Student Perspectives on the Promising Practices for Teaching International Students

Clayton Smith and George Zhou
31 Oct 2023

Student Perspectives on the Promising Practices for Teaching International Students

In our 2022 IGI-Global book, Handbook of Research on Teaching Strategies for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, we explored the promising practices for teaching linguistically and culturally diverse international students by providing the student voice on such topics as culturally responsive education, pedagogy internationalization, teaching about academic integrity, student development and support, and online teaching and learning.

In our foundational work, we conducted a mixed-methods’ study that reviewed the promising teaching practices to teach international students by evaluating the rate of student-satisfaction levels and perceptions of learning (Smith et al., 2019). The research design included a pilot study, an online-survey questionnaire, focus-group discussions, and individual interviews. Research participants, with a response rate of 32 percent, were international students who studied at a mid-sized, comprehensive, public university in Canada. The primary research question is: What promising teaching practices yield high levels of international student satisfaction and perceptions of learning?

It was guided by three theories (Figure 1). The primary theory used is Tinto’s (1993) student integration model, which stated that students must integrate into both social and academic settings, formally and informally, to create a connection with their postsecondary institution, resulting in them making a commitment to careers and educational goals. The researchers also relied on the work of Darby and Lang (2019), which highlights the connection between instructor personality and learning, and Tran’s (2020) framework for teaching and learning for international students, that underlines the importance of connecting with academic and social experiences.

Figure 1. Identifying Effective Teaching Practices (Smith et al., 2019)

Promising teaching practices received from respondents, that were reported as satisfied or very satisfied, varied from 49.7% to 82.9%. The teaching practices with the highest respondent satisfaction percentages (greater than 70%) fell into eight areas (Figure 2): academic integrity, assessment, assignments, clarifying expectations, communicating outside of the classroom, lecture design and delivery, verbal communications, and visual communications. All the promising teaching practices identified as having high levels of student satisfaction also have medium or high student perception levels of learning.

Figure 2. The Top Eight Promising Teaching Practices (Smith et al., 2019)

In the focus group and interviews (Figure 3), students’ responses were mainly positive. Most of them identified instructors as a key factor in the learning experience. Some characteristics (e.g., humour, encouragement and support, value of diverse cultures) were welcomed by students. Many practices were endorsed by students of all educational levels, including a student-centred approach, use of interactive teaching methods, specific and prompt feedback, use of practical experiences, pleasant learning environment, and methods to support additional language learners. Undergraduate participants were interested in academic support, updated curricula, and partially filled slides in advance of class. They also emphasized the importance of experiential and applied learning, and close interaction with instructors. Graduate students spoke of the importance of a free learning environment, multi-modality teaching strategies, use of digital and visual materials, and emotional, physical, and non-judgmental support from their supervisors. Teaching methods that led to students becoming bored and having heavy workloads, such as too grammar-intensive teaching, and use of the repeating-listening pattern of teaching and learning, along with a lack of encouragement, received dissatisfaction from students. There are some differences between course-based and research-based graduate student responses. Course-based graduate students commented on their course instructors and teaching methods, while research-based graduate students mostly commented on their relationship with supervisors.

Figure 3. Teaching practices that contribute the most to learning (Smith et al., 2019)

This study identified teaching practices that result in both student satisfaction and student perceptions of learning. Many students called for a multi-modal teaching style that combined traditional lectures and interactive methods. They also described some instructor characteristics as important factors in the student experience. Our research study found that the most promising teaching practices identified as having high levels of student satisfaction also have medium/high student perceptions of learning.

We are continuing our work through the creation of an online teaching international students website ( that includes a professional development toolkit, resources for teachers, a professional community of practice, and a blog on teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students.


Clayton Smith (  University of Windsor, Canada

George Zhou ( University of Windsor, Canada


Darby, F., and Lang, J. (2019). Small teaching online. John Wiley & Sons.

Smith, C., Zhou, G., Potter, M., and Wang, D. (2019). Connecting best practices for teaching linguistically and culturally diverse international students with international student satisfaction and student perceptions of student learning. Advances in Global Education and Research, 3, 252-265. 24  

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. University of Chicago Press.

Tran, L. T. (2020). Teaching and engaging international students: People-to-people connections and people-to-people empathy. Journal of International Students, 10(3), xii-xvii.

For more details on this study, see: Smith, C., & Zhou, G. (2022). Teaching culturally and linguistically diverse international students: Connections between promising teaching practices and student satisfaction. In C. Smith & G. Zhou (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching strategies for culturally and linguistically diverse international students (pp. 1-16). IGI-Global.

1 Response

  1. keithjconnell

    Thank you! This is an interesting read and a timely research project.

    As an educator, I am consistently faced with the challenge of pre-providing slides for my students. While this practice encourages contemplation and makes the class more accessible, there’s an opposing view that sharing slides in advance might lead some students to decide whether or not to attend based on their preconceptions. Weighing both perspectives, my priority lies in prioritizing inclusivity and accessibility of the course material rather than relying on the element of surprise. Your suggestion of creating a partially filled slide deck, offering fundamental information beforehand while reserving a more comprehensive deck for in-class use, presents a solution that combines both approaches.

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