Jagadish_Paper by keralaguest

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									                                            International Students‟ interactions with staff 1


                                          Abstract

With increasing numbers of International students studying in Australia, it is becoming
more and more important to understand their satisfaction with the local university
experience. Research has shown that frequent informal interactions with staff enhance
student satisfaction. The aim of this study is to examine the International students‟
perceptions of interactions with staff by measuring the nature and frequency of their
interactions with staff, their expectations and perception of the role of academic staff and
incorporate their suggestions for future interactions with staff. A 172 International
undergraduate students from The University of Western Australia (hereafter referred to as
UWA) participated in the study. Results indicate very infrequent interactions with staff,
with a majority of interactions being academic in nature and initiated by students through
face-to-face contact. Student recommendations to improve staff availability and
initiatives to incorporate cultural awareness within staff training are suggested.

                                        Introduction

        Australia is currently the third largest tertiary education provider for International
students in the English-speaking world (Australian Education International, 2009). The
number of overseas students has increased exponentially from just 188,277 in 2000 to
more than 436,895 in 2009, with students now contributing to 26.5 % of all tertiary
enrolments in Australia (Australian Education International, 2000; Australian Education
International, 2009; Banks, Olsen & Pearce, 2007). At UWA alone, a total of 2984
International undergraduate students from across 80 different countries are currently
enrolled (Unistats, 2009). The majority of Undergraduate International students originate
from Asia (2573) followed by Africa (168), Britain (120) and North America (91). With
the numbers of overseas student enrolments predicted to grow (Banks, Olsen & Pearce,
2007), it is becoming more and more important to understand International student
satisfaction with the local university experience.
        Past literature has linked student satisfaction to the frequency of staff-student
interactions, with more frequent interactions associated with higher levels of student
satisfaction and enhanced self-worth (Astin, 1999; Endo & Harpel, 1982; Kuh, 1995;
Pascerella & Terenzini, 1976). International students, however, are found to engage in
higher levels of interactions with staff than local students, but report surprisingly lower
levels of satisfaction in comparison. This observation is common across International
Students in Canada, Australia and even locally at UWA (Grayson, 2007; Department of
Education, Workplace and Employment, 2008; UWA, 2008). These findings contrast
with previous research (Astin, 1999; Endo & Harpel, 1982; Kuh, 1995; Pascerella &
Terenzini, 1976) where the frequent informal interactions predicted enhanced student
self-worth and satisfaction; thus suggesting that there may be other dynamic factors
involved in the process of International student-staff interactions which may influence
their perceptions of overall satisfaction.
        In investigating the factors that affect International Student-staff interactions,
previous research has focussed on language barriers and student expectations in relation
to the role of academic staff. Studies have found that language weakness and sensitivity to
one‟s ability may play a significant role in the quality of International students‟
interactions with staff (Robertson, Line, Jones & Thomas, 2000; Brunton & Zhang,
2007). Insensitivity of the faculty to the emotional and psychological problems experienced
by International students may also contribute to the problems encountered in interacting with
staff (Robertson et al., 2000).
                                             International Students‟ interactions with staff 2


         Students‟ expectations of the role of academic staff also affect their satisfaction with
interactions outside of class. Studies at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
suggest that students expect higher levels of support from faculty during their initial period of
adjustment than provided (Khawaja & Dempsey, 2008). However, in other studies,
students believe co-nationals to be a more appropriate source of help than faculty
(Gillette, 2005). With conflicting suggestions, it has not been clearly established whether
International students expect personal support from the faculty during the initial period of
adjustment.
         Similarly, perceptions of the role of academic staff may also affect International
student-staff interactions. Campbell and Li (2008) state that International students expect
staff to play a nurturing role and push them to achieve. However, Hee and Woodrow
(2008), state that Korean students are reluctant to engage with lecturers in class,
assuming that it would be disrespectful and annoying. It is unclear, however, whether this
attitude translates into the out-of-class interactions for all international students.
         In focussing primarily on the differences between International and local students,
some studies have tended to stereotype international students, without systematically
investigating the nature and frequency of International student-staff interaction and their
expectations and perceptions regarding the role of academic staff (Biggs, 1999). In
addition, very few studies have incorporated suggestions from International students in
order cater for their needs.
         In addressing these limitations, the aim of this study is to systematically investigate:
(1) the nature and frequency of interactions, in particular; the frequency of interactions, the
time-frame of interaction, who initiates the interactions, purpose of interactions, the
preferred medium of interaction and any problems encountered in the interactions. The study
will also investigate (2) students‟ perceptions and expectations regarding the role of academic
staff due to the inconsistency in past literature; and, (3) student suggestions for future
interactions. The findings of this study help to inform a growing body of literature on the
university experience of International students.

