international students, academic success, transition programming
Based on the research, three different strategies for supporting International student academic success and retention are recommended:
1. Transition programming or courses (pre- and post-arrival) – to provide concrete strategies and instruction to support adaption from previous educational background to Sheridan’s learning environment, equip students for long-term academic success and begin early the transition from school to work through early alignment of academic literacy to career skills development.
2. Access to teaching faculty members, frequent career-related and community networking events and organized social activities throughout the student’s journey – to contribute to a sense of belonging and
to encourage peer and community support, information sharing and regular networking opportunities with teaching faculty and industry representatives. Provide early guidance to career and employment landscape and link academic competencies to career skills development.
3. Peer mentorship program – to allow experienced International students to help new students navigate the academic environments; leverage first-language opportunities.
Combining all three strategies, to provide a multi-pronged approach, spanning from pre-departure and throughout a student’s academic career, is recommended, including specialized programming to climatize International students to career and work integrated learning skills and resources. Finding ways to better integrate domestic students and international students in order to support mutually beneficial intercultural communication and to enhance Sheridan’s globalization strategy is strongly encouraged.
Practical recommendations for transition programming or courses include:
1. Build adjustment opportunities for incoming International students to adapt to their new learning environment.
2. Leverage the classroom environment (online and in-class) to promote international student supports; embed assistance directly in learning environment.
3. Work with Instructional Designers to enhance active learning activities; Utilize ESL specialists to support accessible programs, services and supports.
4. Include study skills as part of a larger series on leaderships skills, life skills, employability skills, etc.
5. Provide subject/discipline-based language training (e.g., English for Artists, English for Engineers) and academic jargon awareness (e.g., assignment, LSM, flipped classroom, elective) at arrival and throughout the first term of studies. Students, especially ESL Learners, need time to learn and understand specialized language that is not typically included in ESL instruction.
6. Provide incentives for participation – point system, certificates, awards, prizes, etc.
7. Involve domestic and 2nd Year above International students in delivering academic supports. Utilize first-language skills when possible in early stages of transition.
8. Encourage faculty to network and engage with International students outside of the classroom. Consider alternative networking facilitators (e.g., Industry and community experts, administrators) when faculty are unavailable. Collaborate cross-departmentally.
9. Consider scalability – how can we reach as many students as possible?
In addition, research emphasizes that International students truly benefit from a cultural shift at the institutional level, that faculty-student interactions are important in establishing a smooth transition, and that adequate training for faculty and staff alike to ensure international students receive the support they require at the course level. The need to move from a deficit narrative and to one of globalization and opportunity should be reinforced across the community. Interculturalizing the curriculum will allow all students to see themselves in their Learning and will act to promote a more inclusive experience for all students. In support of this cultural shift, stakeholders across Sheridan emphasized a need to better understand International students’ previous learning experiences in order to help prepare students for their new learning experience at Sheridan. To accomplish this, we need to explore and develop supports that will help to bridge populations of students from similar backgrounds (e.g., Indian education system) to Sheridan’s learning environment.
Library and Learning Services
© Joan Sweeney-Marsh, Kathleen Oakey
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Original Publication Citation
Sweeney-Marsh, J., & Oakey, K. (2019). Successful models for enhancing international students’ academic success: Research and recommendations [Unpublished research report]. Library and Learning Services, Sheridan College.
Sweeney-Marsh, Joan and Oakey, Kathleen, "Successful Models for Enhancing International Students’ Academic Success: Research and Recommendations" (2019). Publications and Scholarship. 20.