ojo Olorunsogo Paul, Biology, 2019

My name is Ojo O. Paul, a Nigerian national and graduate student at Miami University (MU). I hold a bachelor's degree in Agriculture from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria, and a master's degree in Soil Science from Punjab Agricultural University, India. Thereafter, I joined a PhD program in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Miami University. During my second year into the program, I was offered the opportunity to join the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) "Enriching Teaching Experiences of International Faculty, TAs, and Graduate Students at Miami." The FLC offered an excellent platform for both professional and career growth, and I would say with confidence, that it attained its goal of enriching the teaching experience of international faculty, instructors and teaching assistants. In particular, the cultural diversity of the community supported the fundamental idea of its establishment. This reflection enumerates my experiences as a biology teaching assistant at MU and the how the activities and different discussion sessions at the FLC impacted my teaching experience.

Prior to joining Miami, I had no former teaching experience at the college level, even though I taught science to high school students. Thus, teaching at Miami provided me the opportunity to develop the needed experience for the academic profession. The FLC set a stage for community of international faculties/instructors and also a template for incoming fellows to integrate to their new workplace. Another great opportunity the FLC offered was organizing discussion sections on teaching strategies in the areas of what pedagogy works or does not work, students' perception of their international instructors, and how to understand cost evaluation outcomes. In addition, the chance to interact with guest speakers and some FLC alumni, hear them share their experiences and perspectives was great. This offered a valuable resource in developing resilience in the face of professional growth. Even in the face of growing opportunities available to me, my teaching experience was not that rosy at the beginning, and I would like to share some of the challenges I had, how I handled them, and my advice for new instructors .

Challenges and how I overcame them

As an international TA teaching introductory Biology lab, I encountered lots of hurdles. These included students' complaints about my speed of oral communication, harsh grading style, strong accent, and all of these resulted in poor evaluations. During our sessions in the FLC, I became aware of these challenges and the need to improve my teaching in the areas of effective communication, rubric-based grading, and to also inquire of students’ understanding of the topics being taught. Particularly, I learned that, although one's accent would not disappear just in a night, one must be aware of this challenge while speaking and be able to employ the necessary strategies to help lessen the effect of accent on teaching effectiveness. In addition, having other members of the FLC share their personal experiences and the strategies they employed helped me develop some personal strategies to overcome the challenges. Among the strategies I employed were asking questions during classes to assess if students understand the topic under discussion, speaking slowly and pausing during oral communication to ensure clarity of instructions given to students. Also, I ensured that I always used a rubric to grade their writing assignments when giving feedback on the assignments. In doing this, I typically stated what was done well on the assignments, what was not, and suggestions for improvement.

Another opportunity I seized to improve my teaching was student office hours. Students asked more specific questions about subject concepts and instructions, and these offered me an avenue to further explain the concepts and work through lab instructions with the student. Also, this served as a tool to screen through the sections of the lab materials where I needed to focus. For course evaluations, I had fair scores on the Plant and Environmental biology class I taught twice. The majority of points raised by the students were closely related to the challenges I identified earlier. However, following the training in the FLC and implementing the strategies as previously discussed helped me receive better scores on sequent evaluations. The constructive feedback from students in the evaluation also helped me in personal assessment of the strategies I used to improve my teaching.

Pedagogical approaches and effectiveness in teaching

  • Group class exercises: In the majority of the lab exercises in my class, I grouped students and monitored each group carefully to ensure active participations of group members. This also helped in ensuring students' participation in class activities. Grouping helped me to interact with each student, ask specific questions, and also allowed inter-group members respond to questions from their fellows. This pedagogy further enhanced collaboration among the students and provided the chance to speak to a lesser number of students so as to facilitate effective learning process.
  • Quick response to email communication: Students sometimes email their instructors while they are working on an assignment for clarity. Thus, quick response to email communication helped a lot.
  • Peer-peer support: A peer to peer review system was also helpful. Using this tool, I basically assigned students to a peer review of assignment. Here, I discovered that students learned more when given the opportunity to review other people's work. This particularly enhances understanding of the topic under discussion by looking at the problem from another lens.
  • Fair learning environment: I print student discussion questions during each week of class discussions, share among them, and request that students respond to their peers' questions at the group level and the class as a whole. This gives that chance for everyone to see the questions posted by their peers as some students post questions a few minutes before the start of class.

Tips for new Miami instructors

I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a student's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a student humanized or de-humanized. - Haim Ginott

First, understand that you own the class at the moment of teaching and so must be in charge of things around you. Among the tips I have for new faculty members, instructors and international TAs are these:

  • Have a good grasp of the material to be taught.
  • Prepare well before class.
  • Master the students' names.
  • Use rubrics for grading.
  • Be very clear in email communication and in giving classroom instructions.
  • Be confident.
  • Keep to promises you make.

Finally, remember the words of Josef Albers that "good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers."

Hamed Samandari, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, 2018

I served in this faculty learning community program as a member during academic year 2017-2018. We had biweekly meetings through the semester with a focus on facilitating the inclusion of non-native English speaking (NNES) faculty and international teaching assistants (ITAs) as a powerful teaching force. During the program, we discussed challenges that NNES faculty or ITAs face. I have enjoyed being a part of this program, and I believe it helped me be a better teacher. Following, I discuss my accomplishments through this program.

  • Engaging in this community helped me to obtain a better understanding of the complexity of teaching and learning. I learned about the difficulties that students may have in communicating their concerns. I learned about Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) program, and I used it to create an open dialogue. I reflected on the feedback that I received from the students. I believe this helped me to create a trust relationship with my students, showing that I am aware of their concerns. Reflecting on my teaching evaluations, I can see that my students found this very positive. For example, a student commented: “Loved the change in teaching after the professor eval.”
  • Through the program, we discussed different teaching strategies such as Think-Pair-Share. Moving through the semester, I shifted my class format from the traditional lecture format to a more active learning format that put the students more in charge of their own learning. I developed a series of problems focusing on essential skills and asked my students to work on these problems in groups during the class hours. Reviewing my teaching evaluation comments, I can see that students enjoyed these activities and found them effective. Student comment: “As the year progressed more opportunities for problem solving in class were provided. I greatly enjoyed and preferred this.”
  • In one of our FLC sessions, we invited a panel of international students to speak about their personal experiences with cultural and academic transition into United States. It was very interesting for me to know more about the personal experience of international students at Miami. I believe this helped me to gain further understanding of my international students. I believe progressing through the semester, I was able to build a better relationship with my international students.
  • Being involved in the community, I started working on my teaching portfolio as a mini project. I started with re-visiting my teaching statement. That helped me to reflect better on my own core teaching values. In addition, it helped me to better understand how I teach and what I teach. It made me aware of my own teaching skills, and it challenged me to implement and assess different teaching strategies in my classes. I used the SGID, group activities, peer evaluations, and peer reviews in my classes.

