Project #6: The Study of the Educational Impact of International Students in Campus Internationalization at the University of Minnesota: Phase 1

Report by Diana Yefanova, Linnae Baird and Mary Lynn Montgomery
Principal Investigators: Diana Yefanova, Gayle Woodruff, Barbara Kappler, and Christopher Johnstone

The College of Education and Human Development, the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, and the International Student and Scholar Services conducted this study.

Key Findings

What Are Students Learning?

Through the analysis of student and faculty focus group and individual interview data as well as SERU wildcard module data, we identified several areas of learning and development that interviewees associated with cross-national student interactions. Student participants shared that they gained knowledge, attitudes and skills needed for effective intercultural communication; improved ability to reflect on their own culture; developed leadership and problem-solving skills; and engaged with course content utilizing multiple perspectives. International students reported benefitting from interactions with their peers from countries other than their own and from interactions with American students.

How Are Students Learning?

The following factors emerged as maximizing the educational impact of international students in the classroom: individual student motivation and openness to cultural difference, opportunities for interaction created by faculty members and instructors around academic course goals, and overall institutional support.

  • Student Motivation. Student attitudes such as respect for other cultures, openness, curiosity, awareness of cultural differences, willingness to listen and ask questions (often by “pushing” oneself out of the cultural comfort zone) help domestic and international students develop the capacity to engage with each other.
  • Opportunities for Course-Based Interaction. Both student and faculty study participants described a range of instructional practices that faculty members and instructors used to create such opportunities: 1) Creating explicit expectations for peer interaction and collaboration among all students; 2) Integrating peer interactions into course activities and assessment; 3) Ensuring that international students comprehend content, activity and assessment criteria; and 4) Consistently building on international diversity in the course as a resource to engage with content knowledge.
  • Institutional Support. Faculty study participants identified the need for opportunities for intercultural competence education and training for students, faculty members, and instructors. In addition, they suggested developing on-campus opportunities for students’ early exposure to cross-national interactions and strengthening the mechanisms available for faculty to support international students’ English language skills development. Faculty suggestions also included developing and disseminating pedagogical strategies to faculty members and instructors who are looking to facilitate and maximize domestic and international student interactions.

What Findings Suggest For Our Campus:

  1. The Need for Culturally Mindful Instructional Strategies

    The integration of international students into the academic and co-curricular student experience is both a process and an outcome. Ultimately, the process of faculty continuously modifying course delivery, adjusting pedagogy and content, and developing new instructional strategies, improves domestic and international student interaction within a learning environment. Faculty suggestions also included disseminating pedagogical strategies among faculty members and instructors who are looking to facilitate and maximize domestic and international student interactions.

    2. The Need for Departmental, College-Level, and Institutional Support

    Faculty study participants identified the need for opportunities for intercultural competence education and training for students, faculty members and instructors. In addition, they suggested developing on-campus opportunities for students’ early exposure to cross-national interactions and strengthening the mechanisms available for faculty to support international students’ English language skills development.