Teaching international students

Students from non-English-speaking backgrounds can approach the learning and teaching process with different preconceived ideas and expectations to those of their teachers in New Zealand.

Guide to teaching international students

Internationalisation at Wellington School of Business and Government

Wellington School of Business and Government aims to provide all students with perspective by integrating global and intercultural views into the student experience.

Business schools today aim to develop graduates who function effectively as leaders in global communities. The Business School has undertaken a stream of work, including a survey and a year-long Learning and Teaching Development funded project, exploring ways to develop learning goals relating to the development of cross-cultural and international perspectives.

We aim to provide both domestic and international students with a global perspective by integrating international and intercultural perspectives into the student experience. We use the rich diversity in our staff and students to increase understanding of international issues and dimensions in business, and to develop cross-cultural capability by building relationships among members as part of an inclusive learning community.

Key Actions and Initiatives



Led by Dr. Shanton Chang

Dr. Shanton Chang is the Assistant Dean (International Programs), Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne

The workshop was based on the ‘Finding Common Ground’ project and aimed to help the project team develop ideas for action. Shanton’s workshop was attended by over 35 staff, from the business school and elsewhere across the university, allowing a good opportunity for staff to share ideas on developing international and cross-cultural dimensions in the curriculum and student experience more broadly.

ExcelL training for five Business School staff

The ExcelL Intercultural Skills Programme was developed by Professors Marvin Westwood, Ishu Ishiyama, Anita Mak and Michelle Barker from Canada and Australia. The programme aims to help international students and migrants learn skills for success in a new culture.

In the Internationalisation at Home initiative, we have been using ExcelL-type activities to help both domestic and international students share and develop their cross-cultural understandings.

For more information on the ExcelL programme, contact Student Learning Support at the Business School.

Extra training for tutors and extra tutorials in selected BCom (formerly BCA) core first-year classes

In 100-level classes, the facilitators worked with tutors in several large core Commerce courses to develop new activities and ways of approaching tutorials.

Actions so far have included extra tutorials in these classes with a focus on building an environment where students feel comfortable participating actively so that they can learn more effectively. Activities including icebreakers, discussions, roleplays, etc. with the aim of creating a sense of belonging and inclusiveness, ensuring active participation of students from the start, challenging assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes, and helping them to get the most out of the diversity amongst their peers. You can view the video below.

Role plays

Role plays and other experiential learning interventions in some second and third tier courses, for example IBUS201 and HRER306

In 200 and 300 level classes, ExcelL facilitators from SLSS worked with academic staff to conduct roleplays, discussions, have students create cultural maps, to enhance their understanding of how business practices—such as conducting business meetings, giving/receiving feedback, asking for a pay rise, etc.—might vary according to cultural and social contexts.

A paper describing and discussing these interventions was presented at the ISANA Conference in Auckland December 2012, and received the Best Refereed Paper award.

Students come to appreciate behaviours and values in order to understand how and why people in different cultures behave the way they do. It helps students identify and analyse their own cultural perspectives and behaviour relative to business practices, and to value other cultural ways of doing things, preparing students to work in cross-cultural environments such as virtual multinational teams as part of the Global Enterprise Experience project work.

  • resources on how to use group work to encourage interactions among students
  • video on developing learning communities in tutorials (view video below).

Successful course interactions

Course Coordinators and staff describe the Internationalisation at Home initiatives already underway and the benefits observed. In some courses ExcelL has been used on its own, and in others ExcelL is part of a broader package of initiatives developed and driven by course coordinators. Each of these cases describe what was done, why it was done, what the benefits observed were, and what will be done next. We’ve also got some feedback from students.

Geoff Plimmer and Yang Yu describe how and why they introduced ExcelL on their 200- and 300-level papers, and David Crick describes how ExcelL not only worked on a course he observed, but changed his own perspectives.

Martyn Gosling, Tutorial Coordinator Helen Hynes and Tutor Dane Robertson provide three perspectives on a broad range of internationalisation initiatives developed for a core 100-level Commerce paper, which resulted in a marked change in class performance.

Kate Daellenbach has introduced a range of strategies to improve integration and engagement in 200-level and 300-level papers, and describes future steps, including plans to use ExcelL in future.

Student Learning Advisors and ExcelL trainers Karen Commons and Xiaodan Gao describe how the Commerce Faculty was the first to use ExcelL in its classes as part of its internationalisation initiatives and what needs to happen next, while Victoria University Students Association Vice President (Academic) Josh Wright discusses what Class Representatives can do to help.

Further actions

  • curriculum planning to build skill development into specific courses
    • include multi-cultural skills/groupwork specifically in course learning objectives for selected courses
    • build activities into lectures, tutorials and assignments
  • more tutor training to build engagement, participation and awareness in first year
  • tailored experiential activities in more advanced classes
  • sharing good practice—Teaching & Learning workshops and resources.

Other useful resources

Extra literature research and interviews on group work and collaboration

Both Dr Shanton Chang’s presentation and our surveys pointed to the valuable role that groupwork can play in developing cross-cultural understanding. However they both also highlighted the need to provide support and guidance for staff and students engaging in groupwork.

Groupwork resources are available to all staff and students, and you can download a fuller description of the initiatives (PDF 120.4KB)

In addition a pre-existing programme, the Global Enterprise Experience (GEE), is available both within a taught course (IBUS 306: Experiencing Management Across Cultures) and as a separate activity, and builds leadership skills as well as global/multi-cultural skills. Students working towards the Wellington Plus and Wellington International Leadership Programme awards are also encouraged to take part.

In the GEE, global student teams compete in a contest for the best business concept proposal. The concept proposals for 2012, its 9th year, were “for a profitable product or service that links developed and developing countries for mutual benefit”. The contest was hosted by Victoria University of Wellington, with students leading 90 teams of participants from 99 universities in 40 countries. The contest aims to develop skills in global citizenship, cross cultural leadership, and international business development.

We welcome your feedback.

This guide explores these differences and the situations they can create. It includes a quick reference section that outlines common problems and suggests possible reasons and solutions.

As a teacher you can help by:

  • following good teaching practices that benefit all students
  • ensuring you state expectations clearly and explicitly
  • regularly checking that you and your students have understood each other throughout the teaching and learning process.