As a new faculty member, you take on a new experience of having the responsibility for teaching a course. Along with this new responsibility, you need also to learn how to balance the time you spend on teaching, research, and service to your department. It is not an easy job, and it becomes even harder because you are international faculty and may need more time to adjust to the culture of how administrative structure works in the US.

  • Establish a community, in particular, with other international faculty in your department or your college. They can provide you with insights that better match your needs.
  • Be aware that schools with a smaller population of international scholars may not be ready to process your paperwork on a timely manner.
  • Building a trust relationship with students early during the semester is very important. You can even use unique examples from your own cultural background to build that relation.
  • Talk about your research and who you are and use that to motivate your students. Students in general are interested in knowing their professors!
  • If it is possible, shadow a colleague’s lecture. That would provide you with a better understanding of the expectations for you and the students for the course that you are taking over.

Mohammad Ebrahim Sarabi, Mathematics, 2018

I. Student Demographics in the Department of Mathematics

The student body in Miami University’s department of mathematics is composed of 70 percent American and 30 percent international students. The majority of international students are coming from China. This leads the student body in many courses in the department of mathematics to be divided into American and Chinese students. In some semesters, the department of mathematics does not provide the instructors' names in advance; in such cases, my students were approximately 70 percent American and 30 percent Chinese, which is in accordance with overall student body of the department of mathematics. When instructors of courses were known to students at the time of registration, the aforementioned percentages of American and Chinese students were mostly reversed for me.

The interest of a significant portion of students in this department is not to focus mainly on the theory aspect of mathematics, but to study different applications of mathematics. This should be taken into account whenever an instructor wants to teach a course in the lower, middle, or upper levels at Miami University.

II. Challenges as a Mathematics Professor at Miami University

According to my experience teaching at Miami University, I will elaborate some of important challenges that I have faced so far. First, I should say that I misinterpreted the “undergraduate program" in the American educational system and somehow confused it with my own experience. I came from an educational system in which students are exposed to very theoretical concepts and results upon entering into the undergraduate program. Indeed, by the end of this stage students are mostly accustomed to sophisticated proofs and results in mathematics and know how they can deliver their solutions effectively using mathematical notation.

However, in the American educational system -- and in particular at Miami University-- students are not exposed to such high-level mathematical theory until the final year of their undergraduate program; even the level of exposure to mathematical theory in their last year is not as rigorous as I experienced during my undergraduate program. So should an international instructor want to teach a mathematical course here, it is highly important to fully understand students' abilities and backgrounds. This can be accomplished by asking other instructors for the ways they have designed their courses. I do believe that international instructors who have undergone this program outside of the American educational system mostly conceptualize it in the way they have experienced it themselves. I, myself, belong to the latter category of international instructors who confused Miami’s program with their own experiences.

To elaborate more on this issue, I describe two instances in my teaching at Miami University, one for a lower-level course, “Calculus II," and the other for an upper-level course, “Introduction to Optimization Theory," from which I realized that I need to learn more about my students' educational backgrounds. The first time I taught Calculus II at Miami University, I prepared my lecture notes by assuming that students are already familiar with induction from their high school educations. However, as soon as I began using the latter terminology in my lecture, I clearly observed the confused faces of my students. Upon asking the students, I realized that they have not yet learned this concept. The only reason I made such an assumption was my own experience, in which I was exposed to the latter concept in high school. Another instance took place when I was teaching an upper level course in which most of my students were seniors. I assumed that students were familiar with writing elementary proofs and could write a simple one. However, I observed throughout the semester that they were struggling with this level of mathematics in which we expect students to know the elementary ways to doing proofs in mathematics. The discrepancy between the educational system in which I finished my undergraduate degree and the American education system was not clear to me at the beginning of my career. Taking this into account, the international instructors need to fully understand that the same course should be adapted according to the knowledge level of the students. Moreover, their expectations about their students' abilities should be adjusted and somehow moderated.

To overcome this problem, I suggest international instructors consult with senior faculty members who have taught the course in the past in order to learn more about the diverse learning needs of all of their students. Even attending some of these faculty members’ lectures can provide a better understanding of how important concepts should be addressed in a particular course.

Another rather strange but important challenge for me was to realize my students do not read the book that I have introduced at the beginning of each semester as a reference book for a course. To elaborate more on this, I would like to point out that I have been mostly using the blackboard to write the main ideas of my lectures as well as some examples through which I usually show students how to exploit the given results to solve problems.The main disadvantage of this traditional lecturing method is that while explaining the details for students, you may forget to write some of these details on the blackboard--sometimes you may not find time to write them all on the blackboard or you may think they are easy for all students--and so it is likely when some students look at their notes again, they may not fully grasp the discussed results. Since the examples and presented results are taken from the introduced book, I have always assumed that my students will read the textbook or will come to my office if they have any questions about them. However, by the time I realized that most of students do not read those sections that I have covered in my lectures, the only source for them to review for tests and quizzes is their notes.

I once taught “Differential Equations" and used a prepared lecture notes of my colleague in the department in which the main concepts and results were gathered together with some examples illustrating those concepts. During that semester, I did not face the same problem since my colleague's lecture notes provided the needed details for students in advance, and so if I did not write some of these details on the blackboard, they were already in the lecture notes that students had. Not only did this save me a lot of time that I had used before to write everything on the blackboard, but it also helped my students have a summary of the important concepts discussed during each lecture. Furthermore, they do not miss important details while I am discussing but not writing them on the blackboard due to my accent. So my suggestion to international instructors is to provide such a summary of each lecture they are going to give in order to avoid the aforementioned problem.

III. Pedagogical Approaches in the Teaching of Mathematics

Teaching, in my opinion, cannot be a one-way communication; it must be a dialogue between the instructor and the students. I make it clear at the first session of my class that there are no “stupid ideas" and tell my students to feel absolutely safe to express themselves. During each lecture, I pose several questions to the class and ask the students to share their ideas with everyone. Some of these questions are consciously selected to make students think deeply. For instance, in the “Introduction to Probability" class, solving the “birthday party" problem reveals to the students that if we have only 50 persons in a room, then we are almost sure that there is a pair with the same birthday. This result came as a surprise to my students since 50 persons in comparison with 365 days in a year seems to be a small number. Such a question opens the door for a useful back and forth discussion between me and the students from which we all benefit.

