Transparency and Scaffolding

Center for International and Cultural Education

One of the most important things you can do is to be transparent about what you assume and expect. This is great for international and multilingual students, but will help all of your students – like those with disabilities, or from first-generation backgrounds.

Transparency: Identify your Assumptions and Expectations

In order to convey your expectations to students, you'll first need to be aware of them. They may seem obvious, but every faculty member is different. Here are some sample questions to reflect on:

  • What do you use office hours for?
  • What role does the assigned reading play in the course?
  • What kinds of participation are valued?
  • How closely do you expect students to adhere to your field's citation practices when writing?
  • How long should students spend on their essays, and what are the first steps they should take in the process?
  • What audience should students imagine when they prepare essays and presentations?
  • What are your grading priorities?

Once you've identified what you value and what you expect, you can make this more transparent to your students with small steps. 

Scaffolding before or after class might include giving students access to:

  • rubrics
  • lists of key terms and questions in course reading
  • links to supplementary materials
  • customized graphic organizers for note-taking
  • supplemental online discussion on Moodle
  • lecture notes, powerpoints
  • in-class writing prompts

Scaffolding during class might include the following:

  • quick explanations of cultural references, jokes, memes, and idiomatic language use 
  • "Turn and Talk" technique, or "Think, Pair, Share" *
  • show of cards/hands to check comprehension *
  • written check in, or "Two-Minute Paper" *
  • turning on closed captioning when using videos
  • handing out lyrics when using music
  • using pauses after asking questions, at least 3-4 full seconds
  • rephrasing and repeating most important points
  • presenting information in multiple modes, ex: Explain a key term while the key term and its definition is displayed on board.
  • a habit of talking out loud about what the class is doing and why, ex: "Now we are going to discuss the reading so that we can learn from each other's perspectives, and to help us review the main points before the exam."
  • establish a routine for what happens in the class and when

* Many of us are used to checking comprehension by saying, "Does this makes sense?" or "Do you have any questions?" This may not be effective for every student, because the student may not feel ready to share that they do not understand. Also, for some students, it will feel culturally inappropriate to speak up, because to admit that they do not understand could imply, from their cultural perspective, a failure in the instruction they were given, and therefore would be prohibitively rude. The comphrehension check techniques above take a bit more time, but are more thorough and could save time later.

Much content from this and the following pages is inspired by and adapted from portions of Fostering International Student Success In Higher Education (2014) by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly, and Zuzana Tomas, which can be found in our library, as well as Shawna Shapiro's faculty development workshop on supporting multilingual/international students at Macalester College, summer 2018.