Teaching in the global classroom

Culture Shock!

According to Queen’s University, Globalization of learning refers to significant changes in the landscape of higher education over the past 20 years, and may include, among others:

  • Greater diversity among learners- cultural, linguistic, social, gender and disciplinary variation
  • Greater student mobility (international students; study abroad and exchange students)
  • Greater diversity among instructors
  • Internationalization the curriculum
  • Indigenizing the curriculum
  • Growth of interdisciplinary studies

International students for a large part of the diverse student community at Georgian College.  We have approximately 65 different countries represented which presents an opportunity for faculty to engage with an incredibly diverse student body.  It is important to not make assumptions about these students’ or stereotype them because of a presumed reluctance to talk in class, a preference for rote learning and an apparent lack of critical thinking skills.  There is a real diversity of approaches to education across the globe and faculty can play a significant role in the student’s experience here in Canada (Glass et al. 2015).

Traveling across geographic regions and different countries can provoke a response that is known as “culture shock.”  Our international students may find themselves travelling very far, sometimes for the very first time, away from family and friends with the dream of a Canadian education.  We like to hope they have completed their homework on Canada and understand what they are arriving to, but the reality is, they sometimes simply take a chance.  Recognizing the effort an international student has made to simply get to Canada can go a long way to supporting those students.

Glass, C. R., Kociolek, E., Wongtrirat, R., Lynch, R. J., & Cong, S. (2015). Uneven Experiences: The Impact of Student-Faculty Interactions on International Students’ Sense of Belonging. Journal of International Students, 5, 4, 353-367.

Classroom Culture

It is now commonplace to say that globalization is changing the face of higher education.   Globalization is challenging traditional teaching practices and methodologies and affecting the very direction in which higher education is heading in order to accommodate the rapidly changing economic realities our students will face in the workplace.

In our classes, international students are finding themselves in a new place with new customs, traditions, symbols and lexicons. At Georgian, we value and promote group work, collaborative projects, reflection and metacognition, critical reasoning, and discussion however, some students may not have experienced these educational expectations.  It is important to communicate classroom expectations and policies clearly.  Explaining the syllabus can function as a contract can be a new concept for international students.  While all faculty do review the syllabus, it can help to spend time highlighting important information, such as the grading scale, assignments and due dates, attendance policy, late work policy, and calendar of assignments. This is particularly important to help international students get accustomed to the new academic environment (Elturki, 2018).

In some international educational experiences, the professor’s role is to impart expert knowledge and the student’s role is to absorb it.  Within these systems, it would seem presumptuous for a novice to challenge an expert. Thus, international students may be reluctant to question a professor or to argue against an expert opinion. In some cultures, students are expected to maintain a respectful silence in class. They may not be accustomed to asking professors for clarification or elaboration, and may view such behavior either as disrespectful to the professor or personally embarrassing. When international students do not volunteer questions, faculty may assume that they understand material that, in fact, they do not. When international students do not volunteer answers, faculty may assume that they do not understand material that, in fact, they do. In some cultures, group dynamics are developed in a more systematic and sustained manner whereby greater value is placed on interdependence and collaboration than on individual performance. Students may find the teamwork skills of their classmates rudimentary, or simply have a different set of expectations for how groups should operate. Students from some countries may, moreover, think certain forms of collaboration are acceptable which might be construed as cheating. In many other cultures, classrooms are much more formal: students rise when the professor enters the room, address their professors by titles, and follow stricter standards of behavior. International students may thus interpret the behavior of Canadian students to mean that they lack respect for their professors or are not serious about their educations. This perception may cause international students to lose respect for their professors and/or peers.   Faculty are not expected to know every different kind of education style or system, but they are expected to create learning spaces whereby everyone can be successful.