I also sometimes find it useful to ask a student to go to the blackboard and write and discuss his/her solution. If he/she comes up with a wrong solution, then I find it very useful to show the entire class the error. In this way I am trying to avoid similar mistakes from other students. I also find it an opportunity to improve students' mathematical writing ability by showing them how they can exploit mathematical notation to demonstrate their idea in a way that everyone can read and understand them.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the students will only understand that mathematics is a beautiful and fruitful science with effective applications if they can understand the concepts and ideas presented to them. I also observed that at the early stage of learning mathematics, concepts need to be presented as simply as possible, with some appropriate and tangible examples. For instance, in the "Introduction to Optimization" class, I showed my students a graph of pain intensity reported by two patients undergoing colonoscopy. From the graphs students observe that the first patient suffered longer than the second one, but the intensity of the latter patient was much higher than the former one. Then I asked my students to think of how much these patients think they suffered. When I explained that patients only remember their maximum pain intensity instead of the duration they suffered, students realized why maximum or minimum points are important to be studied in detail.

I found it quite attractive for students at higher levels of education to give a place to the origin of concepts during the lecture. Bringing history to the class increases students' motivation and helps them to develop a positive attitude towards mathematics; at the same time, they can observe that the concepts have not appeared out of the blue, and there are natural motives producing these developments. For instance, when I want to teach the Implicit Function Theorem, I usually talk about the main driving force of this theorem for Lagrange. I explain to students that he was indeed thinking about finding necessary optimality conditions for a constrained optimization problem. Then Lagrange observed that some sort of the Implicit Function Theorem was needed in the proof of his main results. In this way, I try to put the students in Lagrange's shoes to help them to walk the road on which this theorem was discovered. As a result, they can see mathematics as a long process, which has been developed gradually by multiple hands. This also helps them feel less frustrated when they struggle since they can observe that the key ingredient for such an achievement is not genius or natural ability, but grit.

I have been using the traditional lecturing method, which I have experienced as a student, for teaching mathematics: use the blackboard to show concepts and examples. I am genuinely beginning to be doubtful of the effectiveness of this method and thinking it necessary to bring new tools and approaches into classrooms. The reason is my recent observation while I was teaching “Calculus III.” This course encompasses many concepts in 3-dimensions that are not easy for students to visualize. While teaching the course, I observed that my students are struggling to conceptualize the important notions in the course and so decided to use mathematical software to provide them with more visualizations of concepts to help them comprehend these notions. The reason that I think of exploiting the new technology is that is very difficult to create such a picture on the blackboard in the way that conveys what you want your students to see. Should you succeed in making good pictures on the blackboard, students still will have a hard time recreating it in their own notes. This motivated me to provide my students with a summary of my lectures that included all important notions and graphs discussed in class. This also gave me more time for whole-class discussion of the examples and concepts I was supposed to cover. Furthermore, I could save time for other activities such as asking students to come and present their solutions for a problem and then to discuss it with entire class. I did post the summary of my lectures a day in advance to give students the opportunity to look and have a sense of what it is supposed to be discussed in class.

Furthermore, it is often difficult for students to grasp a new concept. In the traditional method of using the blackboard, I found that the primary focus of my students is redirected from understanding the concepts to taking notes of what I am writing on the blackboard. This seemed to me a source of students' distraction, and so by providing them with lecture notes I tried to help them mainly concentrate on the given concepts without being worried about missing any points on the blackboard.

Working with partners and in small groups has been another method that I have incorporated into my teaching to enhance students' engagement. It also facilitates the exchange of ideas and encourages higher-level thinking. I deliberately choose problems that make students think with and about important mathematical ideas and that require a higher level of thinking. While they were working on the problems, I joined groups that were stuck on the problems and provided them with a suggestion to try.

I should mention that while using this group activity in several courses, I realized that it may not be effective for all courses; its effectiveness depends heavily on the students. The main difficulty was when I had students from different cultures and asked them to work in a group together. Even being from the same culture but from different majors or different age groups had negative impacts on the level of students' engagement. In such cases, I often found that students were working alone and were not helping each other. To overcome this problem, I asked each group to provide a joint solution for the designated group work, which I graded and counted toward their grades. M goal was to encourage students to engage more in the group work since they realized that it is a part of their final grades. This resulted in improvements in students' engagement; however, I received some complaints that some students do not pull their weight and are free-riders.

Galina Shleykina, English, 2019

I was part of the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) "Enriching Teaching Experiences of International Faculty, TAs, and Graduate Students at Miami" for the 2018-2019 academic year. Currently, I am a third year Visiting Assistant Professor, teaching linguistics, ESL (English as a Second Language), and TESOL. For me, the FLC was an excellent opportunity to establish connections with peer international faculty members and to improve my teaching.

First, working with other international faculty members created a professional community where we could share our experiences, successes and failures in academia. Such discussions helped me in developing self-confidence and decreasing feelings of anxiety and insecurity that are common among international faculty. Hearing the stories of others and learning about challenges that international faculty typically go through – be it linguistic, psychological, emotional, or pedagogical related difficulties – were a great support in establishing a welcoming environment for international faculty. Second, the FLC was a wonderful opportunity for professional development.

One of the main topics of our discussions was teaching strategies; in particular, what pedagogies are effective/ ineffective in the classroom and the reasons for that. In the second part of my reflection, I provide a list of specific strategies that worked/ did not work in my classes and what improvements I have made. The members of FLC and FLC facilitators were eager to share their teaching experiences – good and bad – and to provide critical and constructive feedback to each pedagogy discussed. This topic – teaching strategies – led to another important conversation – evaluations of teaching and ways to improve them. Research has shown that international faculty might be evaluated lower by students due to a number of reasons, e.g., foreign accents, different teaching culture, and the like. International instructors address the issue and improve their teaching effectiveness in a number of ways, primarily in developing and implementing new or revised teaching strategies (see the list).

