Classroom DEI Newsletter: March 2023 Issue
Posted by the CCAPS DEI Council Faculty Subcommittee
Multilingual students are a perse group of international and domestic students who use mainstream American English in addition to other languages or other varieties of English (learn more about linguistic persity in CLA's recent "Call In" issue). The rich perspectives afforded by the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of such students are important assets both personally and academically. When instructors use inclusive practices that support and engage multilingual students and validate their languages, students may be more open to developing their language and communication skills and drawing on their language and culture.
This month’s newsletter focuses on ways to make classroom teaching—particularly lecture or content delivery—more inclusive and accessible for those multilingual students who are learners of English.
As noted above, the term multilingual student includes a broad range of students, including international and domestic students for whom English is not a first or primary language. Other commonly used terms for such students include: ELL (English Language Learners), ESL (English as a Second Language), and NNS (non-native speaker). Using the term multilingual student however, can help promote an equality of languages and highlight a student’s language skills, versus focusing on a deficiency.
These students have high English language proficiency. And yet, it can still be difficult to study in a learned or nondominant language or in a new culture. For example, international students may have difficulties understanding lecture content due to the lecturer’s rate of speaking and use of new vocabulary, idioms, cultural examples, and humor. They may also be adjusting to a new educational system where teacher and student roles and expectations differ. However, there are things we can do to help make our classrooms more accessible and inclusive for those multilingual students who are learners of English.
Below are some strategies for making content and lectures more accessible for multilingual students who are learners of English. Many of these strategies may also benefit other students in the class.
When delivering content, whether in person or online, consider how many of the following strategies you currently use and which you might be able to incorporate.
- Provide a clear agenda and signal to students when you are shifting topics
- Explain what you are doing and why
- Activate prior knowledge by asking probing questions that connect course content to real-world contexts, introducing key words, or using images to preview the content
- Incorporate regular pauses (every 5–10 minutes) during a lecture and invite students to reflect, turn & talk, check understanding, and other active learning strategies
- Incorporate multiple modalities (e.g., relevant visual support, provide listening guides)
- Use a moderate pace when speaking
- Explain cultural references, slang, or idiomatic expressions (e.g., break the ice).
You can learn more about working with multilingual students at esl.umn.edu.
- Commit to trying one or more of the above strategies the next time you teach or interact with students.
- Complete a self-paced, online 30-minute professional development module: Inclusive Teaching for the Multilingual Classroom: Content Delivery
Join colleagues from around campus and participate in a workshop: Conversations on Centering International Students: Supporting Multilingual & Intercultural Learning.