Working with Multilingual Leaners


Library Resource #1

Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R. & Tomas, Z. (2014 ). Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association Press.
UFV Library Catalogue: ABBOTSFORD LB 2375 S43 2014 STACKS

This book is highly recommended. The authors base all discussion on theory and research but focus on practical classroom strategies and approaches to foster student success. A brief overview of the book is provided here to make specific information easier to find. References to specific information from the book are also included in each section of the website.

Chapter 2: Culture - Academic culture and classroom culture

Theoretical background (individualism vs collectivism) and the role this cultural difference might play in issues such as intellectual property and plagiarism, expectations regarding assertiveness or individual ownership, original thought and innovation, direct and indirect communication styles, and the classroom setup (teacher-fronted vs learner-centred). The issue of workload and assessment is included. Continuous assessment or “multipronged” assessment is not a feature of the classrooms many international students have come from. In their home countries, their final grade is often based on one final exam.
Suggestions for supporting international students transitioning into North American academic culture are found on pages 17-27. The need to contextualize pop culture and references to Canadian culture is stressed. Some common scenarios are provided (p. 24) to show why this is important as well as examples of culturally inclusive content (p. 25).

Chapter 3: Applying the Principles of Second Language Acquisition

Theory and research on second language acquisition has resulted in principles guiding classroom practices and teaching methodology in ESL classrooms. These include “scaffolding,” or finding ways to support language acquisition in the classroom, providing opportunities for classroom so that students receive feedback on their communication and acquire self-confidence confidence as their ability to communicate improves through practice, and noticing, or attention to specific language patterns and features, e.g. discipline-specific vocabulary and text features of specific academic text types. 
Instructors are well aware that students, whether they speak English as a first language or an additional language, are learning the vocabulary of an academic discipline as they are learning the course content. Two questions for reflection are found on p. 35. These questions are very helpful:
• What are some of the discipline-specific terms or concepts that students might not know prior to taking your course?
• How could you apply the SLA (second language acquisition) principles (scaffolding, interaction, noticing) to make these terms more comprehensible to students (e.g. during class lecture?
Suggestions for implementing the principles of SLA are found on pages 36- 46.
Scaffolding a lecture pp. 36-41
Facilitating class discussion pp. 41-
Specific strategies for supporting multilingual learners and helping them join the discussion are found in the text box on p. 41. 43
Class Readings pp. 43-46

Chapter 4: Assignments and Assessment

Distinguishes between formative assessment, which assesses learning in progress and contributes to the learning process, and summative assessment, which evaluates learning at the end of a course or unit. Some pros and cons of different forms of summative assessment are given in the box on p. 53.
Backward design is discussed on pp 54-55 and front-loading is discussed on pp. 55-56.
One issue regarding assessment is lack of clarity in the assignment description or instructions. Some guidelines are included on pp. 56-57, and explicit rubrics are discussed on pp. 57-59. Some helpful guidelines are included in the box on p. 58. 
The section on grading and evaluation on pp. 65-71 includes many helpful strategies to help instructors “navigate” the issue of assessment and make decisions about how they will decide on and deliver assignments in their courses.
The discussion of “accents” on p. 68-69 is related to the discussion of “accents” in the video “Writing across Borders.” 
Some suggestions for possible “accommodations” are offered on pp. 67-71. The section “Toward Equity and Empowerment” reminds us that the purpose of assessment and evaluation is to allow students to “show what they have learned in class” (p. 71). Rather than lowering the standards, any accommodations or assessment practices should enable us to “create conditions whereby all students can be successful in meeting the high standards we set for them—not to change our expectations for those who are struggling” (p. 71). 

