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Meeting new challenges in multicultural provisions for international students: implications for first year university transition engagements
2008 (English)In: Proceedings of the 4th International Barcelona Conference on Higher Education: Vol. 6.  Higher education for intercultural dialogue and multiculturalism, Barcelona: GUNI , 2008Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Universities have traditionally maintained a central role in promoting  international relations, increased solidarity and intercultural understanding. The essential part of this movement has been implemented through the internationalization of highereducation (Ninnes & Hellstén, 2005). The rapid growth of a new form of international education has in the past 20 years made dramatic impact both on furtheringintercultural academic exchanges and on its adherent economic prosperity (Altbach & Knight, 2007), especially in English speaking countries. The Australian highereducation  sector has been greatly sustained by internationalization which today contributes significantly to the overall funding of universities. Internationalization of higher education is one of the most successful recent enterprises in Australia and constitutes a major national export industry.The global development of international education has been delineated in at least two ways by leading scholars in the field (e.g. Altbach & Knight, 2007; Adams, 2007). In a recent article, Adams (2007) distinguishes between two general models in global internationalization processes within which he depicts the Australian as an‘export approach’ against a more ‘traditional model’ applied in Europe and some parts of Asia. By this Adams means that Australia has developed a commercial service operation of international education delivery that is both market driven and whichintegrates government initiated public-private business partnerships.The decades of economic prosperity brought about by the national marketdriven approach  to creating international infrastructure in Australian universities has involved major implications for academics and students alike. While on the one hand, the enterprise has enabled pursuits of a rather exotic cultural kind for those academics who yearn to undertake work in faraway foreign contexts, its binary effect demarcated by the ever increasing numbers of ‘foreign’ students on local shores has been marred by teaching challenges and has imposed new initiatives in pedagogy and practice for academics teaching in culturally and linguistically diverse contexts (Hellstén & Reid, forthcoming). The critical change in demographic and cultural make-up of traditionally homogenous student cohorts has introduced new pedagogic confrontations for the academic community, respectively.The ensuing teaching and learning arena dealing with incoming international student issues has gained much deserved research attention in Australia and the English speaking world in the recent decades of the international higher education enterprise. The academic community is consequently searching for innovation in effective and sustainable pedagogies for diverse and multicultural settings that will equally enhance learning opportunities for all students, regardless of ethnic andcultural backgrounds. The pursuit has caused an alteration in educational ethics and values and has brought into question existing conventional assumptions aboutscholarship and knowledge building in the academy. International students across the global disciplinary spectrum have been the target of much debate about failedmethodologies leading to low academic attainment as well as discontent in the academic teaching community.While the recent research attention has been welcomed, it is fair to state that the global network of scholars who are committed to the sustainability of international education, are increasingly at a loss on considerations involving quality assurance of multicultural pedagogy and practice including high quality curriculum delivery and assessment that are sustainable in culturally sensitive ways. There exist to date, very few empirically noteworthy research studies (but see Harman, 2005; Hellstén & Reid, forthcoming) that investigate in any reliable configuration, the pedagogic effects of ‘international learning’ as influenced by various international variables and as reported essentially from a cross-cultural learning perspective.From the student learning perspective then, a seamless transition between the home and host learning environments is believed to determine academic success. However, the international academic transition period can be challenging for many ‘foreign’ students. Problems have been observed in the areas of poor Englishlanguage and critical thinking skills; failure to participate in collaborative learning modes (e.g. group discussions); and difficulties communicating effectively in group seminar settings. A contrary argument is provided by those seeking to break down implicit correlations between cultural maladjustment and cognitive deficit. Disciplinary frames and dominant reasoning and pragmatic discourses that govern academicthinking in some host institutions have been under systematic scrutiny (Harman,2005). This paper makes the assertion that sustainable forms of  pedagogy ininternational contexts hinge on researching the language, culture and discourseintersection in academic learning communities during the university transition period that spans the first twelve months of study in the (foreign) host country and institution. It is argued that challenges in multicultural provisions for international students hinge on a critical appraisal of culturally sensitive teaching methods, followed by effective implementation and modification of teaching strategies that are not merely limited to the context of teaching international students, but are of equal benefit to students from all backgrounds. It is essential in internationally applied pedagogy, that inter-cultural practices involve critical perspective taking, self-critique and assessment of personal teaching methods (including philosophies). The consensus is thatmulticultural teaching and pedagogy in international contexts involves a criticalexamination of the discourses and actions that together constitute the nature of the international student transition as beneficial for sustaining the pedagogy and the quality for inter-cultural relations, harmony and understanding. In the search for new challenges and emerging roles for human and social development, any change in the international education field, must begin with the initiative of the host academiccommunity, rather than the incoming student population.This paper will showcase ways in which international students’ cross-cultural learning experiences are constructed in contextual, pragmatic and socio-culturally contested paradigms. The presentation will showcase data on international students’ perceptive considerations and pertinent interpretations of those inter-cultural communicative subtleties that are manifest in academic discourse and which may be overlooked by the local host academic community. The paper concludes by providing examples that yield implications for teaching and learning in international contexts by drawing on recent comparative data from European and Australian educationalcontexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Barcelona: GUNI , 2008.
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URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-12815OAI: diva2:453106
Available from: 2011-11-01 Created: 2011-11-01Bibliographically approved

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