Moreover, a recurring theme of our discussions was that while teachers may change their way of teaching, they will and probably should preserve their multilingual and multicultural identities and bring the benefits of such positions to the classroom. Another valuable aspect of FLC was the guest speakers, for example from the university administration and previous FLC members. They provided us with different perspectives on the academic life and shared some particular instances of instructional challenges and improvements. Lastly, the participation in the FLC had some practical outcomes, for example, in creating teaching portfolios including Teaching Philosophy Statements, which can be used in job applications.

  • Challenge: Lecturing and reading from the PowerPoint slides
  • Improvement: Interactive lecturing - interrupting lecturing with questions, mini assignments/quizzes, videos, etc. Making comparisons and connections to real-life and previous class material; using references to personal examples; presenting topics that interest students; trying hands-on experiences. This makes learners remember the material better.
  • Challenge: Presenting the information as it is presented in the textbook with no or minor additions.
  • Improvement: Using the textbook as one of the sources of information but not the only one. Using additional sources and naming them. This gives an opportunity for those students who are interested in the subject to explore additional resources more in depth. Inductive learning: make the students find answers themselves rather than giving them an answer. Give the answer/rule/ explanation after the students discover it themselves (in order to reinforce understanding).
  • Challenge: Group work. Challenges that I have experienced: group members have different learning strategies/values/principles, which makes collaboration difficult; group members have different levels of proficiency/knowledge, which puts learners in more advantageous/disadvantageous positions.
  • Improvement: Group work. Ways to address possible issues:Group work should be prepared carefully; Place students in groups considering their levels, majors, other variables; Explain the benefits of group work to the students; Assign each member of the group a specific task/role, so everybody participates equally; Assign a group leader; Change group members for every group work; Use peer feedback and evaluation.
  • Challenge: Making as assignment for the sake of an assignment.
  • Improvement: Create authentic and meaningful assignments that relate to personal and real-life experiences and/ or might be used in students' future academic/professional life (Need to ask yourselves these questions: What is the goal of the assignment? What is the outcome? Why do I want my student do this assignment? What will they learn from it?)
  • Challenge: The outcomes of classes are not measurable (using such verbs as 'learn', 'familiarize', understand').
  • Improvement: Measurable outcomes for every class and for the whole course as well (verbs such as 'explain', 'define', 'apply'). Using "Can-Do statements" in the form of check-lists (e.g. "I can do...
  • Improvement: Students might not like to take notes for different reasons. Moreover, students’ notes might contain mistakes (for example, be copied incorrectly from the board). More reliable is the use of Canvas tools such as Pages or Files to post teaching materials there. Create handouts

Tips for future instructors:

  • Prepare well before the first class: get familiar with the class roster and students’ information (photo, name, major, etc.)
  • Do your homework and prepare for each class thoroughly: make detailed lessons plans with particular assignments, timing for each activity, etc. Careful planning and organizing is crucial.
  • Make all assignments structured and varied at the same time (that will preserve your teaching style and address different kinds of learners at the same time).
  • Make the assignments descriptions very detailed. This will answer students’ questions, prevent any frustration, and save a lot of time. Use rubrics for grading assignments. Rubrics are helpful in explaining the points/ grades to the students.
  • Use Canvas tools: Organize students in groups, publish class materials, track students’ progress, etc.
  • Use linguistic and cultural multicompetence as an asset and advantage rather than disadvantage or deficiency. Take pride and value in multicompetence and develop confidence through it. I utilize my linguistic and cultural multicompetence a lot: in linguistics classes, I provide phonetical and lexical examples from my native language to illustrate particular linguistic phenomena. I also use my own accent as an illustration of phonological processes and phonotactics rules. In English as a Second Language classes, I use my own experience in learning a foreign language and try to serve as a role model for the students. I tell about my challenges in the process of foreign/ second language learning and encourage students to reflect on their past successes and failures.
  • Attend Faculty Learning Communities. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues, share experiences, and reflect on your past successes and failures, improve teaching, and grow as a professional.
  • Explore and utilize learning and professional development opportunities at Miami.

Madhu Sinha, Interdisciplinary and Integrative Studies, 2018

Numerous factors beyond teacher effectiveness influence what students learn, how they learn, how they perceive course effectiveness, and, eventually, that behemoth-like monster—student evaluations. During the last year, I have learned much in discussions with my colleagues in this Faculty Learning Community. In our conversations we put forward many reasons for student perceptions in courses taught by foreign faculty. Appearance can establish or send an indelible sign of difference. When compounded with an accent (thick or light), approaches to course construction and teaching that is different from native professors, and sociocultural differences, student perceptions can form in ways that may not be easily explained. These variables are unchangeable for the most part, and evidence may show that student perceptions likely tap into such variables and norms. Over the years, as a faculty member who is clearly perceived as foreign, I have faced several issues both within the classroom and in student evaluations. Recently, I have been teaching a few online courses. The general assumption is that online education can be a more secular experience—one where differences may be erased or downplayed rather than play a center stage role. An accent, for example, plays little or no role in an online classroom. Personal mannerisms specific to cultures also play no part in the online classroom. So, does this mean that an online portal is a perfect space where the unequal dynamics of race and/or gender fade away, allowing for some sort of ideal platform?

The Digital Divide

To begin with, it is important to understand that technology, like other human achievements, is not sequestered from race and/or gender biases. Remember when Siri was first offered to mankind via the iPhone? This presence on the smartphone could provide us with any assistance, or so it seemed. Well, not so fast. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out that Siri could tell you where to find an escort, but not where to find birth control. So much for technology without bias. The online classroom is no different. The student in the online classroom is not a robot, but rather a human being with a clear sense of identity. And this identity is often fraught with the politics of race and gender. The professor also cannot erase his or her identity, and this identity plays a role in the online classroom in both old and new ways.

Course Content

Two areas that reveal student awareness of faculty ethnicity and “otherness” are (a) student understanding and expectations of course content, organization, grading, and other such course related phenomena and (b) student evaluations. I will consider course-related behavior and expectations. For this study I am choosing to consider data from FST 206. This is Film Studies course that explores the theme of diversity in American films. The course syllabus considers race and poverty as parameters of diversity. At Miami University online courses are generally pre-created, and this is not a course I created. The course uses four movies that touch on poverty in African American and white Appalachian communities. In principle, faculty are encouraged to provide a brief (or not so brief) description of themselves and provide a photography. As in a F2F course, an online course reveals faculty identity quite clearly. My ethnicity and background are then revealed through a photograph, my foreign-sounding name, and the introduction I offer of myself. Here are some student responses, which I will attempt to evaluate and critique.