Elturki, E (2018) Teaching International Students: Six Ways to Smooth the Transition. Faculty Focus retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/teaching-international-students-six-ways-to-smooth-the-transition/

Academic Integrity

Georgian College is more culturally diverse with an increasing number of students from around the world.  Because there are many different educational settings and expectations, students may be unaware of definitions, policies, and procedures around cheating and plagiarism.  When preparing reports and assignments, students may not know how to integrate the ideas of others and document the sources appropriately or may make mistakes as they learn how to integrate others’ words or ideas into their own work.  Learning to write in English as a second language is a complex process, and mistakes can lead to unintentional plagiarism.

Understanding what constitutes cheating and plagiarism for students (domestic and international) is much like participating in a new game without understanding all the rules. Many international students face unique challenges when it comes to writing and the development of the skills that would help them to avoid academic misconduct.  Providing students with resources and supports to understand plagiarism and cheating helps students be successful.

For more information about Academic Integrity please visit the Academic Integrity section of our website.

Creating a Global Classroom

Creating a global classroom that embed the principles of global responsibility and accountability is an expectation in higher education.  Encouraging and promoting global citizenship is one of the goals of a global classroom and according to Guo, 2014, should be able to demonstrate some or all of the following characteristics, including:

  • Respect for fellow humans, regardless of race, gender, age, religion, or political views;
  • Appreciation for diversity and multiple perspectives;
  • A view that no single society or culture is inherently superior to any other;
  • Cherishing the natural world and respecting the rights of all living things;
  • Practicing and encouraging sustainable patterns of living, consumption and production;
  • Striving to resolve conflicts without the use of violence;
  • Be responsible for solving pressing global challenges in whichever way they can;
  • Think globally and act locally in eradicating inequality and injustice in all their forms.

Global citizenship education builds a sense of belonging with a global community and a broad understanding of humanity, the planet and the impact of our decisions on both.  Students in the 21st century need global citizenship education in order to be empowered with the knowledge, skills, and values that can assist them in taking actions to address the interconnected social, political, cultural and global realities of the 21st century (Manion and Weber, 2018; OME, 2016)

Globalization has increased the interconnectedness of economics, culture, technology, and health, and our classrooms have become more diverse in so many ways, including linguistic and cultural diversities.  Faculty recognize the need to be culturally competent to promote inclusive classrooms, where everyone feels welcome and engaged. They can cultivate those environments by designing course assignments and class activities that use the strengths of all learners and welcome diverse experiences and perspectives (Min, 2014).

International students often arrive to Canada with a wealth of education and experience.  Faculty can engage international students in more meaningful ways by encouraging learners to bring that life experience into the classroom, empowering them to apply course concepts in ways that are culturally relevant for them. This creates opportunities for all students to learn from each other and connects learners in a global classroom community, built on respect, curiosity, and understanding. Examining our own teaching practice is essential to this process- diversify the examples used, the written materials shared, and multimedia content selected. Always design with inclusion in mind; check assessments to ensure they are not ethnocentric. These inclusive strategies will benefit all learners in the college classroom, and creates opportunities for rich conversations and meaningful learning.

For more information about inclusive classrooms, universal design for learning, or diversity offerings check out the Centre for Teaching and Learning website.


Guo, L.(2014) Preparing Teachers to Educate for 21st Century Global Citizenship: Envisioning and Enacting. Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education. 4(1): 1-23

Manion, C and Weber, N.(2018) Global Education For Ontario Learners: Practical Strategies. Ontario Ministry of Education. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/global-education-en.pdf

Min, Y.(2014)  Creating Global Moments in Local Classrooms. The Teaching Professor. 28(10): 4-7.

OME (Ontario Ministry of Education). (2016). 21st century competencies: Foundation document for discussion. Toronto: Author. Retrieved from http://www.edugains.ca/resources21CL/About21stCentury/21CL_ 21stCenturyCompetencies.pdf.


Quote from Dr. Mary Gene Saudelli: "I create a situation where I ask my students to think about things from multiple perspectives, but also allow their voices to be honored."

Click the image to hear Dr. Mary Gene Saudelli discuss developing curriculum for international higher education in the 21st Century.