Support International Students and Nonnative Speakers of English

Approaches to team projects may vary by cultural background.  Students from some cultures may find it important to establish relationships prior to beginning a project and may not be accustomed to dealing with disagreement directly.  Students from others may take the opposite approach and want to take a “business first” approach.     

Differences in language ability may also affect how the team functions.  It's not uncommon for nonnative speakers of English to feel hesitant about expressing their ideas because of a lack of confidence in their speaking or writing abilities.  The use of idioms and slang can also impede communication.  

How to do it:

  • Encourage students to share their typical approach to a team project.  This will allow students to understand and learn from each other.  
  • Provide online forums for some of your class discussions. Have a class discussion online, or have an online discussion forum after an in-class discussion. Providing online forums for communication allows non-native speakers [and others] to have time to compose their responses.
  • State explicitly that you value diversity.  Encourage students to work through language and culture barriers that may arise.  (Spencer-Oatey, 2016)

Resources:

Groupwork for nonnative speakers of English

Culture and group work