My discussion board comment to Student A: Pay close attention to the background music. Does it add to the emptiness in the life of the main protagonist in the movie Precious.
Student A reply to me: Professor Sinha, I don’t think background music plays such a strong role in this movie. Not like it does in Bollywood movies, for example.
Student B writing to me in the icebreaker forum: Professor Sinha, I am sure you cook fabulous Indian food. Can you share a recipe with me?
Student C writing on discussion board for the movie Midnight Cowboy : The main protagonist is forced to pimp himself on the streets of New York. Poverty breeds immorality. This is a problem in poor countries in Asia. A good example can be seen in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The movie is set in Mumbai, India, and clearly shows us the levels to which people can fall when poor.
Student D in a private email to me before the start of the module using the movie Precious: Dear Professor Sinha, can you excuse me from this module? The movie Precious is not a movie I can watch with my moral values. The movie contains pedophilia, misuse of welfare funds by a child’s mother, mistreatment of a child with Downs Syndrome, the list goes on.
My answer: Dear Student D, I cannot provide any exceptions for you. You are in college and will be exposed to knowledge that will frequently challenge your world view. If your world view cannot withstand a challenge, then is it not worth rethinking?
Reply from Student D: Dear Professor Sinha, I understand that you have a better exposure coming from your culture. I can neither watch this movie nor discuss it. Please try and understand.
Note: I did not give any special exceptions to the student.

Conclusions

From the student comments above, I believe it is fair to come to certain conclusions. One, in a world where exoticism is bandied around, students have an idea about entertainment in other cultures. Students A and B draw unwarranted connections between me and my connection to Indian movies and food. Moreover, Student B domesticates me as a woman (and a foreign woman!) who must know how to cook expertly. In the first example, the student appears to be gently reminding me that the course is about Hollywood and not Bollywood. How remiss of me!

Both students C and D appear to claim that poverty automatically breeds immorality. And those other countries (in this case, India) are morally debased, abysmally poor as they are and must be. Student D even demands exclusive treatment and assumes that I, as someone originative from elsewhere, must have had exposure to such awful behavior.

None of the above is a regular occurrence. Nevertheless, these comments reveal that students are aware either consciously or subconsciously of the otherness of the professor. They look for affirmation, as in examples one and two. And they sometimes challenge my position as a legitimate professor who understands American culture, as in examples three and four.

It is possible that similar behavior could be exhibited in a F2F classroom. However, the digital space does create a sense of anonymity. Social media faces this issue often. Social media is a powerful tool for audience interaction and reaction. But it can also turn quickly into a nightmare swirling with offensive comments. Users can believe they are virtually anonymous, giving birth to a lack of accountability. Even if they are not anonymous, the physical distance can allow for the user to believe he or she is not accountable. Further, it may be easier to express certain thoughts through writing rather than through speech (“Why is everyone,” 2012). All of these behaviors may hold good for the online class. A certain variety of aggression, which leaves political correctness behind, can find its way into the online classroom.

It is difficult to say whether student learning is impacted seriously by examples such as the ones above. Yet it is fair to assume that students often come in with preconceived notions. These notions are used to justify their own shortcomings and to help cement their own America-centric view. Students who close themselves from a wider understanding are not likely to find the course interesting. In the consumer age we live in, education too is a consumer product, and students expect to be entertained. Preconceived sociocultural notions may prevent students from enjoying the course material or learning from it.

Reference

Wolchover, N. (2012, July 25). "Why is everyone on the internet so angry?” Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-everyone-on-the-internet-so-angry/

Angela Trubceac, Educational Leadership, 2019

Reflections on an International TA and Neophyte Scholar on Being a Member of an FLC

Motto: Those who do the teaching are the ones doing most of the learning.

Currently, I am a PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant in the EDL department at Miami University. Last year I was searching for a faculty learning community to join. The one with the title "Enriching Teaching Experiences of International Faculty, Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Students" drew my attention. The keywords here were "international" and "enriching teaching experiences." From the beginning it looked like the FLC's main goal is educational equity and fairness for all. However, besides this, I was looking for something more. For an instructor for whom English is the 4th language, who (unfortunately or fortunately) speaks with a foreign accent and sometimes with some errors (as a direct consequence of being self-professed), these keywords were a lure that sparked a new hope for me. Also, as a Ph.D. student and a teaching assistant (TA) for last four years, I always had a feeling that I was perceived "differently" by my colleagues and other students. I know that speaking with an accent is not a catastrophic defect; however, I am wondering how this "differentness" affects my students' learning.

Being the first graduate student from the Republic of Moldova at Miami University, I felt this as a burden – to prove my worthiness. Despite my credentials, having 25 years of teaching experience in secondary education in my home country, Moldova, I believed I have a lot to share but even more to learn and relearn. Before starting my first semester of teaching here at Miami, I was terrified by the idea that my students might reject me. I was so critical of myself, seeing only the flaws, questioning my English proficiency, knowledge of the course content, etc. When there are some words that I am not sure how to pronounce, which syllable to stress, it is embarrassing for me. It might look unprofessional, like I do not know what I am speaking about. Even besides my parallel career - 17 years of fruitful experience teaching Romanian and Russian for the US Peace Corps volunteers in Moldova - I still had my fears and doubts. All of this only brought me down, reducing my confidence in my own skills and proficiency, which was pretty low anyway, I thought. Every day, before classes, I was counseling and encouraging myself by repeating these phrases as a mantra: Be brave; You can do it; Your faculty believe in you; You successfully passed the TOEFL exam for God’s sake; These kids are just one or two years older than those you taught in Moldova; or… What bad can happen to me if I fail? They will just send me home, not in jail. This self-soothing strategy usually helps to fight my lack of grit for the beginning of the class. Thus, when enrolling myself in this FLC, I was looking for a magic tool that will help me with my struggles.

Why This FLC?

A candle does not lose its glow when it lights another candle. (James Keller)

Even in my 4th year at Miami, I was still fumbling my way through academia, attempting to figure out what is the best logic modeling, what is appropriate, and vice versa. This FLC’s mission statement was to provide a safe friendly space for international faculty, TAs and graduate students to hold a dialogue about our teaching experiences as well as increasing our own content knowledge about diverse teaching-learning methods. The focus was on creating a family, building solidarity, and support. I was fortunate to be welcomed as a member of a team comprised of experienced high-caliber faculty and other TAs and grad students, some of whom have been struggling to find answers to these types of questions for more than 2 decades. The real diversity of our FLC, in terms of the country of origin, department, and teaching experiences of each attendee, was truly beneficial. This resonated a lot with my research topic - Multicultural Education. We strived to create an educational environment aimed to broaden our perception of diversity and social justice, as well as to build true professional and personal relationships. By establishing a broader community network across the university campus, we set a strong commitment to improve the recognition, acceptance, and equal value of the international counterparts, which culminated with the creation of the International Faculty and Staff Association at Miami (IFSAM).