Chapter 5: Empowerment of International Students

Looks at ways to support multilingual learners and to help them “become more integrated into the academic community” (p. 73).
Suggestions for support include getting to know students (pp. 76-78), which includes an activity called “Jigsaw Survey,” which could be adapted for a Canadian context or specific course content. Activities that get students to interact with one another like icebreakers also build the social relationships which are crucial to integrating into the community and feeling welcome and at home in a new environment. 
The section on “Encouraging Students to Ask for Help” (pp. 79-80) has some practical suggestions to help multilingual students to get over their embarrassment or fear and understand that instructors are there to help them. 
Many instructors want to be able to draw on the knowledge and experience that international students bring with them. The section “Drawing on International Students as a Resource” (pp. 84-86) suggests classroom activities and assignments that give all students the opportunity to share cross-cultural perspectives, explore cultural differences, and learn from one another.
One topic that the authors have found particularly useful for this purpose is the topic of language. The section on “Linguistic Competence” reminds us that the ability to use more than one language has many benefits, including cognitive ones. The topic of language can be used as a “lens through which to examine topics such as immigration policy, human brain development, international human rights, educational reform, and a number of other topics.” It is a topic that can be used to generate discussion and position multilingual learners as knowledge experts. 
The appendices should not be ignored. Helpful information includes classroom activities with specific objectives and tipis for implementation, rubric design, writing effective exam questions, grammar support, assessing participation, and additional resources. Links to many of the resources have been provided here.

Library Resource #2

Berardo, K. & Deardorff, D. (2012). Building cultural competence. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Available online and in book format through UFV library: HM1211 .B85 2012

This book includes a wide variety of activities to build cultural competence.  As the editors put it, objectives range from “the basics of understanding core concepts of culture to the complex work of negotiating cultural identity and resolving cultural differences” (p. 1). Sections include:

  1. Introduce core concepts
  2. Understand differences
  3. Explore cultural values
  4. Navigate identity
  5. Manage cultural transitions
  6. Communicate successfully
  7. Build global teams
  8. Resolve differences
  9. Communicate professionally

A description of each section is found on p. 3. A summary and overview of all the activities in the book can be found in the table on pp. 6-11. The activity focus, type, audience, time, group size, level of challenge and a summary are included. Chapter 3 provides insights and practical guidelines for development and assessment of an intercultural learning experience.

Stringer, D. M. & Cassiday, P. (2009) 52 Activities for improving cross-cultural communication. Boston; London: Intercultural Press.

UFV Library Catalogue: ABBOTSFORD HM 1211 S775 2009 STACKS

This is an excellent resource that focuses on understanding communication differences and improving communication.  Three great experiential activity for exploring cultural communication patterns from this resource are:

  • The Communication Continuum Exercise (pp. 1-4).  See the handout on TING (p. 4), the Chinese character for listen.  This character encompasses the power of active listening through the ears, mind, eyes, and heart.
  • The Alpha-Beta Partnership activity (pp. 11-16) demonstrates the impact of culturally different communication styles during negotiation. 
  • The Toothpicks activity (pp. 47-49) demonstrates the power of non-verbal communication and the effects of breaking unspoken cultural rules.

Check out this resource to see many more activities.

Library resource #3

Robertson, W. (2005). Writing across Borders.[videorecording]. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University.
UFV Library Catalogue: ABBOTSFORD PE 1408 W77 2005 DVD VIDEO

Information about the video can be found on the Oregon State University Writing Center website
Description: Writing across Borders is a 3-year documentary project funded by Oregon State University's Center for Writing and Learning and its Writing Intensive Curriculum Program. The documentary's purpose is to help faculty, writing assistants, and other professionals work more productively with international students in writing environments. The film's goal is to address some of the most significant challenges international students face when writing for American colleges and universities. In addressing these challenges, it asks the following questions: How does culture play out in writing, and how are our expectations shaped by cultural preferences? How do we assess international student writing when we have to grade it alongside the writing of native speakers, and how can we think about surface error in a fair and constructive manner? What kinds of teaching and testing practices disadvantage international students and which help them improve as writers?
The website includes clips from the film and a downloadable transcript of the film.
In the sections “Using the Film for Faculty Development” and “Using the Film for Tutor Training,” there are some excellent questions for reflection and discussion with responses by faculty members involved in the film. 
Discussion questions and guiding questions for viewing developed for UFV: 
The majority of the video consists of interviews with students from different cultures. Hearing the students talk about writing in their home cultures and share the aspects of writing in North American English that were most problematic for them helps us to better understand why we see patterns in our students’ writing that differ from the way we were taught to write in an academic format. We hope that you will be able to use the video content to open discussion about writing with your learners and to interrogate the cultural expectations that shape your responses to writing by multilingual learners. 
The video also includes interviews with instructors who focus on assessment, feedback, testing, and the role of grammar in our perceptions of and feedback on our students’ writing. We hope that these questions will spark discussion between instructors in addition to classroom exchange and dialogue. Check out the discussion in the sections mentioned above.

