Consider student differences

In this section, we look at considerations for inclusivity between students from different backgrounds.


 
Keep in mind the language proficiency level expectations for your unit, and avoid assessing ‘language skills’. Monash accepts several different proficiency tests for students with a ‘Non-English-speaking background or education’. It is important to know that students are not expected to have ‘perfect’ English for entry as Monash typically requires an IELTS overall score of 6.5. IELTS is scored from 0 to 9, with 9 reflecting native speaker ability, so a 6.5 means we expect them to make mistakes. They cannot be penalised for not having more language ability than the requirement.
Language and communication is cultural. For example, many cultures have their own interpretation of an ‘ideal essay structure’. In Australia, we often expect students to get straight to the point, and then spend time justifying, explaining, arguing, etc. that point, but this may not be the norm in other cultures. Students may fail or do poorly because they have a culturally different understanding of the assessment task. Having assessment exemplars as well as mentioning Student Academic Success (SAS) to your student cohort can help to mitigate cultural differences that act as hurdles to success.
Write clear instructions for tasks, assessments, activities and other learning activities so that students know exactly what is expected of them. Language proficiency and cultural differences can cause confusion so while clear and transparent instructions or information may feel like hand holding, it actually promotes independence for those with a non-English speaking background and education.
Include a learning overview, or journey for students. This includes having weekly learning objectives, and as much mapping and connection as is reasonable. You might make connections between what is being taught, the unit learning outcomes, weekly learning objectives and the assessment tasks. You could also make parallels between what is covered in the unit and how it applies or connects to the workplace or society. Sometimes providing the bigger picture, the overview, or the map helps students who might be stuck on the detail or specifics, likely due to language limitations, to make those important connections.