At each gathering we discussed diverse research articles and recent studies related to our goal and mission. I absorbed the stories of my colleagues, sharing their valuable learned lessons, teaching strategies, as well as their vulnerabilities, but most importantly the power of coping with this phenomenon – being an international faculty in an American higher education setting and bringing our international perspectives into a local academic culture. We all have been contributing equally to the conversation, learning from each other. Telling our good and less happy experiences, trying to learn from mistakes and avoiding repeating them, was a crucial additional support mechanism for me this academic year. Thus, I viewed our FLC as a peer-support-led focus group that helped me to cope with the difficult transition in academia, such as how my "experience increased feelings of insecurity, decreased self-esteem, and high levels of stress and anxiety" (Ku, Lahman, Yeh, & Cheng, 2008).

Here, we discussed our diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, and educational backgrounds without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. We did not present ourselves as inferior or victims, as people with deficit thinking or secondary sort of people, rather as equally valued researchers, professors, and personnel among others. This was both a learning and a healing experience. I will never forget the kind and encouraging words of our leader Eun Chong. When I had doubts about the worthiness of my participation in a panel, she simply and sincerely said: "I think your contribution will be tremendous. I'm sure many new or current instructors would be interested in hearing your perspectives on teaching. We are all from different countries and willing to support Miami students to learn, so we are in the same boat." Here we had a chance to learn what a supportive international team means to us. The FLC was an additional platform for me to be mentored and guided, as an international doctoral student, for a possible career in academia.

My Educational Philosophy

Through the whole experience as a TA, I did have opportunities to teach the EDL 204 course - Sociocultural Foundations of Education. The course's purpose is to help future teachers to figure out: what does it mean to educate children to live in a pluralistic democratic society? To find the answer to this question students must ask: How do social norms and political climates impact individual choices, access or educational opportunities; How does the historical understanding of schooling create tensions for moral aspects of schooling today; and How can teachers develop cultural competence about the oppressive aspects of schooling while learning to navigate anti-oppressive education? (from EDL 204 Syllabus, 2018). As a soundly social justice-oriented course, its mission is helping future educators to bravely design and implement a culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy. As a former social studies teacher, I appreciate the strong connection of the course content with the history of America and its schooling system. Applying discovery methodology, I find it important that students learn to make connections between current issues in American education and the historical past, determining how the past impacted the present.

With a seminar or discussion-based course format, EDL 204 encourages active learning, which involves students as much as possible, in small group settings, as well as with large classroom discussions. When students are assigned with particular readings and/or watching documentary movies, they must reflect and grapple aloud with the ideas they've read in the texts. In my first year, I was extremely nervous about teaching this course, because I knew only in theory how to approach it. I was very appreciative to our course coordinators as well as to other experienced instructors and grad students’ suggestions and advice on how to effectively and enjoyably teach this course (Dr. Richard Quantz, Dr. Kate Rousmaniere, and Dr. Brittany Aronson). I knew I was standing on the shoulders of the titans (how we say it in Moldova) or giants (an American version of the saying).

My novel approach was that all students are required to submit the one page of reflections in response to the readings and write at least 2-3 developed questions on some aspect of the text and bring it to each class. Thus, they were expected to come well-supplied with questions on and critical reflections of the text they had read or the film they watched. These tools must provide a basis for an engaging class, with a lively, even controversial discussion, and consequently an advanced understanding of the topics. Also, the course discusses a plethora of educational pedagogies and philosophies, that helped me and my students to choose the one best suited to our own values and morals. For me they were the Culturally relevant Pedagogy (Gloria J. Ladson-Billings) and the Ethics of Care (Nel Noddings) as a foundation of my educational philosophy.

Before each class, I put together a handout with students' questions from the previous class' 'evaluations of the day', the definitions of major key concepts of the day, and the guiding questions to be discussed. These handouts are distributed among students at the start of each class. I also try to build a community with each students' cohort and create a safe zone where different ideas are equally valued, where multiple voice and interpretations are allowed and appreciated. Like any teacher, I strive to ensure that everyone participates (at one time or another). All in-class activities and discussions scaffolds students' critical and creative thinking skills, providing a basis for the course assignments culminating with the final project: "Re-Imagine Education Conference."

I was happy that the course I had to teach was already moved away from traditional teaching and routine lectures, rather being designed as effective student-oriented learning. What I have to do was keeping encouraging my students to be critical thinkers and active actors of change in a pluralistic participatory democracy (Dewey, 1939).

Thus, from the beginning I knew that our rendezvous must be unforgettable; a time period when everybody can and might fully contribute to a quality classroom discussion, exchanging his/her lived experiences, ideas, worldviews, thoughts, convictions, and emotions. Consequently, we are co-constructing knowledge and acknowledging ourselves as valid knowledge producers. I am glad that I do not have to make my students looking at me as to some sort of 'expert lecturer' or 'all-knowing' professor, where they are merely knowledge consumers and/or passive bystanders. I also try to avoid allowing the seminar to run the way when either the conversation is monopolized or when it ends up being dull or deviates from the main subject. However, if the dialogue turns into a students' concerns and educational experience related conversation, I let it go that way. This year I used something substantially new. Having an undergrad course seminar-based is entirely appropriate, yet, in the first part of the class, I let students watch the introductory video-lecture of our course coordinator (Dr. Brittany Aronson), to help them build an argument on the educational issue/topic, thus students have some grounding and a starting point for the ulterior discussion.

How concrete did my belonging to this FLC effectively improved my teaching?

I think that overall this FLC helped me a lot to boost my self-confidence, especially regarding mastering the English language. I learned to admit that my accent is a feature, not a bug. Under this framework, self-confidence in mastering the English language is the way to champion my students' learning and well-being. Also, in this FLC I learned the value of self-esteem and the most vital "self" concept of all: self-worth. Even though it is trickier to increase these qualities in adults, my international brothers and sisters in arms succeeded to teach me how to think well about myself. They offered plenty of desirable examples of positive self-regard, focusing on experiences of success, that aim to control my critical inner voice. They made me to believe that I deserve my spot in the American academia. After all, I got the greater feeling of confidence and competence in my academic area, closely tied to how to view my worthiness and value as a human being. This matters to me a lot, and I am so grateful to my colleagues for this.

