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Bridging the Cultural Gap: Providing Adequate Support to Chinese Students in and out of the Classroom Elena Galinova , Irma Giannetti , and Ron H enderson P enn State. Overview of the Session. Statement of the problem The issues s tudents, faculty, and advisers experience

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Overview of the Session

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Overview of the session

Bridging the Cultural Gap:Providing Adequate Support to Chinese Students in and out of the ClassroomElena Galinova, Irma Giannetti, and Ron HendersonPenn State


Overview of the session

Overview of the Session

  • Statement of the problem

  • The issues students, faculty, and advisers experience

  • The issues in context: identity shaping factors from the Chinese students’ background

  • Recommendations for policy makers, faculty, and advisers


The numbers

The Numbers

  • Unprecedented increase in numbers of undergraduate students from China:


Deciding to study in the united states

Deciding to Study in the United States

  • Increased awareness of the value of a Western university education

  • Reputation of U.S. higher education

  • Rise of an affluent middle class

  • Importance of university rankings both in China and the U.S.

  • Rigidity and intensity of preparation for the gaokao(the college entrance exam)


Statement of the problem from the advising perspective

Statement of the Problem from the Advising Perspective

  • Culture shock for students and advisers alike

  • Although mostly high achieving, some of them experience serious academic issues

  • Even the high achievers have to deal with certain problematic aspects of college life


An academic department s experience

An Academic Department’s Experience

  • “They are only coming here to get an American degree.”

  • How do we work with incoming students when the range of skills varies so greatly? This is also a graduate education matter. Put another way, these students seem to “catch their stride” in their third or fourth year of our five-year program (perhaps this is a language threshold). How do we build success earlier?

  • What are resources for faculty who want to provide guidance, support, and resources for these students to succeed?

  • What, if any, orientation can be provided to head off issues that emerge from cultural diversity matters (especially as it applies to serious matters such as academic integrity)?


The issues in their own words

The Issues in Their Own Words

We are very good at exams, but not good at projects

or presentations.

  • Talking to the resident assistant about roommate problems with my Chinese roommate would break our friendship

  • We have nothing to talk about with Americans--we don’t care about sports, football…

  • .


Identity shaping f actors traditional chinese culture

Identity Shaping Factors: Traditional Chinese Culture

China United States

(Confucianist traditions) (Western/Socratic traditions)

Collectivist; Group values are Individualist; Strong sense of

primary, strong sense ofindividual identity and personal

membership in a collectivityagency

Individual modestyInitiative and self-reliance

Hierarchy and respect Choice

for authority (incl. teachers and parents)

Social harmonyFreedom from social restraints

Virtue-oriented learning (earnestness, Mind-oriented learning (active engagement,

diligence, familiarizing oneself, inquiry, critical thinking,

practicing, achieving mastery)self-expression and communication)

In common, all want to be successful


Identity shaping f actors e ducational c ontext

Identity Shaping Factors: Educational Context

  • Academic rigor

  • Focus on key subjects: math and science

  • No extra-curricular activities

  • Authoritarian classroom climate: students as passive recipients of knowledge

  • Focus on theory rather than application

  • Curricular reforms underway in some major cities (field trips, team work, etc.)

  • Western influences, especially in major cities


Cultural issues

Cultural Issues

  • Language (written and spoken)

  • Intercultural communication (mingling with Americans)

  • Cultural competence (etiquette, soft skills)

  • Knowledge of U.S. society

  • Awareness and perception of support services

  • Self-imposed isolation


Academic issues

Academic Issues

  • Different mindset about easy/difficult courses

  • Class participation, active learning, team work

  • Plagiarism

  • Co-curricular involvement


What can we do to resolve some of these issues

What can we do to resolve some of these issues?

  • As institutions?

  • Within academic departments?

  • As academic advisers?


As an institution

As an Institution

  • An institution-wide network of support services targeting the special needs of international students

  • A transitional program for international/non-native speaker students, including placement tests and appropriate ESL instruction

  • Curriculum reforms specifically addressing the needs of international students (e.g., special sections of general education courses introducing international students to U.S. society)


Within academic departments

Within Academic Departments

  • Organize workshops on plagiarism and academic integrity

  • Institute a peer mentoring program

  • The professor as an ethnographer: maintaining an open channel of intercultural communication


As academic advisers

As Academic Advisers

  • Be flexible with scheduling

  • Be mindful about the significance of parental influences

  • Educate students about seeking help and using different resources (e.g., Center for Women)

  • Keep the communication channel open– encourage students to open up

  • Inter-cultural coaching (e.g., plagiarism, eye contact, idioms)


Questions and comments

Questions and Comments

  • What issues are you finding?

  • What is your institution/department/unit doing to address these issues?


Overview of the session

谢 谢

Twelfth Annual Professional Development Conference on Academic Advising

Updating the Advising Toolbox: Understanding the Needs of Today’s Students

September 18, 2013, The Pennsylvania State University

Bridging the Cultural Gap: Providing Adequate Support to Chinese Students In and Out of the Classroom

  • Elena Galinova , Undergraduate Advisor [email protected]

  • Irma Giannetti , Undergraduate Advisor [email protected]

  • Ron Henderson , Professor of Landscape Architecture and Asian Studies

    Head, Landscape Architecture [email protected]


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