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A number of our international students and others may have experienced more formal classrooms where there is a greater reverence and respect for authority figures (e.g. teachers) and where relationships are more hierarchical. Expectations of the responsibilities of teachers and students may differ, leading to misunderstandings by both parties.

Learning environment

Students may have experienced a more teacher-directed learning environment, where the teacher is an expert whose role is to inform and instruct.

Effect on students

Students new to the Australian tertiary environment may find constructivist approaches – where the teacher is viewed as a facilitator of learning, rather than an expert who informs and instructs – bewildering at first.

This focus on the self and independent learning may be new to a number of international and local students who may expect more overt instruction from the teacher.

Teacher-centred learning Student-centred learning

Structure opportunities in class for students to ask questions and clarify their understanding of course content to stimulate and improve their learning experience.

Using questions in class (PDF 68KB)

Language development through student interaction (PDF 65KB)

Checking understanding: Engage, review, refresh (PDF 67KB)

Explicitly model the critical thinking process in lectures and tutorials to demonstrate analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

Critical reading (PDF 124KB)

Effective critical reading and note-taking (Tutorial)

Alternate between teacher-centred and student-centred activities by incorporating activity breaks and discussion opportunities. This allows students to consolidate and assimilate concepts.

Time (min) Topic/activity
5 Introduction
5 Topic 1
10 Activity 1 (pairs)
10 Topic 2
15 Activity 2 (small groups)
5 Summary

Incorporating breaks may require you to streamline the amount of information delivered. Organise concepts (information) by categorising (chunking) and order of importance (ranking).

Try taking a 'helicopter' view - have an overarching theme or objective that relates to the course as a whole and plan to teach fewer, but key concepts. If further reading is required, explicitly direct students to complete this or include additional information in a handout.

Lesson plan (Template) (DOCX 125KB)

Teaching students from diverse backgrounds (PDF 61KB)

  • Explicitly model good academic practice to students in lectures and tutorials.
  • Scaffold students' awareness and practice of referencing, use of citations (paraphrasing and quotations) and critical analysis.
  • Build in activities based around lecture chunks/concepts to consolidate/assimilate information.
  • Develop active listening strategies through using handouts that are question/gap-fill exercises rather than detailed powerpoint slides.

Model demonstrating gap-fill activity (PDF 142KB)

Help students create a framework for understanding by using plain language to identify key ideas. Use pauses, directive words, the active voice and paraphrasing with spoken and visual emphasis.

Integrating language-focused activities in the tertiary classroom (PDF 69KB)