Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Language, Innovation, Culture and Education 2016

Engaging the Diverse Classroom by Incorporating Foreign Language Elements into Instruction

Kevin Hart

University of California at San Diego, USA


The numbers of international students who speak English as a second language are on the rise in U.S. universities and institutes of higher education. These students represent a population for whom active learning and engagement in classroom discussion is particularly beneficial. Yet international students are less likely to access or participate in such learning communities, keeping silent and disengaged from classroom discussion due to anxiety about speaking English, a lack of confidence in their English-speaking ability, and a lack of motivation to speak in English. These deterrents can be especially damaging in a humanities class which emphasizes oral participation in the learning community. This study attempts to address this issue and test whether by incorporating the native language of non-native English speakers into a class conducted in English increases international and host student engagement. The study measured student responses to the inclusion of some Russian language instruction in a literature course which was conducted solely in English. In particular, the study measured participation rates, both in class and online, of native Russian-speaking and native English-speaking students, and found that when lecture included some emphasis on Russian words or the Russian language, native Russian-speaking students were more likely to participate in course discussion and native English-speaking students were more likely to participate, too, resulting in a stronger learning community and the likelihood of increased learning for the class as a whole. This would suggest that the incorporation of the native language of international students into humanities lectures positively impacts student engagement.


international student, learning community, active, diversity, language

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