Speaking, Listening, & Engagement

Receptive skills (reading and listening) affect the productive skills (writing and speaking) (Haan & Mallet, 2015). Both the skills and understanding the unique norms guiding how these skills are enacted in the American academic context impact student engagement. Faculty play a key role in the students’ support network. They can help them understand, develop, and appropriately apply the norms, productive, and receptive skills in the American classroom context (Phillips, 2014).

Click on the resources below to find out how to support students in their understanding and enactment of the norms unique to American academic contexts.

Faculty’s Frequently Asked Questions

How do I encourage students to participate more during class?

Some students might not feel comfortable speaking in large group discussions. For multilingual students who do not speak English natively, this discomfort could increase because of anxieties regarding language proficiency and expectations about student engagement that do not match the instructors.’ Other students might feel uncomfortable about participating because of their perceived lack of knowledge regarding a specific topic. In all these situations, faculty need to create a space where students feel safe to risk and share their opinions without fear of criticism or embarrassment. Here are some activities to help faculty address participation appropriately and constructively in the classroom.

Useful Resources:

Discussion Activities and Tips

Strategies For Supporting Listening

Strategies For Student Listening–Student Copy

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


Haan, J. & Mallett, K. (2015). English language literacy and the prediction of academic success in and beyond the pathway program. In P. Thomas & P. Takayoshi (eds.) Literacy in practice: Writing in private, public, and working lives. Routledge

Phillips, T. (2014). “Developing resources for success: A case study of multilingual graduate writer.” WAC and second language writers: Research towards linguistically and culturally inclusive programs and practices, 69 – 91. Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/books/l2/chapter2.pdf.

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.

Additional Resources

The Conversation Continues! Check out this Masterlist of Recommendations and Teaching Resources