International perspectives broaden a class debate.

In conversation with: Christopher Barnatt, Chris Ennew, Eric Masika (School of Chemistry), Nicola Pitchford, Peter Yeandle (School of History). Produced: November 2009; Duration: 4 minutes : 28 seconds.

What do you get out of a discussion?

Eric Masika:
I get different views of how to look at same thing. We're looking at something same, but you have a different opinion about it, I have my opinion and we all pool together our experiences, it makes a new thing.

Chris Ennew:
The kind of insights that you get into different cultures, into different systems are considerable. And they're not something that can be easily replicated from reading or watching programmes or listening to radio. You know, you get benefits just from the interaction, the discussions, the understandings and the misunderstandings that arise. And I think for, for UK students, given that the UK has been notoriously inward looking actually, I think, in many sense, I think getting that broader international perspective is actually hugely valuable and has big implications for employability.

Nicola Pitchford:
Especially in the subject area that we're, you know, that we're involved with, psychology, it's looking at, you know, individual differences but also how groups work and it's looking at, you know, the human condition and how the mind works. So, you know, having a mix of students, I think really benefits that.

So, you can get into discussions about, in tutorials and things about whatever they're looking at in their, in their coursework and, you know, at the end of the day, it comes down to differences in opinion, differences in culture, how different groups operate and international students can always add to that, and can, you know, broaden that debate in a way that you wouldn't get with just home students. You know, so I think that they, you know, really add to the student culture and to the student experience, particularly in a subject like psychology.

Also for the home students, it provides a different aspect to their education as well, it makes them realise, you know, that there are students from other countries, that there are students with different backgrounds, different experiences to them, you know, different ways of doing things and that's a good thing. You know. It's a good thing to have an appreciation of differences. So, you know, integrating the international students with the home students is something that I do try to do in my teaching.

Chris Barnatt:
I think one of the things international dimension does is that students are often, don't like to talk about a topic because they don't feel they're experts on it. You know if you give them a bit of economics or psychology and they haven't read the stuff, as they sometimes haven't, then they don't always have an opinion. If you talk about something from what is the international perspective on this and you've got people from particular parts of the world, they know they're an expert because they've lived there all their life. They know what the Chinese government system is like. They can say, well hang on this article written by this American journalist is all very well but in practice this happens. And that's something I think we see right across the spectrum and undergraduates will come in and be A students here who've got some business experience will always come into those sorts of debates because they've actually worked under those different sort of perspectives of the world.

Peter Yeandle:
I remember a seminar, a two hour assessed seminar we had on Chinese history as well and that was very interesting, very interesting indeed. It was about Chairman Mao's cultural propaganda posters and the English students had read all their, the English speaking students had read all their academic textbooks and thought they knew the topic inside out but didn't really know about the cultural references, which the Chinese students although they haven't got on very well with the reading could explain more to the other students and it was very, very helpful, very eye opening.

Chris Barnatt:
I normally try and do it by having some literature support. So I don't go in and say "I believe in China this is happening in America this is happening", I'll find an article that says that for me because I think it's easier then to have the debate about well different countries have different perspectives what do you think about that? And you can get some great debate using that. And that means having international students benefits everybody because their perspective is colouring what people see from all over the world.

Short paper

Discussion as a teaching technique discusses the possibility of making use of group talk (conversation, discussion and dialogue) as a useful teaching tool and one which may be used to develop critical thinking skills. Two adult learning specialists Brookfield and Preskill (1999)i, focus on discussion to explore the role of group talk in teaching contexts. In their view, discussion incorporates "reciprocity and movement, exchange and inquiry, cooperation and collaboration, formality and informality" (1999:5). The paper looks at how discussion can be turned into "critical" discussion.
... more from Discussion as a teaching technique.

More scholarly interpretations of the theoretical basis:

... all Internationalisation short papers

Teaching at Nottingham website resource Teaching difference and exclusion: audiences, assumptions ... "Academics working across the social sciences and humanities are often faced with the …"   (Jan 2006)

Teaching at Nottingham website resource The art of teaching scientific computation: men are geeks ... "Why, for some students, is there such a marked disparity between their normal …"   (Jan 2006)

The Nottingham context

Dr Rachel Scudamore

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