Thursday, November 30, 2017

Student Motivation

Contributed by: Marc Pollack

When we consider the factors that affect a student’s motivation to participate and excel in a course, basic motivators are usually the first to come to mind. These usually focus on extrinsic methods like grading, as well as intrinsic factors like student interest, though the number of ways to engage students goes well beyond that. The value of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors seems intimately linked, particularly as they relate to building on a student’s stimulation and personal control within the classroom, both of which are necessary to draw in students that aren’t immediately interested with the material. Appealing to students with a given lesson can take a variety of forms, including showcasing novelty, utility, applicability, anticipation, and challenge. Motivating factors for engaging students both inside and outside the classroom generally require more effort on the part of the teaching staff, though the clarity and support provided by this effort makes a significant difference in student engagement. There will always be challenges to motivating students in the classroom, especially among students who care little about their grades, but a bit of extra effort to make teachers appear more approachable and challenge failure mentalities builds tremendously on a good lesson plan.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Supporting Multilingual and International Students

Contributed by: Stacy Wittstock, PhD Student, School of Education

UC Davis is a linguistically diverse campus, with much of its student population being bi or multilingual.
  • According to UC Davis Admissions, of the undergraduate students admitted in 2016-2017, about 41% spoke only English at home, 27% spoke English and another language, and 33% spoke only another language at home.
  • Additionally, in the 2016-2017 academic year, about 14% of the total enrollment at UC Davis were international students (Budget and Institutional Analysis, 2017), with the university accepting over 60% of its international applicants for 2017-2018 (UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning, 2017).
While supporting multilingual and international students has always been an important part of teaching at UC Davis, the University’s increase in recruitment abroad has increased the urgency for developing classroom teaching strategies and campus-wide support structures for multilingual students.

Quick Note on Terms
Largely due to differences in theoretical approaches and critical perspectives between the various fields that work with and/or study multilingual students, there are a lot of different terms used in the literature for these students.
  • ESL—English as a Second Language Student
  • EFL—English as a Foreign Language Student (when taught outside the US)
  • ELL—English Language Learner
  • Non-Native Speakers
  • Bilingual and/or multilingual
  • Emergent bilinguals/multilinguals

Who are Multilingual College Students?
Multilingual students come from a variety of backgrounds in terms of language, culture, immigration or visa status, and time spent in the US. These differences in background often translate to vast differences in their English language abilities.
  • International Students:
    • Most are bi or multilingual, with some having taken English classes throughout their schooling, while others attended international high schools where English was the primary language.
  • Refugee students (or those with similar backgrounds):
    • May have fled political violence, social upheaval, economic deprivation, or other similar situations.
    • May have limited or interrupted literacy development in both their home languages and English (Menken, 2013).
  • Generation 1.5:
    • Long-term permanent residents and the children of immigrants who arrived when they were young children.
    • These students primarily grew up learning English in the US school system (Menken, 2013).

Challenges Multilingual Students May Face
  • May be proficient in some modalities of English, but not others
  • May experience a high amount of cognitive load
  • May overestimate their level of preparation, both academically and linguistically
  • May have difficulties completing or understanding course readings
  • May feel uncomfortable participating in class discussions or activities
  • May submit writing with consistent grammar or syntax errors, or lack knowledge of US writing conventions
  • May experience cultural, racial, religious, and/or linguistic discrimination
  • May also be first-generation, transfer, low-income, underrepresented minority, academically underprepared, or other intersectional identities and experiences

Other Challenges Facing International Students Specifically
  • May experience culture shock, or have difficulties with cultural adjustment
  • May have difficulties understanding culture-specific references
  • May experience social isolation and/or a lack of meaningful relationships with their peers
  • May experience homesickness, depression, or other issues related to mental health

Broad Teaching Suggestions
These are strategies that work for all students, not just multilingual and/or international students. Also, check out CEE’s Just-in-Time-Teaching resources on Multilingual and International Students for more specific teaching strategies.
  • Take some time to understand your students’ backgrounds, and the knowledge, experiences, and skills they bring to your classroom
  • Provide regular opportunities for students to interact with their peers and with you
  • Provide frequent, timely feedback on writing and other work in class
  • Be strategic in your feedback, and focus on what relates most closely to your course objectives
  • Build in opportunities for student self-reflection and formative assessment
  • Provide numerous opportunities for students to ask questions
  • Intervene when you notice a student is struggling

Additional Resources and Services on Campus

Center for Teaching Excellence [CTE]. (n.d.). Strategies for Teaching International Students. Retrieved from students/

Freedman, L. (n.d.). Teaching multilingual students. Retrieved from

Gareis, E. (2012). Intercultural friendship: Effects of home and host region. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 5(4), 309-328.

Glass, C. R. (2012). Educational experiences associated with international students’ learning, development, and positive perceptions of campus climate. Journal of Studies in International Education, 16(3), 228-251.

Menken, K. (2013). Emergent bilingual students in secondary school: Along the academic language and literacy continuum. Language Teaching, 46(4), 438-476.

Shi, X. (2011). Negotiating Power and Access to Second Language Resources: A Study on Short-Term Chinese MBA Students in America. The Modern Language Journal, 95(4), 575-588.

Purdue Libraries. (n.d.). Global Learning Guide: Best Practices & Teaching Tips. Retrieved from

Sato, E. (2015). Six Insights for Teaching Multilingual Learners [Research]. Retrieved from

Sweller, J. (2017). Cognitive load theory and teaching English as a second language to adult learners. CONTACT Magazine: TESL Ontario, May 2017. 5-10. Retrieved from

UC Davis Budget & Institutional Analysis [BIA]. (2017). Data visualization. Retrieved from level-dashboard.html

UC Institutional Research and Academic Planning [UCIRAP]. (2017). UC student/workforce data. Retrieved from

Wu, H. P., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015, 1-9.

Yan, K. & Berliner, D. C. (2013). Chinese International Students' Personal and Sociocultural Stressors in the United States. Journal of College Student Development, 54(1), 62-84.