                                      Literature Review

        Research into student engagement (Tinto, 1997; Astin, 1999) has found student
involvement in the academic and social aspects of the college experience to be associated
with higher levels of student persistence at the first-year undergraduate levels. In
particular, frequent interactions with staff outside the classroom is associated with higher
levels of achievement of desired goals (Endo and Harpel, 1982), perceptions of enhanced
self-worth, (Kuh, 1995), and greater commitment to the institution (Pascellera &
Terenzini, 1976; Strauss and Volkwein, 2004). In a qualitative study of out-of-class
experiences, Kuh (1995) found that informal student–faculty interactions impact aspects
of students‟ self-concept, such as self-worth and confidence, as well as academic skills.
        However, research assessing the frequency of student-staff interactions has found
a disappointingly low number of staff-student interactions. The AUSSE which was
administered to total of 67,379 students at 25 Australasian universities found that the
average score for the Student-Staff Interactions scale was just 21.1 for first year
Australian undergraduates, compared to 32.8 for North American students. These
interactions are mostly academic in nature, with only 20% of interactions being personal
or social in nature (Ananya & Cole, 2001). It is still unknown what medium of
communication International students prefer in interacting with staff, although Hee and
Woodrow (2008) reveal that Korean students prefer face-to-face interactions with peers.
        At UWA, the Student Survey of Engagement (UWA - SSE) which is based on the
American National Student Survey of Engagement (NSSE), found that more than 75% of
                                           International Students‟ interactions with staff 3


the students failed to engage in key out-of-class interactions with staff (UWA, 2007). It
was similarly found that International students engage in higher student-staff interactions
than local students, though being less satisfied in comparison. For 2008, 24 percent of
International students engaged in interactions with staff compared to 19 percent of local
students, but only 69 percent of the International students were satisfied compared to 75
percent of the local students (UWA, 2008). However, there is very little information on
who initiates the interactions, the preferred medium of communication and whether the
interactions serve to be formal or informal.
         In a similar study in Canada, Grayson (2007) found that although International
students had significantly more contacts with faculty outside of the classroom (0.7) than
local students (0.5), only 70% of International students were satisfied compared to 75%
of the domestic students. These findings are contrary to that of previous research (Astin,
1999; Endo & Harpel, 1982; Kuh, 1995; Pascerella & Terenzini, 1976) where frequent
contact with staff outside the classroom resulted in higher student satisfaction; pointing to
the suggestion that other dynamic factors may influence the quality of International
student-staff interactions outside the classroom.
         Past research (Robertson et al., 2000; Sawir, Marginson, Deumert, Nyland and
Ramia, 2008; Brunton and Zhang, 2007; Campbell & Li, 2008) in Australia and New
Zealand has focussed on the difficulties that International students face in adjusting to
their new surroundings. Robertson et al. (2000), found that isolation in the new
surrounds, unfriendly staff and dealing with language barriers were some of the major
problems faced by International students in Australia. Loneliness and lack of social
network were major factors that decreased student enjoyment of their course (Sawir et al.,
2008).
         Other studies (Andrade, 2006; Brunton and Zhang, 2007; Robertson et al., 2000)
have found language barrier as a major impediment in the process of adjustment for
International students. Brunton and Zhang (2007) found that incompetency in English
prevented Asian students from effectively forming friendships and communicating with
lecturers and other students. These students attributed their lack of participation to
language weaknesses and sensitivity to their ability (Robertson et al., 2000). Andrade
(2006) attests that without linguistic ability or sociocultural adjustment, there is an
increased probability of stress-related mental illnesses and disruption to study in the
initial stage of acclimatization.
         Students‟ expectations of the level of support from faculty also impacts on the
degree of successful adjustment, though studies (Eland, 2001; Hodgons & Simoni, 1995;
Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Gillette, 2005) are inconsistent in reporting whether
International students prefer social support from faculty in the initial stage of adjustment.
Some studies (Eland, 2001; Hodgons & Simoni, 1995; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992;
Ramsay, 1999) show that perceived social support from faculty predicted psychological
well-being of students. However, the actual level of support offered by universities seems to
fall short of student expectations, with International students from the QUT being
dissatisfied with the quality of social support afforded by the university in comparison to
local students (Khawaja & Dempsey, 2008). In another survey from New Zealand
(Campbell & Li, 2008), Chinese students felt a general lack of empathy from the faculty
in the initial stage of adjustment.
         In other cases, (Gillette, 2005) students preferred to interact with co-nationals,
feeling that it was not appropriate to approach faculty or staff with questions (Gillette,
2005). The inconsistency in the literature needs to be resolved to inform policy makers
whether to invest in staff training or organise more social support networks for
International students.
                                            International Students‟ interactions with staff 4


