Institute of Teaching and Learning

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning

Topic 4: Strategies for effective teaching for cultural diversity

  1. Speak to staff from other countries to find out what the customs are in their culture
    Deakin staff are a very diverse group. Collectively they have a great deal of knowledge and understanding about other cultures, so they are an excellent resource for learning about other cultures. Speak informally with colleagues to find out the mores, and do's and don'ts, including speaking to colleagues at international conferences. One better is to take every opportunity to travel both personally and professionally - in that sense, to aspire to be worldly wise.
  2. Create a comfortable learning environment
    It is preferable that international students are not forced to work in groups that are culturally mixed. Some may choose to do that but others may prefer to work with their peers from similar backgrounds. What can be done in tutorials when students are used to the class, is to randomly assign them to small groups for a non-stressful task, go through and say ABC, ABC, all the A's in one group, B's in another and so on. If you do that quite frequently, it becomes a non issue, and students become more at ease in moving around and sitting with whomever they happen to be sitting with.
  3. Provide clarity about all aspects of the learning environment
    Students need clarity about the institution, clarity about what the expectations are, and clarity about what you expect from them. It is not easy to determine whether one cultural group has specific learning needs that are appreciably different from other cultural groups. The English skills of some groups are better than others, but all students will benefit from the use of clear language when addressing the subject matter. There can be a kind of 'lecture speak', which uses more formal language, but it should be made as accessible as possible. Some Australian students are not going to have a good sense of context, some are not going to have a good grasp of the subject matter you're addressing, so they may need just as much contextualising as a student from another cultural background.

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3rd December 2010