This social professional circle with its collaborative spirit, also helped me to recognize and appreciate our shared identity: I saw how each of us, regardless of our ethnic, cultural or educational background, has the value and power to bring a solid contribution to academia, to make the change, and through it to influence and inspire others. The sense of empathic solidarity, the reciprocated sense of merged consciousness and alliance (Heise, 1998) that we created helped me understand that only together we are the force of change that can transform the existing landscape and the climate for the better. This is an acknowledgement of our contributions to education and an affirmation of social justice.

I also learned how to better set up the outcomes of the course, which helps to track the dynamics of the achieved goals of the content of the course, keeping an eye on my students' progress, as well as on my own mastery.

Concluding my thoughts, I assert that this type of FLC is needed at Miami University, since there is a large family of international faculty and students and, since subsequently, diversity became the distinct signature of the current university administration, strongly committed to welcoming diversity, broadening perspectives, and facilitating real inclusion and accommodation, helping everybody to succeed in careers and learning experiences. I am grateful for the experience I had, and I recommend it to other international faculty, graduate students and university personnel.

Dewey, J. (1939). Creative Democracy - The Task Before Us. Retrieved from website.

EDL204I Syllabus (Canvas site)

Heise, D. R. (1998). Conditions for Empathic Solidarity, p. 197-211. In Doreian, P. and Fararo, T. (eds.) (1998). The Problem of Solidarity: Theories and Models. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach.

Ku, H-Y, Lahman, M. K. E., Yeh, H. T. & Cheng, Y. C. (2008). Into the academy: Preparing and mentoring international doctoral students. Education Tech Research Dev, 56, 365-377. DOI 10.1007/s11423-007-9083-0.

Nugrahenny Zacharias, English, 2019

A Reflective Space for an International "Novice" Teacher-Scholar

Who am I joining the FLC as?

"After many years of teaching, some ESL teachers can feel a sense of isolation because they are but one person in a room with 20 or more students, and as such, many have a difficult time reflecting on their practice" (Farrell, 2013, p. 108).

Similar to many ESL teachers as stated in the above quote, finding a time to reflect is particularly challenging for me. This is my fourth year at Miami University as a Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) teaching primarily first-year composition to international students. As a VAP, I teach three classes with student numbers ranging from 11-19 students per class. Due to the large number of hours I dedicate to teaching practice, preparation, assessing and giving feedback to student works, teacher reflection—a key point in professional development and learning—has been significantly pushed aside. Although I still attempt to reflect on my teaching by occasionally writing a teaching journal article, these reflections tended to be spontaneous, unfocused, and unstructured. After teaching at Miami for approximately three year, I felt a need for a new lens to see and understand my teaching. This is the reason why I joined the FLC.

Another reason why I joined this particular FLC was due to the word 'international' attached to the faculty. Having years of teaching experience in Indonesia as an Indonesian teacher has given me the privilege to have access to an 'insider' knowledge and a certain degree of familiarity about my teaching context with no deliberate effort. Unfortunately, when I taught at Miami University—my first teaching job in the US—the sense of familiarity of the teaching context and insider knowledge that I often took for granted when teaching in Indonesia was suddenly 'vanished.' I also felt the need to reconceptualize my nonnativeness in the new teaching context. Many studies on Nonnative English speaking teachers (NNESTs) teaching in the US—some of which we read during the FLC (for example, Reis, 2012)—demonstrate how one's nonnativeness is often constructed negatively primarily by the students. This is what I hope to learn from the other FLC members. How can I construct my nonnativeness more productively? The purpose of this reflection is to give a snapshot of how I construct my teaching differently as a result of my participation in the FLC.

Teaching as a Relationship (TR)

"I think the class needs to be more fun."

"Perhaps, play games once in a while."

"Although I learned a lot through the class, maybe the teacher can include games so the lesson is not too serious."

Although these comments were not many, they consistently appeared in my student evaluations when I was teaching both in Indonesia and at Miami University. When I was reading them in Indonesia, I easily pushed them aside, or not considered them at all for the simple reason that for me at that time, learning should be a serious endeavor. My 'belief' was also reinforced by the many 'serious' courses I was assigned to teach: Research Methods, Sociolinguistics, Critical Reading, and Academic Writing. Since one course was often taught in parallel with other teachers and was mostly textbook-centered, it is important that these courses were taught at the same pace and in the same way. Individual innovation in each course was difficult, if not impossible because all the teachers teaching the same course needed to make sure they covered the same materials since tests and quizzes were given on the same day and time. Therefore, when I received student comments to make the lessons more fun, I saw this as a distraction to the 'serious' learning outcomes achieved mostly through 'serious' means such as tests and quizzes.

I saw knowledge transmission slowly shifted when 'student-centered learning' was sporadically brought up during the FLC meetings: when listening to other colleagues discussing teaching and the student evaluations they received, as well as when we discussed teaching philosophies, I quickly learned that I came from a teaching context believed to be mostly teacher-centered. In Indonesia, student evaluations were not an integral part of teaching. Even though they were occasionally administered, they did not have any direct bearing on teacher promotion. In 15 years teaching in Indonesia, I never heard of any teachers who have been denied promotion due to poor student evaluations. When immigrating to the US, I learned that significance of student evaluations to teaching effectiveness. And this has certainly changed the way I structure and see teaching.

One of my favorite activities in the FLC meeting is when we had a chance to listen to other international faculty. Two in particular that I remembered were the reflections of Dr. Mohammad Ebrahim and Dr. Chaitanya Sambhara. From listening to these guest speakers, I learned that 'how to teach' is as important, if not more important, than 'what to teach.' It was this awareness that shifted the way I see teaching and the students. I now see teaching as a relationship. Seeing 'teaching as a relationship' (or TR, for short) highlights the significance of each component contributing to the relationship: the teacher, students, and communication. If an individual-based view of teaching, such as teacher- or student-centered, gives a focus on only one component of teaching, TR focuses on the functionality of all the components and most importantly, it highlights the dialogue relationship between the two. To put it simply, TR helps me to listen to what the students and the need to create a space to hear what students say about my teaching and their learning. Since I adopt the view of TR, I begin each semester with a TR 'pep-talk' stating that the course is mine as much as theirs. I did this by employing exit tickets where every week students needed to write a 100-word reflection of what they have learned and ideas to improve their learning. However, I discarded this since many students wrote in student evaluations of making the exit ticket "less often." Students' reflections also read like lecture notes. I realize that students might be overwhelmed with writing a reflection and did so simply to "fill" the page. Therefore, I limit reflection to mid-semester and after each major assignment and significant learning activities.