        In addition, examining students‟ perceptions of the role of academic staff may
also reveal International students‟ expectations. For example, Hee and Woodrow (2008) ,
report that Korean students are reluctant to question or debate topics with professors,
assuming that it is disrespectful and annoying to the teachers. Whether this attitude is
persistent in out-of-class interactions with staff has not yet been investigated.
International students also consign the responsibility of teaching to lecturers rather than
the institution and expect staff to be nurturing and push them to achieve (Campbell & Li,
2008), though it is still unclear if International students expect staff to support them in the
process of adjustment to new surroundings.
        However, in focussing only on the differences between International and local
students, Biggs (1999) suggests that there is an institutional stereotyping of students from
Asian backgrounds and that the issues and problems faced by International students are
no different from mainstream students undergoing the transition to an academic
university culture (Levy, Osborn, and Plunkett, 2003; McInnes, 2001). For example,
Hellstén and Prescott (2004) found unavailability of suitable consultation times to be an
extensive source of complaint amongst International students. This suggests that in
investigating the problems faced by International students, researchers must not lose sight
of the common barriers that affect all student-staff interactions. By investigating a
sample of the International student community at UWA, this study hopes to provide a
platform for international students to voice their concerns and allow individuals of the
sample to express their opinions without being stereotyped in contrast to local students.
        Thus, the review of literature reveals some significant gaps in our understanding
of staff-student interactions outside the classroom as a factor in the university experience
of International students. In addressing this shortfall, the paper investigates (1) the nature
and frequency of interactions, in particular, the frequency of interactions, the time-frame of
interaction, who initiates the interactions, the purpose of interactions, the preferred medium
of interaction and any problems and issues encountered in these interactions. The study will
also investigate (2) students‟ perceptions and expectations regarding the role of academic
staff due to the inconsistency in past literature; and, (3) student suggestions for future
interactions.

                                           Method

         All students registered as International students at UWA for 2009 were sent an
email request to participate in an on-line survey. The email informed them of the
anonymity of the survey and provided a link to access the survey website. Participants
filled in demographic information followed by 22 questions on their perceptions of staff-
student interactions at UWA. The questions were both quantitative, e.g., “Approximately
how many times in the past semester have you interacted with staff other than during
formal class times?” and qualitative in nature, e.g. “For what reason did you mainly
interact with staff?”.
         The questions addressed 3 main fields: (1) nature and frequency of student
interactions; (2) students‟ perceptions and expectations of the role of academic staff due to
the inconsistency in past literature; and, (3) suggestions for future interactions.
         The demographic and quantitative questions were analysed using frequency
tables. The qualitative questions were analysed for common themes.
                                           International Students‟ interactions with staff 5



