Northern Arizona University has a robust community of international students. Coming from countries as diverse as China, Kuwait, and Brazil, these students are here in Flagstaff for the same reason domestic students are here: to get a degree, to improve their post-educational job prospects, to impress their families, to grow as individuals. Kathy McKeiver, Coordinator for the Center for International Education, reminds us that international students are going through all the growing pains that domestic students are going through, but are also much further from home and adjusting to a new culture and a new language.
An important facet of that adjustment is absorbing the expectations of American academic writing. With this in mind, two University Writing Commons (UWC) Writing Assistants held a workshop for the CIE 100 class on September 8, 2016. Maria (Masha) Kostromitina and Dannae Patterson planned a lesson focused on outlining and brainstorming an essay while cultivating a sense of community with small group and large group discussion, leading students to reflect on their international experience and to better understand the application of outlining for a writing prompt.
In their write-up of the experience, Masha and Dannae noted that “Our experience was extremely positive. We did not anticipate their eagerness to learn about outlining. We also were very pleased with their participation in small group and large group discussion. “ Kathy agreed, saying that she was quite impressed with the level of student participation in the discussion, because in her experience, international students are hesitant to engage.
Kathy notes that international students face a number of challenges unique to language learners, with the most serious being that everything takes an international student longer to accomplish: note-taking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. But especially reading. Kathy said that any instructor wishing to learn more can look into a faculty development series in which her colleagues are participating.
Kathy’s favorite teachable moment was when the Writing Assistants brought up the word “brainstorming” without thinking to explain what was meant by ‘brainstorming.’ She said that Dannae’s use of body language to demonstrate bringing ideas out of the head and into the room was quite useful for the students. One student wrote in the follow-up to Kathy that learning about ‘headstorming’ had been a highlight of the session.
How successful was the workshop? Would they do it again? Absolutely. Kathy is pleased that the students are aware of the resources of the UWC and were introduced to it in such a positive, interactive fashion, while Masha and Dannae say that, “We really enjoyed working with a population that we adore and hope to do this again soon.”