Message from the Director of CETL – Grahame Bilbow

Readers of Teaching and Learning Connections might notice that the topic of internationalisation of teaching and learning has been the theme of our two most recent issues. One reason for having two issues on this topic is that internationalisation of teaching and learning is timely and important to both the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the entire higher education sector in Hong Kong. As you may be aware, the University Grants Committee (UGC) 2016-19 Teaching and Learning Funding Scheme now has a category specifically calling for proposals focused on ‘Enhancement of internationalisation and engagement with Mainland China’, alongside ‘Innovation’, ‘Enhancement of student learning experiences’, and ‘Language enhancement’. It seems quite clear that internationalisation of teaching and learning is not only a priority for HKU, but is also a critical issue for higher education in Hong Kong more generally.

As a very broad notion, ‘internationalisation’ encompasses many aspects of teaching and learning, for example, internationalisation of the curriculum, providing students with overseas experiences, helping students develop a sense of global citizenship, and learning and intercultural interaction. At an earlier Join-the-Conversation event, we considered a range of challenges and opportunities currently facing universities (http://www.cetl.hku.hk/conversation160129/). Among these various challenges and opportunities, cultural and intercultural aspects of teaching and learning are particularly complex and present challenges that are sometimes very difficult to address.

An example will help to illustrate the importance of these challenges. In a small-scale study conducted by CETL last year, a number of HKU teachers mentioned that they found that students from similar cultural backgrounds tend to stick together most of the time, for example, during group project work and in-class discussions. On many occasions, this resulted in local and international students working separately and not benefiting much from the multicultural environment that the University works hard to provide.

Teachers’ observations revealed that intercultural interaction seldom occurs naturally in classes containing students from various backgrounds, a phenomenon that has been confirmed on numerous occasions in the literature (e.g., Kelly & Moogan, 2012; Maringe & Sing, 2014). Even if the contexts of these studies are very different from Hong Kong’s higher education context, it appears that issues such as intercultural engagement and interaction are indeed worthy of our attention and effort.

Fortunately, colleagues at HKU are already attending to some of the relevant cultural aspects of internationalising teaching and learning. Some have made significant progress in not only reflecting on the issue, but also adopting proactive measures to facilitate intercultural interaction and the development of cultural sensitivity among their students, and others have made changes in the design of programme curricula to reflect greater internationalisation.

This issue of Teaching and Learning Connections is a collection of articles describing some of the ways in which HKU teachers have addressed the cultural aspects of internationalisation of teaching and learning. Each article describes strategies and wise practices adopted by HKU teachers, along with teachers’ insights and reflections on their experiences. Through these articles, we hope to highlight that there are multiple aspects to internationalisation that are closely related to our daily teaching and learning work.

We hope that by having two issues of our e-newsletter centred on the theme of Internationalisation of Teaching and Learning, we shall stimulate more conversation and thought around this very important strategic goal of HKU, as well as contribute to the broader debate across higher education institutions in Hong Kong. As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts.

References

  • Kelly, P. & Moogan, Y. (2012). Culture shock and higher education performance: Implications for Teaching. Higher Education Quarterly, 66(1), 24–46.
  • Maringe, F. & Sing, N. (2014). Teaching large classes in an increasingly internationalising higher education environment: pedagogical, quality and equity issues. Higher Education, 67, 761-782.
Professor Grahame T. Bilbow
Professor Grahame T. Bilbow

Director, Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning
The University of Hong Kong

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