Teaching across Cultures: Issues, Strategies and Actions

The classroom today becomes more and more culturally diversified due to the globalisation of the higher education sector and the increasing student mobility. The high level of diversity, on the one hand, may create unprecedented opportunities for student learning. Frequent interactions between international and domestic students could potentially facilitate the development of cognitive skills, communication skills, and cultural awareness2. On the other hand, the diversity can generate tensions and uneasiness for both teachers and students. Cultural diversity in the classroom therefore needs to be carefully managed.

This briefing discusses the key issues of teaching across cultures and introduces five principles regarding how to transform cultural diversity into valuable learning opportunities. It also draws on the insights obtained from informal interviews with thirteen teachers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) about their experiences of teaching culturally diversified classes. The teachers involved were teaching at least one Common Core course when they joined the study. The Common Core Curriculum is designed to provide broad and intercultural experiences for HKU undergraduate students3. Common Core courses are open to undergraduates of all majors, resulting in classrooms with over 120 students from different backgrounds in many courses.

Doctoral Supervision in a Cross-cultural Context:
Issues Affecting Supervisors and Candidates

Over the past decade, the doctoral student population has become increasing diverse (Pearson, 1999). Along with the general trend in the internationalisation of higher education, an important phenomenon has been increasing numbers of students pursuing their doctorates in a country other than that of their origin (Taylor, 2012). These students face the particular complexities of adapting to, and assimilating into, new cultural environments (Robinson-Pant, 2009). In addition, there has been increasing pressure on universities to ensure that doctoral candidates complete their studies in time (Green & Usher, 2003).

This article presents a qualitative study of a relatively large and diverse group of candidates and supervisors from three Australian universities. In this study, we aim to determine the main issues facing such candidates and supervisors, and to ascertain why international candidates and their supervisors, and others in similar cross-cultural situations, often find the supervisory process difficult and problematic.

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