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My Door is always open: interpreting conversations with international and BME students Judy Ling Wong (Black Environment Network), Carolyn Roberts and.

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Presentation on theme: "My Door is always open: interpreting conversations with international and BME students Judy Ling Wong (Black Environment Network), Carolyn Roberts and."— Presentation transcript:

1 My Door is always open: interpreting conversations with international and BME students Judy Ling Wong (Black Environment Network), Carolyn Roberts and Kenny Lynch (University of Gloucestershire) SRHE Conference, Liverpool, 9-11 th December 2008

2 Structure of the talk Whats the issue about IHBME students? Research methodology Key emergent themes Good practice examples Conclusions Culture is not just a matter of overt behaviour, it is also the (social) rules, beliefs, attitudes and values that govern how people act and how they define themselves (Kennedy, 2002)

3 Traditional IHBME student issues Access and transition to HE (Sovic, 2008) Equality, and law (Madood and Acland, 1998) Language and cultural challenges (Cho et al, 2008) including around assessment All students engaging with appropriate curriculum content (Bird, 1996) Differences in individual learning styles e.g. The Chinese Learner, orientalism (Said, 1978; Dunbar, 1988; Reid, 1989; Saravanamuthu, 2008) Loss of identity (Chow and Healey, 2008) Achievement of BME groups (HEA, 2008)

4 Changing nature of 21 st C Higher Education pedagogy More interactive, inquiry-based, experiential styles of learning Less structured classes, with fewer boundaries and more learner autonomy More interactions and collaborative working with staff and fellow students More projects, including community-based and off-campus activity, and placements More expression of personal opinion in class, sometimes confrontational Staff act as facilitators or coordinators

5 Research Focus To evaluate the experiences of IHBME students, particularly as they integrate and adapt to new, more student-centred styles of university teaching and learning To identify any obstacles they face To suggest good policy and practice for institutions, and for students themselves Caution! Provisional survey only Theoretical frameworks? Saids concept of the other, and Lukes cosmopolitanism plus epistemic and other theories of learning and conceptual difficulty in student-centred learning (Perkins, 2007)

6 Research methodology Thee universities: one redbrick, one post- 1992 with low ethnic diversity, one post- 1992 with high ethnic diversity Geography, environmental and related disciplines (relatively high levels of AL) Short written questionnaire In-depth interviews and dialogue group conversations with students and staff – relaxed/participatory, and student-centred Interviews recorded and transcribed Impressions recorded immediately, then transcripts read for themes by two researchers

7 Interviewee characteristics 8 international students (Greece, Israel, Iran, Japan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, dual nationality). Mostly full time undergraduates, 20s, M/F, all levels 8 UK BME students (British Black African, British Asian, Mixed White- Asian, Afro-Caribbean), mostly born in UK or 6-8 years+ residence. Mostly with family in UK. Mostly full time undergraduates, 20s, M/F, all levels. 20 academic and support staff

8 General themes If thats what you call integration, Im never going to integrate. Im never going to drop my cultural heritage and be like…I cant, Im brown on the outside. I cant do that no matter how Western I dress, I cant be like you…its better you start accepting and understanding us than vice versa

9 General themes Over here everyone calls their lecturers by their first name, whereas in Japan you would never do that and you would refer to them as Professor Somebody. Even if I wanted to ask a question I knew it would feel weird if I called them by their surname so I couldnt actually say anything and I think that made me a bit hesitant about asking questions…It took me about a year to get over that.

10 Key emergent themes Differences in learning styles and orientations Collaboration, groups and idiomatic language Fieldwork and related off-campus community-based activities, residence Family (or home) expectations, religion and culture Time demands, stresses and workloads, isolation, closed doors

11 Differences in learning and study styles And again if you read something then one day you might forget it, but when you have done it you have practiced it and you will always remember it. We have done very general and theoretical things about air pollution, but...I am a more practical person. I prefer taking samples and microscopy and water analysis rather than reading and writing things….you need to see the proper thing of that to have an idea.