                                          Results

The participants (60% male, 40% female) were mainly from Singapore (38%), Malaysia
(19%) and China (12%), with their first languages being English (54%), Mandarin (12%)
and Chinese (11%).
         Forty-three percent of students reported that they had been in Australia for 1 year
or less. Fifty-seven percent of students had been at UWA for a year or less. Although not
ascertained in this study, a number of them may have arrived in Australia earlier, prior to
commencing university for language bridging courses. Fifty-seven percent of the students
were in the process of adjusting to the environment at UWA.
         Adapting to the lifestyle, language and the educational system at UWA were the
three major concerns expressed. Adjusting to the new culture and operating in a new
environment were some of the issues in adapting to the lifestyle. Students also
experienced stress in living alone, paying the rent and establishing contacts with co-
nationals outside of university.
         Students experienced language barriers, such as a lack of confidence in their
language ability, anxiety in making mistakes and offending others as a result. One
student stated:
       …in the first days, I didn't have enough confidence even sending emails to my
       lecturers ….sometimes I feel shy because of my accent or mistakes I make during
       our talk, so sometimes I prefer not to interact with them but I think this problem
       will be solved in the near future.
Students had to adapt their learning to the western pedagogical approach to education and
establish friendships within the new environment. Anxiety over participating in class,
learning to interact with staff more informally and gaining confidence in their answers
were some of the major adaptations students had to make. As one student expressed:
       It‟s hard to make friends. I feel a little intimidated because everybody else in tutes
       are confident and have smart answers, so I feel intimidated to give my answers in
       tutes because in comparison, my answers are not as good. But I'm slowly
       adjusting to all these problems so I guess it‟s okay.
        Students had to adjust to the pace of lectures, find the correct venues and learn to
cope with the large workload. As one student remarked, “I felt lost at the beginning with
so many activities. And I had trouble finding my way to my lectures during the first
weeks”. Another stated, “I am quite comfortable but don't fell like I am informed enough
(only just found out there was a common lunch time on Tuesdays!!!).”
        They had to deal with feelings of isolation both from their family and from the
mainstream culture. As one student stated, “….there's still an invisible barrier between
Asians and the rest of the cohort”. Another student stated, “it depends on the people you
meet…..I'm often the only international student or one of the very few international
students in all my units, friendly people will definitely make me feel more”.
        Students varied in finding time for social interaction and their openness to social
events. Some were uncomfortable, being alienated from the university community or
feeling that they had not achieved their goals. Others expressed insecurity in walking
alone to university and cultural barriers as contributing to their discomfort. It is within
this context of adjusting to a new environment that the survey sort responses to questions
about staff-student interactions as part of the university experience of International
students.
                                          International Students‟ interactions with staff 6


Nature and Frequency of Student Interaction
        Frequency of interaction. The study revealed that most interactions were
infrequent, with fifty-two percent of students interacting only once a semester or almost
never (see Table 1).
Table 1
                Everyday 2-3 times About once Once in 2 Once a                     Almost
                            a week       a week         weeks       semester       never
Corrected       1.20        9.58         10.77          26.35       23.35          28.74
Percent

        Time-frame of interaction. Most interactions (47.20%) occurred evenly
throughout the semester (see Table 2).
Table 2
               Beginning     Mid            End of         Evenly
               of semester semester         semester
Corrected      22.64         16.35          13.84          47.20%
Percent

        Interactions in the beginning of semester served to help with subject choice and in
enrolment issues. As one student said, “The start of the uni is usually very hectic and I
tend to re-evaluate the units I've chosen and ask the lecturers for advice on where that
unit can take me in my degree”. Midsemester interactions were to clarify issues with the
upcoming exams or assessments. Interactions at the end of semester focussed on the
upcoming exams and subject selection for the following semester.
        Who initiates the interactions? Of the interactions initiated, students alone
initiated 78% of the interactions (see Figure 1 below).




