Cultural Sensitivity

George Mason University is proud of its a diverse community. Its diversity student-body (race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, age, ability status, veteran status, first generation, non-native speakers, immigration status, etc.) brings a host of knowledge, experiences, and expertise that enrich our classrooms. Like all the other students, multilingual students (local and/or international) thrive when faculty create an inclusive teaching and learning environment.


Faculty's Frequently Asked Questions

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What are some cultural challenges that ML/Int’l students face, which may interfere with their success in my classroom?

Multilingual and international learners face different cultural challenges depending on their backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, it’s important not to generalize. However, some of them might grapple with the expectation of speaking-up in class and asking questions directly to the professor during class discussions. While this behavior is typical in a US classroom, other cultures could consider silence to be a form of respect for the professor (Carnegie Mellon’s “Teaching in an Increasingly Multicultural Setting”). For more information on this and other cultural differences vis a vis intellectual property and academic integrity, grades etc., see Carnegie Mellon: Teaching in an Increasingly Multicultural Setting.

Working with Multilingual Learners: A Presentation for Teaching Librarians


How can I proactively foster a more inclusive teaching and learning environment for my ML/Int’l students?

The first thing to remember is that inclusive teaching serves every student in your class, not just the multilingual and international students. In order to show inclusivity in your classroom, consider your class documents like the syllabus. Faculty are encouraged to include Mason’s diversity/inclusion statement in their syllabus. They can also learn about the holidays their students observe and work around them when thinking about assignment deadlines. Mason’s University Life has posted the Religious Holiday Calendar here. Faculty can work to know more about all their students and learn their names, backgrounds, and interests in the program.

Working with Multilingual Learners: A Presentation for Teaching Librarians

Useful Resources:

Creating Inclusive Classrooms

Cultural Sensitivity In The Classroom


Mason faculty member, Katie Skipper (INTO Mason), surveyed Mason faculty in 2017 to learn their questions regarding how to teach multilingual learners. These are just some of the questions she found. To see the rest, see her handbook: Helping Multilingual/International (ML/Int'l) Students Succeed: Frequently Asked Questions

References

Ozturgut, O. & Murphy, C. (2009). Literature vs practice: Challenges for international students in the U.S. Interntional Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.


With small changes to your teaching, you can take advantage of the benefits that multilingual students bring to your class. Nearly half of Mason students are multilingual, and they have different levels of fluency. However, the strategies here are designed to help you support both multilingual and other students.