Sponsored by the Student Policy Issues Committee
of the Commission on Multicultural Understanding
and the Student Affairs Division
Table of Contents
GENERAL INFO | ASSOCIATE INSTRUCTORS | RESOURCES | SUMMARY
· Why does Indiana University have so many international instructors?
Indiana University makes a conscious effort
to attract the best and brightest international scholars. In many cases,
their very presence here reflects their
prestigious standing and significant achievements in their fields.
· Can't I avoid having problems understanding
my instructors by choosing classed based on instructors' last names
listed in the Schedule of Classes?
You may miss the opportunity to study with
outstanding scholars if you choose to avoid classes taught by persons with
"foreign" surnames. In addition,
avoiding such courses limits your chance to explore and enhance your awareness of cultural differences. Your education goes beyond the content you learn in
classes; it also includes the interactions you have with classmates and instructors. International instructors help make Indiana University more culturally diverse.
The extra effort it may take to understand an international instructor is worth the subsequent rewards.
Stereotyping persons with foreign-sounding
surnames as difficult to understand reinforces discriminatory perspectives.
Looking at names in a course schedule
is not an accurate way to determine English proficiency. Even native English speakers, who come from a rich diversity of ethnicities, may have
foreign-sounding surnames. In addition, the accents and language proficiency of native English speakers vary greatly.
· If I have difficulty understanding an international
instructor, is the best solution to switch to a section taught by
a native English speaker?
No. This is only a temporary solution. The
mix of people attending universities and in the workforce in the United
States is increasingly diverse. It is likely that
sometime in life you will need to interact with an individual whose native language is not English. In a professional situation, you will not have the opportunity to
"switch sections." If you do not take responsibility for communication in a professional setting, an important connection or even a job could be lost.
In the long run, you will benefit from taking
the time to understand and learn from an instructor whose native language
is not English. We live in a multicultural
society, and now is the time to take advantage of Indiana University's resources to learn to adjust and to build the cross-cultural communication skills you will
need in the future.
· Is a language barrier the only problem I might encounter in understanding an international instructor?
Often a communication problem is not simply
one of spoken language. Culturally based differences in methods and styles
of teaching may affect
communication in the classroom. A culturally based communication problem is sometimes misconstrued as a language barrier; examine this possibility before
assuming that the issue is one of language proficiency.
Timeliness, proper classroom attire, perceptions
of appropriate student-teacher relationships, and mannerisms, such as amount
of eye contact and physical
distance between people, are all culturally based. Lack of awareness of these differences can cause misunderstanding. For example, within certain cultures eye
contact is avoided as a sign of respect; yet within the United States, lack of eye contact is often interpreted as disinterest, apathy, or dislike.
International instructors work hard to familiarize
themselves with the teaching and cultural norms of the United States and
how they differ from those of their
own cultures. You also need to be aware of these cultural differences and honestly examine your attitudes toward international instructors. To increase your
awareness, take advantage of Indiana University's resources on multiculturalism and intercultural communication.
· What should I do if I am having trouble understanding an international instructor and the problem is not culturally based?
First, make sure you are familiar with the
terminology and vocabulary of the academic field in which you are having
difficulty; sometimes it is the new
vocabulary that is the problem rather than the instructor's accent. In addition, consider strengthening your classroom learning skills by attending workshops
offered through the Student Academic Center (855-7313).
· What should I do if I still find it difficult to understand an international instructor?
Take the following steps to resolve your situation:
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATE INSTRUCTORS
· How are associate instructors selected?
Indiana University chooses both international
and American associate instructors (AIs) based on their history of superior
academic achievement and their
expertise in their fields. The AI selection process is intensely competitive.
· What testing is done to assess the English language skills of instructors who are not native speakers of English?
AI candidates who are not native speakers of
English are tested extensively before they are permitted to teach. To be
admitted to IU, all students whose
native language is not English must achieve an acceptable TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score and pass the Indiana English Proficiency
Exam. AI candidates who are not native speakers of English also must pass the Test of English Proficiency for International AI Candidates, which includes an
oral interview, in order to be awarded a teaching position.
· What training do international AIs receive?
Every academic department at IU provides training
for all of its AIs. In addition, international AIs may participate in workshops
on classroom culture in the
United States conducted by the Teaching Resources Center and an accent reduction program offered by the Department of Speech and Hearing.
RESOURCES FOR INFORMATION AND SUPPORT
Student Advocates Office
Franklin Hall 206, 855-0761
The Student Advocates Office offers advice and guidance to students on a variety of problems relating to Indiana University. The office can explain university
policies, help you explore avenues for resolving a problem, mediate disagreements, and refer you to other appropriate support services. The Student Advocates Office is staffed primarily by retired IU faculty and administrators.
Student Academic Center
316 N. Jordan Avenue, 855-7313
The Student Academic Center offers a variety of workshops and classes on academic skills such as improving student-teacher relationships, understanding classroom dynamics, and becoming a better listener and note taker.
Center for English Language Training
Memorial Hall 313, 855-8479
The Center for English Language Training provides English language training for international students and administers the Test of English Proficiency for
International AI Candidates. This office can provide you with detailed information on the testing and training of international AIs.
Franklin Hall 306, 855-9086
International Services, which is a unit of the Office of International Programs, provides orientation and assistance for international scholars and promotes
contact between international and American students.
What should I do if I find it difficult to understand an international instructor?
· Talk with your instructor. Make appointments during office hours to review any areas you had trouble understanding.
· Take responsibility
for your inability to understand and for your need to develop cross-cultural
Make arrangements with your instructor to try different techniques to increase your understanding.
· If you continue
to have difficulty understanding your instructor, talk with your department's
This page is based on the Understanding International Instructors
brochure that was edited and designed
by the IU Office of Publications, and printed in 1996.
Return to COMU's home page.
Indiana University, Bloomington
Copyright 1996, The Trustees of Indiana University