       Figure 1. The percentage of times interactions were initiated by students, staff
and university programs.
       Purpose of interaction. Most students (89.95%) engaged with staff for academic
reasons (see Table 4).
                                           International Students‟ interactions with staff 7




Table 4
             To clarify    For           To discuss For social Other
             information   academic      personal   interaction
             on the        interests     problems
             subjects
             being
             studied
                                                                                          Pr
Corrected    51.04         38.81         3.49         4.54         2.44
                                                                               eferred
Percent
                                                                               medium of
                                                                               communic
                                                                               ation.
Most students (41.66%) preferred face-to-face interactions, followed by email (37.50%)
(see Table 3).
Table 3
                 Face-to-face email Webct Facebook I don‟t have any               No
                                                              preference          answer
Corrected         41.66            37.50 2.38      .60          17.86               .60
Percent

        Face-to-face interaction was preferred over other forms of communication
because it was seen as a clearer form of communication which allowed immediate
questions to be answered. It was an informal and a more interactive stream of
communication, which allowed students to get to know staff personally. One student also
reported that it helped practice her English skills, “This gives me opportunity to
communicate with Staff in English so that I can be more confident in my second
language. Besides, messages through e-mail, webct, or even notices, sometimes are
unclear”.
        Email was the second most preferred medium of communication since it was
more flexible and easier to use. Students used email to overcome their uneasiness and
embarrassment over potential mistakes from accent and language barriers inherent to
face-to-face communication. Using emails also allowed them to consolidate their
thoughts and think carefully about their questions. As one student reported, “I prefer
email because if I didn't understand the meaning of a word, I can check that in a
dictionary. Also, I haven't got used to OZ accent yet”.
        Students who were unsure of class consultation times and staff availability also
choose to use email, preferring its immediacy to face-to-face consultations, where staff
are often-times busy, “It's easier, I don't have to set an appointment with my lecturer just
to ask a question. I only approach them face to face when I need to discuss a
project/assignment/lab etc”.
        Problems and issues with interaction. Sixty-eight percent reported that they were
satisfied with the amount of interaction with staff. However, 26 percent were dissatisfied
with the quality and frequency of interaction and seven percent could not say because
they had not interacted with staff.
        Students reported barriers to communication, with staff availability being a major
issue amongst 35 percent of the students. Issues included always having to make an
appointment, unavailability of staff after class, too many students wanting to meet face-
                                            International Students‟ interactions with staff 8


to-face with the staff and clashes of student engagement with staff availability. As one
student stated, “it is very hard to coordinate activities at uni and staff's consult times”.
Staff not answering emails was also frustrating.
        Of those dissatisfied, 32 percent reported language and cultural barriers to
interaction. Students reported language barriers, such as accent barriers, sensitivity to
language weakness and being afraid to offend. As one student stated, “Sometimes, not
always, they tend to ignore what you are trying to ask if they don't understand. They
won't ask you to repeat to clarify”.
        Twenty-five percent of students stated staff approachability as an issue. For
example, one student commented that she was reluctant to interact “because of the way
some staff portray themself and how bluntly they speak”. Staff seeming uninterested or
portraying themselves to very busy impeded interactions. One student was unsure if it is
acceptable to approach staff members outside of the classroom.
Students’ Perceptions and Expectations of the Role of Academic Staff
Sixty nine percent of the students believe that staff have at least a partial responsibility
towards assisting International students.
        Interaction with staff helps them adjust to the new place and makes them feel
„welcome‟. As one student reasoned, “these interactions teach me many things about their
culture, the English language and generally, boost my self confidence”. Many appreciated
such interactions in helping them cope with stress from living independently in a new
place. As one student reported:
       Besides the language barrier for the most of us, being thrown into a foreign land
       to study for a course that might make or break your future is pretty stressful. and
       not to mention having to do all the household chores like cooking,washing &
       cleaning(if you're not staying at one of the colleges).
         Another reported, “International students may have other needs such as booking
flights to return home and it is appreciated if staff could consider such circumstances and
reply promptly”. Interaction with staff is also reported to help resolve language and
cultural barriers and make them less isolated. As one student reported:
       …afterall, the International students have traveled away from their country to
       seek an education and the staff are their only source of help. Plus, some students
       may encounter language barriers with the staff. Hence, I find that it's the staff and
       also the student's responsibility to resolve the matter.
Others viewed staff as social models, with responsibilities beyond the classroom. One
student remarked, “staff should be responsible for not only students' intellectual
development, but also their growing. It is because teachers do not only teach, they are the
social models”. Staff were viewed as being more equipped to deal with people from
different backgrounds, with greater exposure to other educational models. As one student
reported, “Lecturers should have more knowledge on other international course‟s
syllabus…that when we come to them about a problem they know where to start to help
us”. The remainder of students indicated that peers play an equally important role in
adapting to the environment.
        In terms of their expectations for interaction, 53 percent of students state that they
expect staff to be available more frequently. However 44 percent reported understanding
that staff may not be available due to other commitments. Seventy-five percent also
stated that they would like better quality interaction with staff.
                                           International Students‟ interactions with staff 9