12 Differences in learning and study styles At university what they promote is self learning, self teaching, self everything. I dont know what Im paying my fees for! They run English courses…but they expect you to take your own initiative to do things. Partly I think, yeah, that does work, its good, and partly I think its not promoted enough… Group work comes from reading from lectures, so what youre doing in the group work is just gathering information that you have read, from the lectures or from the books, so in your group work you are sort of letting out what you have learned

13 Collaboration, groups and idiomatic language People who werent very confident with English…- I wouldnt say they kept themselves to themselves but…when youve got a group full of people spitting out English and you may be wanting to say something relevant, but you speak a bit slower, but they didnt contribute and we had a stalemate, like. I never saw anyone…interact. I mean they were quite happy, there was three of them not just one, but they never spoke English and none of our group interacted…

14 Collaboration, groups and idiomatic language If theyre completely different to you it takes longer. Stupid things, like little bits in their own language when you talk to them and you get a bit friendly. Its very difficult, very very difficult to find the right group, working with the right person. Sometimes you get back ups from them, some helps because you are always behind or if they are attending…I just found it very difficult.

15 Fieldwork and related off- campus, community-based activities I went on an international field trip to America last year and that was very helpful because obviously you werent only just learning in the classroom…I found the placement is such a good idea. We had this field trip to Amsterdam this March and I found it very interesting. I learnt so much when I was on the field trip than when I was looking at things by my studying them in my head… It was much brighter, it was a very good example, it was a very, very good trip for me.

16 Fieldwork and related off- campus, community-based activities The University is a civilised society, theres no name calling, no rudeness, no that sort of stuff but outside of university obviously youre going to get issues. I went on a course to Malta for a week and I was lucky because in Geography third year theres two or three ethnic people…so it was cool… When we went on fieldtrips the lecturer would say stuff and d say, what does it mean? What are we doing?

17 Family expectations, religion and culture I live here, I have my daughter and I have to take care of her. I have to look after myself, have to look after her, have to give her the best and on top of it I dont have my family here. My parents back home…sometimes I have to think about them…I have to help them in any way, so it is just lots. As a student you dont really have time to concentrate on your study, living that sort of life. Everything you have to give time for, everything. Ive always said British students have a lot more pressure whereas my parents are paying for everything. I dont have a loan to pay off.

18 Family expectations, religion and culture Some people fall behind in their studies because theyve got responsibilities…Theres other siblings and both your parents work or your parents dont work, or your parents cant speak English and they dont cater for that. They just assume youve got all the time in the world to sit and study… but I know every single ethnic minority person has 101 responsibilities…Every Muslim has to pray five times a day…Some people have a job as well. Some ethnic minority students are married because culturally they want to be married young or religiously, whatever, theyve got a wife to support or a husband to support and theyve got children.

19 Time demands, stresses and workloads, isolation A lot of international students dont have time to socialise because they go back and have to translate each and every word on the brief…and that leaves them no time to socialise.

20 Time demands, stresses and workloads, isolation One of the people who later came to become my friend said to me that they were really amazed about how much effort I made to try out English things – I went to the bar and had a pint of beer and was sick! But I tried… And black pudding. I wasnt doing it to make them feel better about themselves, but they thought I was making an effort to try and be English, or try the British culture and thats probably why they were more accepting as well.

21 Good practice examples: Language ability Support is fundamental, and needs to cover specific disciplinary language and idiomatic use/colloquialisms, so that group working and social interaction is possible. Sometimes I dont understand their explanation because of the pressure on me because I feel theyre in a rush and Im unhappy, I dont understand the explanation. I just say alright, alright I get it, thank you very much! And sometimes I didnt understand it at all…

22 Good practice examples: Personal tutor relationships Beyond implementation of the legal duty to promote race equality, or the financial need for high levels of retention. Needs goodwill, staff development and monitoring of student opinion. In my first year my personal tutor…I still speak to him though, cos I was very comfortable with him so we still speak to him even now about certain issues, and he is very open about them which is fine.

23 Good practice examples: Personal tutor relationships What do you think could be done here? At this University? Yes. Or in this Department? Oh God, in this Department! Having an ethnic minority lecturer would be nice. Theres not one ethnic minority lecturer…I think theres one Asian guy but Ive never seen him…If every department had an ethnic minority officer or something…theyd get better academic results so in the long run its for themselves really..

24 Good practice examples: Induction and course literature Induction to expectations about learning styles is crucial, with timetables constructed to allow full participation by everyone, and enlightening literature. You look for common ground with people and as soon as you find that you kind of stick to it because the first year at University its a foundation year for everything – for your group of friends, for your way of life, whatever – it propagates what decisions you make throughout your university life, and in that year when perhaps youre feeling most vulnerable…

25 Good practice examples: Induction and course literature Appropriate early support is critical. Vulnerable students fall very quickly into patterns of working that stem from a feeling that there is going to be no support. They exclude themselves, and try to rely on struggling to make sense of the work and doing vast quantities of work to solve their problems. This socially excludes them and makes them feel even less confident in engaging.