Library Resource # 4

Culturally Diverse Learners

Thomson Rivers University, Centre for Teaching and Learning
All the videos can be found on the Thomson Rivers website.
These videos were made at Thompson Rivers University and are an open source resource available to all faculty. The videos show typical classroom situations that instructors find challenging. The first part of the video demonstrates a problematic classroom scenario. This is followed by cultural background information and a debriefing to explain what went wrong.  The second section of the video shows one possible approach for avoiding similar problems or dealing with the situation. Student interviews are included to provide insight into student perspectives.
Each video has a bibliography with further resources on specific topics.
Clips from the videos have been uploaded to specific sections of the website along with reflection/ discussion questions and guiding questions for viewing.

Online Resource #1

Resources from Thompson Rivers University

 A comprehensive resource handbook for faculty in academic departments can be found at:

The section on “Challenges for International Students” identifies some of the reasons why international students may find it difficult to adjust to the Canadian academic environment and to understand what is expected of them. Quotes from instructors and students are included to illustrate the differences.  

Classroom expectations:

In many countries, grades are based on one final exam, so students do not understand the concept of progressive or formative evaluation.    Attendance may not be considered important, and students may not understand what “participation” means.  Students may not distinguish between individual and group work or the importance placed on individual work and original thought.

Group projects, writing, and evaluation of group projects p. 38.  Two good suggestions to avoid cutting and pasting can be found in the comments from Canadian students.

Pages to check out:

Using international students as a resource: p. 40-41

Managing Multicultural Classrooms: p. 71-72

Strategies that instructors have found useful at TRU:

Dealing with questions and encouraging questions p. 47

Clarifying content and ensuring that everyone understands p. 50-51

Assessment p. 52-54

Academic Honesty p. 56-57

Group work: p. 73-74

Encouraging discussion: p. 75

Lecturing p. 76

Learning theory pp. 77-81

The “Internationalizing” homepage at TRU has links to resources, including academic papers on internationalization at tps://

Online Resource #2

The Writing Center: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Distinguishes between international and domestic students. This distinction applies at UFV, where we have many students who are termed “Generation 1.5.”  They differ from international students in that they have been in Canada for a long time, have been through the Canadian school system, and are generally confident when interacting with others in English.  However, they may not have reached the same level of competency as their Canadian peers with regard to the more formal academic register required in a university setting, and often require support to bridge this gap.

There is some helpful advice in the “Ways You Can Help Your Students” section at the end of the site.

 Online Resource #3

The Center for Teaching and Learning: University of Washington

The Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Washington has some very helpful practical advice and strategies.  This website is well worth checking out.  Two sub-sections are included here:

The strategies for inclusive teaching are strategies that “support meaningful and accessible learning for all students.”  Five guiding principles are provided along with suggested classroom practices to apply each one.

This section focuses on teaching multilingual learners and includes many links to other sites with helpful information.

Online Resource #4

The University of Toronto: Ways to Help Your ESL Students (and everyone else in the process)

Some helpful practical strategies from professors at the University of Toronto can be found here.

This site provides some helpful general information.

Online Resource #5

University of Melbourne: Teaching International Students

This pdf includes practical strategies on dealing with a wide range of issues, from making lectures accessible to fostering critical thinking skills.

Online Resource #6

Kwantlen Polytechnic University: Working with Multilingual Students: Strategies for KPU Faculty

This pdf is a handbook for KPU faculty members.  The section “Grading Multilingual Students’ Writing: Considerations and Strategies” provides particularly helpful recommendations for balancing considerations regarding content and language when assessing writing assignments. 

Online Resource #7

The first chapter of a book which presents the concept of “translanguaging.”

Online Resource #8

Simon Fraser University: Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching, and Research

The Centre is involved in some innovative research and partnerships with faculty in different academic disciplines.  The “Learning” and “Teaching” sections describe some of the recent initiatives. In addition, the Centre is involved in research aimed at “facilitating research on best practices in teaching and learning in diverse cultural and linguistic environments.” The “Research” section includes research questions for research in this area.

Online Resource #9

Specific information on multilingual learners can be found at:

Online Resource #10

University of Guleph: Universal Instructional Design

The aim of Universal Instructional Design is to make learning accessible to all learners. The University of Guelph has researched and applied the principles of UID to many of its courses.  Resources, from implementation guidelines to faculty workbooks, are available on the site as well as the findings from report on implementation of UID at Guelph.


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