Bring moments of 'fun' to teaching

TR has forced me to focus on bringing fun to the way students 'consume' knowledge. The question I often ask myself when presenting a lesson is this: Is there a way I can make this fun? In the following paragraph, I try to illustrate one lesson where I attempted to teach the idea of 'coherence' when writing a rhetorical analysis of a food package. Through years of teaching writing, I found coherence is one of the most challenging writing concepts for students to grasp. Although most students could fluently cite the dictionary meaning of what coherence is and perhaps, sense why one text is more coherent than another, teaching how to make a text coherent is another matter. In Indonesia, where I saw teaching as teacher- and coursebook-centered, teaching coherence was primarily reciting its definition as written in the coursebook as well as listing signal words contributing to a coherent text. Students, then, proceeded to do an individual practice of using them in a fill-in the blank exercise.

I did continue this practice during my first-year of teaching at Miami University. Although this practice helped students in being aware of the different variety of transitional words and how to use them in sentences, my adoption of TR pedagogy has 'forced' me to ask if there is another way to teach it. My goal is simple: to make students enjoy learning. My previous way of practicing text coherence required students to work independently and in silence to figure out the best signal words to complete sentences in a paragraph. Drawing from the principle of collaborative learning (Donato, 2004) and sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1998), I started to seek ways of 'presenting' coherence as a problem for students to jointly solve.

One activity that I design is teaching coherence as a puzzle. The activity asked students to collaboratively order sentences taken from two texts to form a coherent text. The first text is coherent, and the second is not. Students first started working on the coherent text and then followed it up with the incoherent one. I timed the activity so students could compare the length of time they needed to order the sentences of the coherent and incoherent texts. The purpose of this activity is to provide a condition where students could 'feel' the ease of reading a coherent text. Although this activity required a lot of preparation, students seem more involved. Rather than working independently and 'silently' as in the previous activity, this activity encouraged students to work collaboratively as well as use their shared mother tongue to productively solve the problem.

The most obvious effect is that none of the students was secretly playing with their handphones. The class discussion also was more engaging. I asked students to compare the reading speed in ordering sentences for coherent and non-coherent texts. If we were able to order the coherent text in approximately five minutes, ordering the incoherent text expectedly took a longer time—around eight minutes. When asked why they could sentences for the coherent text quickly and correctly but not so with the incoherent text, students quickly 'blamed' their nonnativeness with comments such as "My English is bad" and "I am not a good reader." I took this as an opportunity to highlight that at times not being able to understand and English text has nothing to do with one's nativeness but the text itself is poorly written. As a follow-up activity, we then brainstormed the different rhetorical ways the incoherent text can be made more coherent and use these ways to rewrite the incoherent text to be more reader-friendly for the next class meeting. Certainly, not all teaching topics can be made 'fun' and it is also unnecessary to do so. The activity I have discussed above is one example of how I redesigned a similar teaching topic, 'coherent,' in a different way to bring more 'joy' to student learning.

Students as Teaching Collaborators

Seeing TR also includes demonstrating how students can facilitate my pedagogy. In addition to administering mid-semester reflection and seeking student feedback on class activities, I also regularly utilized writing and project samples from former students to mediate teaching. One class activity that I regularly utilize before students submit major assignments is giving sample essays and ask students to work in groups and grade them with the available rubric. Class discussion following such activity shows how the activity seems to be fruitful not only for the students but especially for me—the teacher. Although we mostly agreed on a sample essay which received an F grade, I learned that there was a significant difference in the way I evaluate these papers than do the students. There were several occasions where the majority of students assigned a B grade on an essay that I graded as an A essay or vice versa. The discrepancy between the way I evaluate an essay and the students' became a fertile space where I can learn the different ways in which 'good writing' is defined in students' previous educational settings. Also, I use this opportunity to meet where the students are and align my expectation so students can 'visualize' what good writing looks like. I found that this activity was meaningful when several students did not shy away from inquiring when I would post the sample essay and/or what grades these sample essays represent. Many students even wrote in their Final Reflection that sample essays were one of the class activities contributed to their writing development.

Final Reflection

Teaching is such an isolated act (Farrell, 2013), and it can be even more isolating for teachers whose ethnicity might be (mis-)construed as a liability to their teaching competence, as illustrated by the participants in Reis' (2012) and Mthethwa-Sommers (2012)' studies—two articles we discuss in the FLC meetings. Farrell (2007) believed that teachers coming together to talk about their teaching can provide a very effective tool to build teacher confidence and learning. My participation in the FLC has facilitated my reconceptualization of the way I see teaching and students. If in the past, I saw students as simply consumers of the knowledge I transmit. Now, I see them as collaborators of my teaching. It is only through "seeing" my teaching through their learning experience that I am able to evaluate my thinking constantly and arrive at ways of teaching that I would not have arrived at on my own. This is the reason I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in the FLC which provides a safe space to reflect on our shared international-ness, which enables me to reconceptualize my teaching through that lens.

Donato, R. (2004). Aspects of collaboration in pedagogical discourse. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24, 284-302.

Farell, T. S. C. (2013) Reflective Practice in ESL Teacher Development Groups: From Practices to Principles. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Farrell, T. S. C. (2007) Reflective Language Teaching: from Research to Practice. London: Continuum Press.

Mthethwa-Sommers, S. (2012). In search of permeable boundaries: A case study of teacher background, student resistance, and learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 23(3), 77-97.

Reis, D. S. (2012). "Being underdog": Supporting nonnative English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) in claiming and asserting professional legitimacy. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 23(3), 33-58

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Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 23(3).

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Miami University Policy and Information Manual. http://miamioh.edu/policy-library/

Mthethwa-Sommers, S. (2012). In search of permeable boundaries: A case study of teacher background, student resistance, and learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 23(3), 77-97.

Reis, D. S. (2012). "Being underdog": Supporting nonnative English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) in claiming and asserting professional legitimacy. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 23(3), 33-58.

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