Teach-meet: How can we make the most of our International Classroom?

PREMIUM excellence programme: alumni reunion
17-10-2018
EDLAB Fall Newsletter
28-11-2018

Teach-meet: How can we make the most of our International Classroom?

On Thursday 8 November, EDLAB held a teach-meet – an informal meeting with teaching staff from across Maastricht University (UM) – to discuss the opportunities and challenges of UM’s international classroom. We all know that international classroom is one of UM’s greatest strengths, but an international classroom alone does not automatically lead to a diverse and inclusive classroom – and neither does PBL.

Diversity in the classroom

How can you make use of the diversity in your classroom to enhance and use it to improve discussions in class? Constance Sommerey, UM Diversity Officer, opened the discussions from a policy-maker perspective by acknowledging that fostering inclusivity is work, and we often the lack time and tools to be able to invest properly in inclusivity.

We need sustainable long-term solutions to institutionalize diversity and inclusivity into our organization and its teaching. Constance shared some of the new ideas to create sustainable inclusivity at UM for staff (such as becoming a more family friendly university or the launch of the female empowerment network) and students (such as financial support for diverse student associations). But crucially, we need to manage diversity and inclusivity in the classroom, as our main business is teaching. UM is examining different opportunities to facilitate this, such as assessing diversity competences as course or programme level, changing or adding new questions about tutor skills in creating an inclusive atmosphere in the student surveys, extra training, or yearly talks with staff about how they are finding managing diversity in their classrooms.

One thing we all need to remember is that we need to stop thinking ‘we have to add new Intended learning outcomes’ for diversity or inclusivity – instead, we have to transform the ones we already have for PBL and make them more explicit.

Teaching in an international classroom

Donna Carroll, Educational Training Developer at EDLAB, then looked at teaching in an international classroom, which is an experience shared by most – if not all – teachers at UM. She shared some misconceptions about the development of inter-cultural communication skills and other international competences in the classroom, giving practical tips for better facilitation of the learning process in international student groups.

There was particular focus on the benefits of getting better acquainted with students, and various methods for achieving this. It is important to get to know each other and get acquainted so that you can bring the most out of people as a teacher. However, time is limited, so Donna suggested a few simple ways to encourage people to get better acquainted, such as playing ‘have you ever’ (where you say a statement to the room, then the people who have, move to one side and the others move to the other side), so that people get to know something extra about each other.

The benefits of international curricula

Anja Krumeich, Professor in Global Health at FHML, then spoke about her experience of the benefits and challenges of international curricula within Global Health, and the challenging group dynamics in interdiscplinary, inter-university, international, intercultural on-line tutorials.

When developing the international curricula, they looked at the content of the programme, because it is important to train students to function properly in an international career, or to relate what is going on in their country to what is going on in the rest of the world. Therefore, Global Health designed courses with 6 other partner institutions from around the world.

These courses not only offer students the possibility to do a physical exchange, they also include an online element which all students complete together. The students work together on a group project, so they experience working directly with students at other institutions – for which they receive a joint grade. At the end of the course, the learning outcomes are not only the content, but also a self-reflection on how the project went. This is very difficult for the students, and students give low satisfaction ratings directly after the course. However, 2 years later, at the end of the programme, the students say it is the most important course they took, not because of the content but because of learning how to work together.

Global citizenship education

Finally, Herco Fonteijn, Associate Professor at FPN, spoke about global citizenship education.

Working on the assumption that we want to be an international university, we need to think about what that environment should promise. And that leads us to global citizenship – competences that encourage complexity, interdisciplinary learning outside the classroom, and developing a social entrepreneurial mindset. It is important to take a holistic approach to global citizenship education – looking at how curricular, extracurricular, and co-created activities can enable students to develop their competences.

We already have some good examples of global citizenship education – such as students at FHML working with patient organizations, or the mediation clinic run by the law faculty. The goal for the next years is to make explicit what we are already doing and to learn from good examples both within and beyond Maastricht.

Thanks to everyone who came along and participated in the discussions – we look forward to seeing you at the next teach-meet!

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