Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Teaching in a Global Classroom > Cultural Assumptions
It is common for international students to have certain cultural assumptions and expectations about education that differ from many of our domestic students’ perspectives. We should all strive to be aware of these cultural differences so they do not become barriers to our students’ learning. The fact that there is a great diversity of approaches to education across the globe makes it all the more important for us as faculty to be clear about our expectations for students. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Glass et al. (2015) found that faculty are “the most influential persons shaping an international student’s academic trajectory” (p. 353). At DePaul, an institution that prioritizes teaching and whose mission underscores the inherent dignity of all people, it is our responsibility to do our part in helping
all of our students achieve the learning goals we’ve set for our courses.
Traveling across geographic regions and human cultures can provoke a response that is known as “culture shock.” Recall that international students in your classes are finding themselves in a new place with new customs, traditions, symbols and lexicons. According to the Teaching International Students Project, being suddenly immersed in a new academic culture may reveal differences in approach to such things as the “relationships between teacher and students, forms of assessment, and even what counts as ‘knowledge.’”
Teaching practices that are often commonplace in the U.S.— such as group work and collaborative projects, reflection and metacognition, critical reasoning, and discussion—may be new to international students. Students who have not had these kinds of prior educational experiences should not be viewed as “deficient.” Indeed, international students bring with them a host of experiences and perspectives that can lead to greater learning for everyone.
The following examples of cultural variation are taken from
Recognizing and Addressing Cultural Variations in the Classroom, a report published by the Eberly Center for Teaching and Learning at Carnegie Mellon University.
Glass, C. R., Kociolek, E., Wongtrirat, R., Lynch, R. J., & Cong, S. (September 01, 2015). Uneven Experiences: The Impact of Student-Faculty Interactions on International Students' Sense of Belonging. Journal of International Students, 5, 4, 353-367. Retrieved from
International Student Lifecycle [Scholarly project]. (n.d.). In International Student Lifecycle, Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from
Recognizing and Addressing Cultural Variations in the Classroom [Pamphlet]. (n.d.). Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved from
Insights on Second Language Acquisition
Some general knowledge about second language learners and learning can help shape pedagogic choices when teaching international students.