Students from India: Help Them to be Successful

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Laura Stoutenburg, Kathryn Brillinger, Nasreen Sultana, Elan Paulson, & Rinkesh Patel.   

How can you best prepare for cohorts of students from India? This Teaching Tip aims to help you find out. 

Acknowledge Diversity 

  • Although students may all be from India, do not assume homogeneity within the group. The students may look like they know each other as they bond but most just met each other on arrival! They may have very different religious, cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds. Please note that in the virtual world, students will find it difficult to get to know each other even though they may come from the same country or state.  
  • It can be to your benefit to get to know each student individually. In an initial couple of weeks, you may want to offer them Zoom office hours to meet. In in-person sessions be sure to use name tents so you and other students can see their names on both sides. 

Appreciate the Challenges in their Journey 

When Students First Arrive 

  • Expect your students to be jet-lagged. Many need to wait till their student visa is ready and want to save money, so arrive just days before class start. 
  • Most will never have been abroad before so they will be excited about coming to a new place. They will hope to meet local people and see new sites and stores. They will not know where to buy supplies or groceries. 
  • They will need some trusted leaders who can advise and guide them. Offer to lend an ear to questions about settling in. If they live in a homestay, there can quickly be cultural confusions there so they may need help navigating. 

After Classes Start 

  • Most international students from India want to work the legal 20 hours per week as this can help finance their living expenses, each the burden on their family, and help them learn about Canada. Many of them get jobs late at night in retail or food stores. Help them see the long-term goal if they start to get too tired to attend class in the morning. 
  • Some students may attend your Zoom classes from their home country. It is difficult for them to cope up with the time zone and understanding the expectations of a Canadian College when they never have been to Canada.  
  • On the other hand, some students may just have arrived but their lives are different because of social distancing and lack of in-person socialization.  

Help them Prepare for Success in the Semester 

Prior Abilities and Technology 

  • Don’t expect students to have a certain level of knowledge, skills, and attitudes (KSA), even coming into a post-graduate program. Many degrees in India are not outcomes-based so students may graduate with field-specific theory and knowledge but very little practical application. Do a needs assessment in the first class. 
  • Don’t expect they may have experience using a computer. Most may have had a fairly old-school experience in university. Many have handed in hand-written assignments! Be prepared to offer advice about fonts, spacing, etc. 
  • Don’t expect students may be familiar with a learning management system (LMS). They may expect to depend on you as the teacher. You must show them where you house items, and that you can track if they use them, and that they are expected to use the resources there. Even with this, it is crucial to go through all due dates, assignment descriptions, and rubrics orally in class as well.  
  • If your course has an eText program, help students with the support they need to access e-text. For most Indian students, e-text will be a new idea. Encourage them to explore the textbook. Try to use the guided approach. See the example below.

Read from pages 76 to 87 to understand the theory of motivation. Your textbook has more examples and ideas.  

Assignments and Grading 

  • Be very explicit with assignment expectations and how students can get and lose marks. Some forms of assignments could be a completely new task for many Indian students. Spend a few minutes to explain the instructions or  do zoom polls with true and false statements about an assignment instruction. Sometimes, recording a quick 2-minute video explaining the assignment can be helpful for the students.  
  • Most of the students from India may not have experienced a rubric before. Take time to familiarize the students with the assignment rubric. Tell the students how they can use the rubric as their assignment guideline.  
  • Have a simple early written assignment for 5-10% that requires some resource use and research so you can see the writing level and also catch and remediate any plagiarism on a low-risk assignment. 
  • They may hear advice about academic honesty, expectations, etc. during orientation but may likely still be acclimatizing to the time and the Canadian accent so may not absorb much. Plus – the concept is very new for many. Academic dishonesty may not resonate much as online materials are “open source” back home and students are not expected to be as original in their work. The education system depends more on experts being experts as opposed to constructivism or active learning. 
Two Indian students writing with a pen in a book placed over a table with laptop and coffee mug on side.
International students may need extra support to learn about academic integrity.

Consider that Teaching Approaches are Cultural 

A cross-cultural approach is needed whenever we interact with people from different culture (Ratnasari, 2018). It is the ability to comprehend the differences, make interpretations and react accordingly (Sugirin, 2009). In teaching, having an intercultural approach is an asset.  

In-Class Conduct and Learning 

  • Students won’t know what you expect in terms of answering questions. When you ask a question, they may give choral responses (more than one answer at once) as that is a common, effective, and ancient teaching and learning technique. Use this technique for simple recall questions and make a protocol for how you want other questions to be answered. 
  • Use the whiteboard (in-class), the Zoom whiteboard or write on your PPT using “annotate” or the PPT writing tool to write down key terms that come up. Hearing and seeing helps scaffold learning. 
  • Students from India may not be aware of the value of group work or class participation. Whenever you do an activity, tell them what they are learning by doing the activity. For example, you can tell them, “In the workplace, teamwork is crucial and by practicing teamwork in the courses, you are learning the essential life skills to shine in Canada”.  
  • Students won’t know what you want when you give them breakout room tasks in class. They may expect you to be the expert and give them information. Guide them through the wonders of applying the learning and constructing knowledge. 
  • India is a collectivist country, so students may collaborate even when asked not to. Sometimes they may risk their success so as not to abandon a colleague. Try to provide some time in the middle of a class period where students can work on assignments or talk about assignments in a breakout room. Make sure that you visit the breakout rooms regularly.  

Late Work and Mark Rescuing 

  • Emphasize your expectations on submission dates, and that deductions for late work may not be recoverable. 
  • Students may be expecting large final exams that can rescue their marks if needed. Many Indian students have experienced summative examinations in their home country and thus may not understand how every task contributes to the final grade. Walk them through how marks are allotted in the course. You can  simply screen share and show them the mark distributions.  

Connect with Supports 

Be sure to reach out to Teaching and Learning for help with teaching interculturally.  

Offer in Class Workshops 

Many of the following workshops are eligible for the Co-Curricular Record (CCR) which can help students build skills and prepare their resumes. Learn more about services workshops available. You can connect the student services page to your course shell so that students know what other supports are available for them. Since international students usually shy away from seeking help (Kim, Oh, & Mumbauer, 2019) connecting students with the services will positively reinforce them to access to the services.  

Finally enjoy the process of teaching. By creating small supports, you are helping International students to be successful in their course and you also get the credit for their success.  

References: 

Sugirin. (2009). Cross-Cultural Understanding: What Every EFL Teacher Should Know. Yogyakarta: FS UNY. 

Kim, N., Oh, S., & Mumbauer, J. (2019). Supporting International Students: Enhancing College Counselors’ Multicultural Counseling Competence. Journal of College Counseling22(2), 179–192. https://doi-org.eztest.ocls.ca/10.1002/jocc.12129 

Ratnasari, D. (2018). The importance of cross-cultural understanding in foreign language teaching in the Asian context. Bahasa Dan Seni46(2), 124-131. 

Rinkesh’s bio: Rinkesh Patel is a graduate of the IT Business Analysis program at Conestoga College and aims for a position in the Web development field as a front-end developer. He is associated with Conestoga college as Web Assistant for a work-study position. He is fascinated by creating interactive web pages and web applications. 


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  • Published: May 18, 2021
  • Word Count: 2228
  • Reading time: ~ 5 minutes
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