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Faculty Development: Latricia Trites

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Managing a multicultural classroom

Managing a Multicultural Classroom

Dr. Latricia Trites 

As our university strives to reach its goal of internationalization and globalization, our students and faculty face a variety of challenges and opportunities. Students who study abroad are often met with different perspectives when it comes to the roles that students and teachers play in universities across the globe. Therefore, as can be inversely expected, our Murray State faculty and local students, too, face varying expectations with the arrival of international students across campus in numerous settings whether at the library, in the dining halls and dorm rooms, or in classrooms and small group activities. Understanding the different expectations of these students can help both our faculty and students embrace these cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors, resulting in more successful interactions.

Some of the most common issues that arise are the following:

  • Assignment expectations
  • Perspectives on plagiarism
  • Concepts of time
  • Concept of group assignments
  • Question asking strategies
  • Use of professor office hours

To address these issues, faculty and students, alike, need to make modifications to their approach to communicating with anyone from other cultural backgrounds, whether they be international, or not. Of the utmost importance is that people cannot assume that their cultural perspective is the same as that of their students or classmates. Second, professors and students must not assume that the “offending” person is creating this cross-cultural conflict intentionally. In fact, most often, the miscommunication is simply that, a misunderstanding of cultural expectations. The last thing that any international student plans to do is offend the host country just as we do not want to be seen as the “ugly American” who has not taken the time to learn the customs of the place we are visiting when going abroad. To foster better intercultural competence in the classroom and across the university, these tips should be kept in mind:

  • Be open minded and willing to learn something new about another culture.
  • Politely ask questions about cultural beliefs. Most people are willing to talk about their own culture and will gladly explain their perspective. If you take a leap and ask a question, you will show that you are interested in their culture.
  • Articulate expectations.
    • Assignment expectations should be explained both orally and in writing so that students may revisit the information often.
    • Be very specific as to length of assignment, elements that must be included, and submission procedures. If you want the paper typed in a particular format, make sure to mention it. If you want it submitted online or in paper (or both), make sure to list that as well. If you want a 3 page paper instead of a 10 page paper, you better make sure to mention that as well.
    • Explain what you mean by “original” assignment. Many students simply hear “assignment” and gloss over “original” unless you make sure to explain the concept. Many other cultures do not have the same cultural perspective about intellectual property as Americans do; therefore, failure to cite a source in a paper is often not an intentional act of passing off someone else’s work oversight or misunderstanding of procedures.
    • If tardiness is something you cannot abide, explain that you and your students perceive it as disrespectful to everyone.
    • Realize that collaborative group work, especially on assignments, is something that many students have never experienced; therefore, you will need to explain the roles that each student should play in the group activity. In addition, American students do not understand that their classmates are unfamiliar with American classroom practices, so they cannot be expected to explain how group work is supposed to work to their intercultural counterparts.
  • Openly encourage students to ask questions. In many cultures, it is perceived to be extremely disrespectful to ask a question of the professor in front of the class. It appears as if the students are questioning the professor’s knowledge. Explain to the students that all questions are welcome, but don’t be surprised if your international students wait until after class to ask all of their questions. These questioning sessions, then, become one of the best times to encourage these students to ask questions in class.
  • Encourage students to visit you during your office hours. Again, in many cultures, students would seldom dare to darken the door of their professors’ offices. One way to encourage students to come to your office is to set up a “getting to know you” appointment with your students. You may have them come individually or in small groups – so that they feel more at ease – to your office to introduce themselves. By doing this, you will be able to put a face to a name on the roster as a person, not as just an unapproachable professor.

These tips are only the beginning. To find out more about some of the reasons for these cross-cultural differences and to have other cultural issues explored, come join us for a presentation at the Teacher Development Center.

Using Google Tools to Communicate with Students (Latricia Trites)

Using Google Tools to Communicate with Students

Latricia Trites, PhD

Murray State University, TESOL
Fall 2015

Communicating with students can sometimes be problematic when schedules do not match or students live at a distance. Google provides some useful tools to ease the problems associated with scheduling office hours appointments and meeting with distance education students. Two useful tools that can be extremely helpful are the Appointments option on Google Calendar and the Video Chat feature under Google Hangouts.

