Teaching Support

An instructor working with a student at a computer

Your support is critical to creating a positive environment for multilingual learners. Many of the specific strategies below are supported by Universal Design for Instruction and can improve learning for all students in your classroom.

See also our Consultations and Workshops.

Student Challenges Instructional Strategies
Understanding readings or homework
  • Give students access to lecture content before and after class.
  • Provide students time to process concepts in pairs or small groups.
Keeping up with the speed of the lecture
  • Pace your speaking. 
  • Use a variety of visual support tools.
Learning new vocabulary, idioms, and metaphors
  • Repeat key words to show connections between ideas. 
  • Point out vocabulary terms and give brief definitions.
  • Explain idioms and metaphors when possible.
Understanding unfamiliar examples and humor
  • Try to find opportunities to provide more context when sharing jokes or cultural references.
Withholding questions 
  • Encourage questions explicitly.
  • Explain how to use office hours.
  • Provide specific time after class for students to ask questions.
  • Allow students to ask questions through various mediums (in writing, for example). 

Teaching Tools

Student Challenges Instructional Strategies
Needing extra time to consider new concepts
  • Give students time to process their ideas in smaller groups before large group discussions.
Using the correct vocabulary and grammar to express ideas 
  • Offer participation through alternate modes of communication, such as written submissions or discussion times in office hours.
Navigating cultural communication styles 
  • Include syllabus statements that address the cultural norms for academic discussions in the US. 
  • Learn the typical characteristics of direct and indirect communicators.
Lacking confidence for speaking
  • Implement activities to build community in your classroom, which can help students feel more comfortable to participate.
Feeling unclear about expectations
  • Provide clear guidelines about the contributions you want students to make.
  • Be explicit about how participation will be assessed.

Teaching Tools

Student Challenges Instructional Strategies
Identifying reading priorities 
  • Make reading goals explicit (e.g., "skim for key ideas" or "evaluate the argument"). 
Differentiating main ideas and important details 
  • Provide a reading guide with important terms and key questions for students to consider.
Understanding different genres and writing styles
  • Read and discuss examples of typical genres in class.
Taking extra time to read in a second language
  • Encourage students to consider their previous knowledge of a topic.
  • Give students a time estimate for each reading to help set expectations.
Understanding new vocabulary
  • Develop a short list of the most important terms for students to learn.
Understanding unfamiliar cultural examples
  • Provide background for each reading, including an explanation of cultural references.
Needing extra time to critically reflect on content
  • Give students time to discuss in pairs or small groups.
Learning how to respond to readings with specific opinions
  • Demonstrate how to read critically by annotating and discussing example passages.
Student Challenges Instructional Strategies
Using grammar and vocabulary effectively
  • Prioritize feedback to address errors that interfere with clarity of the content. Students are not likely to benefit from feedback that only highlights grammar mistakes.  
  • See tips for Commenting on Content and Commenting on Language from the Writing for International Students website.
  • Provide some feedback on vocabulary choices so students gain input on using words correctly in context.
Adapting to the US writing style
  • Share examples of effective writing, highlighting features that demonstrate successful writing in your discipline.
Citing sources correctly
Understanding grading and expectations
  • Provide clear instructions for assignments and explicit grading criteria.  See the sample rubrics available from Writing for International Students.
Needing extra time and support 

Teaching Tools

Student Challenges Instructional Strategies
Navigating group miscommunications
  • Help students to see the benefits of learning how to overcome language and culture barriers. 
  • Give examples of discussion language that can be used in group situations to serve different functions.
Experiencing positive group dynamics
  • Create explicit learning outcomes to develop interpersonal or intercultural skills, and explain how these will benefit students in the future.
  • Help students get to know each other before a group project to help reduce anxiety, and discourage students from making blind judgments about each other.
Understanding project expectations
  • Create intentional opportunities for instructional support, such as in-class meeting times or group consultations during office hours.
  • Make grading expectations clear for both individual and group components.
Ensuring equal contributions
  • Give recommendations for role assignment for each team member, and encourage students to consider creating a group contract. 
  • Provide students a chance to give peer feedback.
  • See A Faculty Guide to Team Projects for examples.
Mitigating power imbalances
  • Balance the strengths and diversity represented by team members, as summarized in the Faculty Guide to Team Projects.
  • Encourage the use of multiple modes of communication (for example, all team members using writing and Google Docs when possible), so that students who are uncomfortable in fast-paced conversations are not disadvantaged.

Teaching Tools

Strategies

  • Design community-building activities that help all students feel comfortable learning from each other.  
  • Encourage peer interactions and reinforce that learning about diversity is an important course outcome. 
  • Integrate course materials and readings from different cultures. 
  • Provide opportunities for structured interaction among students by assigning or rotating groups.
  • Promote curiosity about different perspectives.
  • Create assignments that leverage the strengths that multilingual students bring to the classroom (for example, a research project that relies on the cultural knowledge that multilingual students possess).
  • Watch the videos created by faculty involved with the Internationalizing Teaching & Learning cohort and how they designed curricula to help students develop intercultural competencies. 

Teaching Tools

Lecture comprehension

Discussion and participation

Reading

Writing

Group work