The following guidelines and recommendations were created by Jim Porter, Director, American Culture & English (ACE) program (English; Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies [AIMS]), Heidi McKee, Director, Professional Writing; Interim Director, Howe Writing Initiative (English); and Tony Cimasko, ESL Composition Coordinator (English) for the CELTUA seminar Facilitating Intercultural Communication and Teamwork Among International and Domestic Students.
Guidelines for Successful Group Work With Intercultural Groups (and All Groups)
Principles for Group Work
• Do not call attention to international students’ second-language status.
• Reflect on what the goals of the activity are, and what they are not.
• Clearly identify evaluation and grading standards.
• Clearly identify responsibilities for all—students AND instructors.
• Play to each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses (in other words, fair doesn’t mean equal).
• Know what’s going on in groups/pairs.
• Encourage full reporting by group members for small- and large-scale activities.
• Think of strategies to implicitly teach domestic and international students about one another.
Creating Opportunities for Domestic Students to Learn About International Students, and Vice Versa
• Rely on small groups and pairs whenever possible.
• Check student groups to make sure that domestic students are providing information about their cultures at the same time that international students are providing information about theirs.
• Allow each member to share their knowledge at their own pace; don’t treat those from particular cultural backgrounds as perfect experts on that culture, or imply that they cannot be valuable sources of information for cultures other than their own.
Managing Group Work
• Prepare a menu of group roles (such as leader, recorder, scheduler, etc.) from which students and/or instructors select.
• All group members negotiate and sign a contract outlining individual duties before the start of a project.
• Mix and rotate group member duties, including writing and revising, in order for all students to provide “checks” on the possible limitations of other group members.
• Design enough complexity and task diversity into projects so that they cannot be completed without input from all group members.
• Be proactive: Anticipate differences encountered in previous projects and semesters, and talk about them with students ahead of time.
What Should and Should Not Be Standards for Evaluating Student Work and Products in Your Classes
• Privilege clear, strong ideas over grammar, vocabulary, and mechanics in rubric design and in scoring.
• If you are evaluating language, make sure that these standards also appear in your course syllabi as learning and performance outcomes.
• Evaluate both process and product.
• Give students a voice in developing standards and evaluating work.
Promoting Participation From All Students in Class Discussions
• Facilitate discussion-prompt groups to begin or extend their conversations with pre-writing and/or your own speaking.
• Create activities that offer genuine opportunities for new and practical contributions.
• Make materials, schedules, and prompts accessible, not simple.
• Unfamiliarity for all.
• Do not view international/second-language learners as deficient students who are struggling to reach an inevitable goal of native-like command of language and culture.