26 Good practice examples: Student-based solutions If you have difficulties you can see the person from the third year or from the second year who has been through this to explain to you or to guide you – yeah, that would be very good. I dont feel very confident, so if we had a meeting like that where you could meet somebody it would be very nice. Like theres an Italian girl on one of my modules and its really interesting because she made friends with me because I offered to help her because of her language barrier and explain things to her and share my notes with her…

27 Good practice examples: Cultural stories For different groups, ask current students to put positive explanations of how to maintain cultural self on the web so that they can be read prior to arrival. Ethnic minorities, they get to positions of influence and they suddenly forget they are an ethnic minority. They forget what the journey was for them!

28 Good practice examples: Guidance on working styles Use icebreakers with diverse groups, with multicultural and international membership. One of the lecturers prepared notes, just like normal lecture notes, but he would say we will have a formal critique session and then in brackets this means that you will be expected to blah blah…Its just a little bit easier for them; they know in bullet points what they need to do

29 Good practice examples: Drawing on the richness Celebrate diversity purposefully by including examples in the curriculum, in tuition and on the web. Ask for contributions from existing students, and make them feel important and valued. Reawaken the interest that home students have from gap years. Make university a place for learning about life as well as a discipline.

30 Conclusions The major element of participation in active learning is contextual, in terms of a feeling that one can learn meaningfully, and participate successfully – that there is a welcome, that one is wanted in a partnership or group, and is not being a barrier to others. International and BME students have similar (but not identical) learning needs, but are not a homogeneous group Active styles of learning are generally welcomed, but there are socio-cultural issues where the perception of IHBME students by mainstream students and vice versa undermine the necessary confident relationships that active learning requires.

31 Conclusions IHBME students backgrounds are a huge untapped resource for active styles of learning – not only content but methodology. Narrow views of the curriculum are inadequate The issues are similar to those surrounding other aspects of diversity, for instance disabled students needs. Change for diversity can benefit all Staff want to support all students; there is much goodwill evident.

32 More conclusions The pressures experienced by IHBME students are cumulative Establishing expectations of outcomes clearly is important Isolation is also a key issue in terms of study, social and institutional settings – active learning can be both opportunity and challenge Need to resist tendency to view students as the core problem, instead of other factors (HEA, 2008)

33 Is he ethnic minority himself? Is he English? And what did he say - weve got no problems? He thinks weve got no problems cos no one's complained. It doesnt mean you havent got a problem...Maybe those people have got problems but theyre silent. Thats often the issue.

34 Bibliography Bird, J. (1996) Black Students and higher Education: Rhetorics and Realities. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University press Chow, K and Healey, M. (2008) Place attachment and place identity: First year students making the transition from home to university J Env Psy 28 362-72 Dunbar, R (1998) Culture-based learning problems of Asian students: some implications for Australian distance educators. ASPESA, 10-21 Higher Education Academy (2008) Ethnicity, Gender and Degree Attainment Project. York: HEA and Equality Challenge Unit Kennedy, P. (2002) Learning cultures and learning styles: myth understandings about adult (Hong Kong) Chinese learners. International Journal of Life Long Education, 21 (5) 430-455 Luke, A. (2004) Teaching after the market: from commodity to cosmopolitan Teachers College Record 106, 7 1422-43 Madood, T and Ackland T. (Eds) (1998) Race and Higher Education. London: Policy Studies Institute Perkins, D (2007) Theories of difficulty. Ch 4 in Entwistle, N and Tomlinson P. British Journal of Educational Psychology: Student Learning and University Teaching. Leicester: British Psychological Society Reid, (1989) Learning and Teaching: Hong Kong Polytechnic. Hong Kong Polytechnic Said (1978) Orientalism New York: Pantheon Sovic, S (2008) Lost in Transition? : The international students experience project. Creative learning in Practice Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, London: University of the Arts

35 Acknowledgements Students and staff at the Universities of Birmingham, Gloucestershire and Wolverhampton, including Sonia Chilton for struggling with the interview transcripts. Funding from the Centre for Active Learning (CeAL), University of Gloucestershire. CeAL is a national Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, recognised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Support from the Black Environment Network. BEN is a national charity working with black, white and other ethnic communities for full ethnic environmental participation.

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