How do we improve international student success and confidence when interacting with peers on campus? The UC Irvine International Center offers an English Conversation Program (ECP) to build such rapport and connections through intercultural conversations.
During Fall 2014 quarter, the International Center launched a pilot assessment of learning outcomes for ECP. A total of 160 students participated in the program (as part of three course sections). Forty students from one course section completed reflections as either international students (25) or English Facilitators (15). The graded reflection papers submitted by participants demonstrated that 93% of facilitators and 92% of international student participants met or exceed cross-cultural competencies.
International Programs Coordinator Angelica Keam examined learning outcomes for two specific co-curricular domains: Diversity and Global Consciousness and Personal Responsibility. The outcome focused on diversity examined students’ awareness about diverse cultures on campus, and the outcomes focused on personal responsibility looked at abilities to take individual responsibility for behaviors and self-care.
Student narratives from their final papers showed that the majority met or exceeded abilities to articulate new cultural perspectives. Students also gained confidence in their English language skills (international students) and their development of interpersonal communication skills (English Facilitators). Rubrics used in assessing personal narratives showed that 93% of facilitators and 92% of international students met or exceeded the standards for intercultural communications.
Student reflections, like the ones below, showed how international students and their peer facilitators gain confidence and communications skills through the International Center dialogues.
“Moreover, I become confident enough to talk to other native people normally. Though I may sometimes make some grammar mistakes but I can have fluent and pleasant conversations with other people.” (International Student)
“For the most part, being really conscious of the partner is what the facilitator needs to focus on the entire time in order to inspire good conversation practice. Overall, ECP has provided me with a forum that allows me to both explore other backgrounds and explore the field I intend to enter later and improve my skills in that field.” (English Facilitator)
Keam and her team will use results in their planning for future ECP courses. In addition to the student narratives, ECP instructors surveyed all participants about the overall program structure and other International Center experiences.