Appointments with Google Calendar

Each semester, I set all of my office hours as appointments with 30 minute slots. I then post a link to these appointment slots on my Canvas class site and on my syllabi. Students are then able to click on this link and, and using their MSU email account, can find times for which you are available to meet with them that fits their schedules. This feature considerably reduces the number of email exchanges attempting to find a mutually convenient time to meet. In addition, it ensures that students are provided with your undivided attention since only one appointment can be made at one time. The appointment feature allows you to design appointment times at 5, 10, 15, 30, 45, or 60 minute intervals; therefore, the appointment times can be used for individual student questions, face-to-face assessments, student conferences, and student advising just to name a few options. By using the setting up the appointment times, professors remove the need for sign-up sheets. In addition, it is possible to set up additional calendars that are unique to one event. For example, if students are required to meet with the professor to conference about a paper or to take an oral exam as is done in many foreign language classes, professors can easily set up a calendar of available times and make only that calendar available for a limited amount of time.

While all of this information may appear helpful, I believe that the top right video on this webpage might prove helpful.

Video Chats through Google Hangouts

Another dilemma facing both teachers and students is how to connect when students are distance learning students or when a professor needs to be away from the office but still needs to meet with students. Since our Murray State University email is through Google, we have the ability to use Google Hangouts as a function. Hangouts allows for live chats – both with text and video, and can be used for a variety of functions such as conference calls and committee meetings. In addition, there are many applications that can be added to Google Hangouts such as working with Google Drive documents, draw, remote desktop, and YouTube videos just to name a few.

Our TESOL program has found Google Hangouts to be extremely helpful when giving oral comprehensive exams for distance education students. In addition, in a hybrid classroom situation, students can join the classroom conversation through Hangouts. Note that, unless special permission is given, participants must use their Murray State University email account.

While Hangouts is an easy application to use, the bottom right video on this webpage has been created to help you navigate through the process.

Digital Demonstrations and Peer Feedback

Digital Demonstrations and Peer Feedback:
How Interacting Online Can Be Successful

Latricia Trites 

Over the past year, I have taught a particular graduate class twice, each time assigning a  digital demonstration that students must complete and then requiring the students to view all of  their classmates’ videos and provide directed feedback. What I have noticed is that if students are given clear directions in the feedback, they actually provide quality feedback to their peers  online without becoming negative. 

My students are required to use a video capture device such as Tegrity®, YouTube Capture, Office Mix, Screen Castomatic, Camtasia, or iMovies to create a digital lesson. In essence, they must teach the virtual audience one of their planned language lessons. Once they upload their videos, the rest of the class is given guided questions to review and provide feedback. Throughout this semester, my students have participated in several workshop/feedback sessions in the classroom. My personal observation is that while they are quite capable of providing feedback to their peers, they refrain themselves somewhat because of the presence of the teacher, me. In addition, if I participate in the discussion at all, suddenly, the students tend to simply agree with me and follow the vein of commentary that I have started. However, what I have noticed is that when students are required to provide feedback without my interference – yes, I’ll call it that – they tend to provide the quality feedback that I have desired in the classroom. Also, because the feedback is on an open discussion forum on Canvas, these students are professional and constructive. 

Many teachers are a bit afraid to implement video capture for their own use, much less for student assignments; however, I would encourage faculty to explore the possibilities. First, using video capture as a teaching tool offers a great many benefits from providing a resource for students to view multiple times outside of the class to providing students opportunities to critically think about the steps involved in their own learning process. I have found that when students are asked to create a video capture (digital) assignment, they are required to think more critically and to use the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

For example, students must analyze the task at hand and plan each step of their demonstration. I typically recommend the use of storyboards. Next, they must create their own demonstration and must then evaluate the quality of their own demonstration before submission. After that, they must then analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of their peers’ demonstrations. This peer evaluation actually extends the assignment beyond simply delivering their own demonstration, but also requires that students reflect on the effectiveness of the task itself. Other benefits of video capture include the ability for distance students to participate in the same course work as their traditional classroom peers. In addition, it allows for cultural sensitivity in that students who feel uncomfortable standing in front of peers, for a variety of reasons, can design and deliver a presentation that does not show their face and can be practiced and edited, creating a polished, quality assignment. 

A couple of tips to consider when using video capture as a learning resource and as a teaching assignment:

  1. Provide very detailed instructions to the students so that they understand the entire task.
  2. Provide sample demonstrations for them to view (Note that these demonstrations can be both of good and poor quality, which will lead to a discussion of expectations.).
  3. Provide the guidelines for peer review before students are to submit their own assignments.
  4. Recommend that students use storyboards.
  5. Recommend that students create scripts to follow so that they do not stammer as they are presenting.
  6. Consider designing these assignments as group projects, so that the collaboration can help in the creative aspect of the assignments.

Finally, I would recommend that teachers consider using video capture for themselves in their classes. Explore the workshops available at the Technology Support & Consulting Services. Remember that all of these demonstrations can be downloaded to your YouTube account and set as Private so that only you and your students can view it.


Robyn, E. (2014). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from