Empowering International Students: Fostering Technical Knowledge Excellence Through Responsible Teaching Practices

“Your thoughts have consequences so great that they create your reality.” ~ Joe Dispenza
3 Dec 2023

Empowering International Students: Fostering Technical Knowledge Excellence Through Responsible Teaching Practices


Higher education institutions play a crucial role in shaping the skills and capabilities of students, especially those from diverse backgrounds, including international students seeking opportunities in foreign labor markets. This study explores responsible teaching practices that aim to address the unique challenges faced by international students, particularly in the context of technical communication, as they navigate the tough Canadian labor market. By integrating specialized language programs, fostering cultural competence, enhancing critical thinking, and promoting mentorship, responsible teaching practices can empower international students to excel in technically demanding workplaces such as industrial Canada. In the pursuit of creating a future skilled and equitable labor force, the challenges faced by international students, particularly those seeking asylum, cannot be overlooked. Canada has seen recently an increased number of international students seeking asylum in Canada. It is mandatory for institutions of higher education to facilitate international students to seek technical knowledge, marketable skills and critical dispositions necessary to thrive in industrial Canada.

I. Understanding the Challenge: Technical Communication Barriers

International students often face significant challenges in technical communication, as highlighted by research indicating deficiencies in speaking, writing, and reading technical English. The assumption that students arrive with authentic international testing credentials may overlook the substantial technical communication gaps, hindering their ability to thrive in Canadian workplaces.

II. Bridging Technical Communication Gaps

a) Specialized Language Programs

Responsible teaching practices involve the development of specialized language programs within educational institutions. These programs aim to address the specific technical communication needs of international students, providing targeted language training that goes beyond standard language proficiency exams.

b) Integration of Technical Communication in Curriculum:

A responsible curriculum should integrate technical communication skills development as a fundamental aspect of coursework. This ensures that international students are equipped with the language skills necessary for success in technical workplaces, enhancing their employability.

c) Industry-Specific Language Training:

Collaboration with industry partners is key to offering language training that aligns with the technical vocabulary and communication patterns prevalent in the Canadian workforce. Responsible teaching practices should actively involve professionals from relevant industries to ensure the curriculum meets real-world demands.

III. Enhancing Cultural Competence

a) Cultural Integration Workshops:

To address cultural nuances in communication, responsible teaching practices include workshops that focus on effective communication in Canadian workplaces. These sessions help international students understand not only the language but also the expectations and communication styles within technical environments.

b) Cross-Cultural Communication Courses: Integrating cross-cultural communication courses into the curriculum is essential for enhancing international students’ awareness of communication norms in Canadian workplaces. These courses contribute to creating a more inclusive learning environment and preparing students for diverse professional settings.

IV. Improving Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking

a) Advanced Reading Comprehension Courses:

Responsible teaching practices should offer advanced reading comprehension courses to help international students navigate technical texts with greater ease. These courses contribute to the development of critical thinking skills, essential for success in complex technical fields.

b) Interactive Learning Platforms:

Utilizing interactive learning platforms, such as online simulations and case studies, is a responsible approach to enhance students’ ability to apply technical knowledge in practical scenarios. These platforms facilitate a deeper understanding of subjects and foster critical thinking.

V. Mentorship and Networking

a) Industry Mentorship Programs: Establishing industry mentorship programs is a responsible teaching practice that connects international students with professionals in their respective fields. These mentorships provide valuable insights into industry-specific communication practices, helping students build professional networks.

b) Networking Events: Hosting networking events that bring together international students and professionals from technical industries is a responsible way to offer practical experiences. These events serve as platforms for students to practice and refine their communication skills in real-world contexts.

VI. Assessing and Recognizing Soft Skills

a) Soft Skills Certification: Responsible teaching practices involve the introduction of certification programs that assess and recognize soft skills, including technical communication. These certifications complement academic credentials and enhance the marketability of international students in competitive job markets.

b) Feedback Mechanisms: Implementing regular feedback mechanisms, both from instructors and industry professionals, is a responsible approach to guide students in improving their communication skills. Constructive feedback contributes to ongoing skill development and prepares students for the demands of the workforce.

“Your thoughts have consequences so great that they create your reality.”

~ Joe Dispenza


Technical Communication Deficiencies:

Diverging from typical international student research, the focus is on technical communication deficiencies in reading, listening, and speaking. Emphasizing the complexity of these shortcomings, especially concerning the transition to successful career paths post-higher education.

Discrepancy in Communication Skills:

While international students may possess good overall communication skills, there is a highlighted significant gap in technical communication proficiency required for success in highly industrialized workplaces. The distinction between cultural English competence and deficient technical communication skills presents challenges in the employment landscape.

Impact on Knowledge Consumption and Economy:

Suggesting that students with restricted codes or limited language capacities, lacking technical communication skills, may contribute to low-level knowledge hierarchies, resulting in heightened employment pressures at various levels—locally, regionally, and nationally. The absence of critical thinking and problem-solving skills further worsens these challenges, potentially impeding industrial and economic growth.

Recommendation for Pre-arrival Assessment:

To address the discrepancy between testing bodies evaluating cultural English and the technical English used in Canadian higher education, it is recommended that pre-arrival videos be matched with international testing credentials. This virtual admission criterion aims to save time for higher education recruiters and faculty members while providing a more accurate assessment of technical communication skills.

Dichotomy in Speaking and Writing Skills:
Identifying a dichotomy in international students’ oral and written communication skills, where short sentences and non-technical vocabulary prevail in oral assignments, while written assignments showcase dense technical content. This inconsistency presents challenges for educators and underscores potential issues related to plagiarism detection.

Conclusion: Empowering the Future Workforce

In conclusion, responsible teaching practices are instrumental in empowering international students to excel in technically demanding workplaces. By addressing technical communication barriers through specialized language programs, cultural competence, critical thinking development, mentorship, and networking opportunities, higher education institutions can play a pivotal role in preparing students for the challenges of the Canadian labor market. As the landscape of the global workforce continues to evolve, responsible teaching practices become a cornerstone in fostering the technical excellence of the international student community, contributing to a diverse and skilled future workforce. The critical importance of addressing technical communication deficiencies among international students, especially in fields like computer science, nursing, data science, biomedical engineering, and robotics. The findings suggest that a focused approach to improving technical communication skills can contribute not only to individual success but also to the sustainable integration of international students into the broader Canadian knowledge society, positively impacting economic growth and scientific comprehension.


Zaidi, Syed Ali Nasir (zaidi118@uwindsor.ca)

University of Windsor. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5619-4244


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