Teaching

International Populations

The University of South Florida prides itself with its diversity. Consequently, defining the typical student is difficult. For instance, according to USF System Fact Book 2015-2016 , our students come from 39 states, 58 countries; 10.9% are African Americans, 19.9% are Hispanic; 3,546 are new transfer students, while 4.2% are non-degree seeking. Most students do not live on campus, making USF a commuter campus. Many students might take up to 6 years to finish their degrees, in part because they might have jobs, or families to support. Generalizing about our students might not always seem a wise approach.

International Faculty

American students like to be treated as individuals, and not as representative of a larger group. They expect teachers to engage them and to relate materials to themselves and to their own unique experiences. Students have a rather informal relationship with their professors, whom they do not see as the ultimate repository of knowledge. Therefore, they do not hesitate to challenge the professor, which is not a sign of disrespect. If students do not understand a concept, it is usually considered the professor's fault rather than the students'.

Instructors are expected to:
• make their expectations clear through the course policies in their syllabus
• hold office hours and generally be available to students if students cannot attend the offered office hours
• provide plenty of feedback (affirmative and non-authoritative) throughout the semester (no single final exam)
• offer make-up exams and several graded assignments throughout the semester
• return papers and provide explanations for the grades (some students might challenge their grades)
• abide by The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records

Teaching International Students

It is as difficult to make generalizations about international students as it is about American students. Based on where they are from, international students might have a possibly distorted view of Americans. Their views of what the U.S. is might be filtered through their government propaganda or through the lenses of American cinema. It is not uncommon for many international students to feel confused, lonely, isolated, and misunderstood upon their arrival. This can often create a feeling of frustration and even alienation.

Since most international students have studied fewer subjects –and in more depth –than American students, they are academically better prepared. Yet, they often find it difficult to approach professors, as they see them authority figures commanding respect. This can cause awkward situations in instances when students are asked to express their own opinions, and some international students might not share the same cultural framework as to what constitutes acceptable classroom decorum. To American faculty, some might seem too deferential or too confrontational, depending on where they are from. Similarly, depending on the political situations in their home countries, international students might not want to engage in political discussions. Or some students who grew up in societies where women lack power might struggle with seeing women in a position of power.

Resources