Implications of Silence for Educators in the Multicultural Classroom

There are a number of ways of dealing with silent students in multicultural classroom setting. For instructors of international students, it is important to note cross cultural perspectives in course readings and grading the classroom discussion. Because of lack of language proficiency or being unfamiliar with the American classroom culture, some students from other countries feel stressed and frustrated. To bridge this gap of international students, instructors could adopt strategies such as e-mailing study questions beforehand, giving clear directions and asking specific questions or summarizing important points of the discussions (Tatar, 2005).

Brookfield (2006) suggested teacher should research what students know, speak and experience as a part of understanding the classroom so that the lessons would be inclusive for both native and foreign students.

In a traditional classroom, a teacher speaks more than his or her students. Sometimes, instructors should be silent and observe how it affects students or encourage speaking up. The balance of the class would be when both domestic students and international students get an equal opportunity to share their thoughts and perspectives as a part of class discussion. A skillful teacher always allows enough time to her/his students to respond instead of expecting immediate responses to every question. Svinivki and McKeachie (2011) recommended a silence for 5 to 30 seconds for better outcomes in discussion. Instructors are expected to know the significance of cultural values and meanings in foreign cultures. Sometimes no eye contact or being silent does not necessary mean non participation.

The U.S. students would benefit from the active participation of foreign students in the class. As they understand diverse social, cultural and linguistic experiences and perceptions of foreign students, the U.S. students should encourage and let foreign students speak in the class.

Instead of being bound with home culture and educational experiences, international students also should look for ways to familiarize themselves with the host culture. Since their main goal of overseas study is to earn a foreign education, they should expose themselves to various social norms, cultures, and beliefs in the U.S. They should speak up in the class discussion because their voices and experiences are required as much as their American counterparts.

by Krishna Bista.

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