Student Suggestions
Student suggestions focussed on strategies to deal with staff availability such as
increasing contact hours, having longer tutorial times or regular face-to-face consultation
times with the tutors or the head of departments. Pupils also indicated a frustration over
staff not checking their emails and replying promptly even in the initial stage of setting
up a consultation time. Students also suggested having more student-staff social events
such as sports, faculty dinner, outings or barbeques.
        Improving the current email network and establishing a communications network
between UWA staff and students on the internet was also suggested. One student
recommended “a form of messenger network can be set up for the campus, allowing only
students and staff of UWA to gain access. From there, students can seek help from staff
by "clicking" on them.”
        Students also stated that staff need to make themselves more approachable. As
one student commented, “from the start of the semester staff should encourage interaction
to make us feel they are more approachable”. Students suggested linking them with co-
national staff who may help them settle in.
        Students also focussed on improving tolerance and raising cultural and linguistic
awareness amongst staff. Students expressed a need for staff to be more patient during
interactions and ask to repeat if they do not understand. Students wanted to be treated
fairly by staff and not to be discriminated against. One student also mentioned that they
need be informed of their expectations from the staff members when interacting with
students:
       That would be better that they speak more slowly with international students and
       due to different cultures, I've felt sometimes they offend and expect us to treat in
       other way and in these situations they can let us know what they expect us and
       how they treat in the same situation in Australia.

                                            Discussion

Nature and Frequency
The study confirmed previous findings (Ananya & Cole, 2001) that students interact very
infrequently with staff outside the classroom, with more than 50 percent interacting once
a semester or almost never. The study also revealed that most students preferred face-to-
face interactions with staff, thus extending the research by Hee and Woodrow (2008)
where Korean students preferred face-to-face communication with peers. In contrast to
the suggestions of Hee and Woodrow (2008) that International students are reluctant to
engage in face-to-face interaction with staff out of respect for authority, this study found
that students preferred it because of its personal, informal and immediate nature. One
student even reported that such interactions with staff helped her practice her English
skills. In the context of the current study, preference for face-to-face communication may
not seem surprising, given that 51 percent of students are familiar with English as their
first language. These results suggest that university policies must work to ensure staff
availability and reasonable consultation times are in place for face-to-face interactions to
take place.
         Email was the second most preferred method of communication since it was an
easier, more flexible form of communication. Some students used email to overcome
difficulties with staff availability, while others used it to structure their questions and
overcome any difficulties that may arise through language and accent barriers from face-
to-face communication. Student recommendations advocated establishing a messenger
                                           International Students‟ interactions with staff
10
communications network on the internet exclusively for UWA staff and students, so
students could be given an opportunity to interact informally with staff.
        Consistent with previous research (Anaya and Cole, 2001; Fusani, 1994; Nadler
& Nadler, 2001), the study found that a majority of interactions (89.95%) with staff were
focussed on academic issues, with only seven percent of students engaging in
interpersonal or social interactions. This may suggest that students are unsure if it is
appropriate and expected of them to socialise with staff outside the classroom and may
envision academic interactions as the only form of appropriate interaction. This
suggestion helps resolve the discrepancy in past research, where International students
are reluctant to use faculty as sources of personal support (Li and Campbell, 2006) but
also expect more frequent academic interactions. Reluctance to engage with staff
socially is unsurprising given that many students in the study have recently graduated
from school, where social interactions with teachers are often not expected.
        In trying to integrate the social and academic aspects of university life, university
staff must inform students of the acceptability of social interaction and make themselves
more approachable. Increasing staff availability may also give rise to greater
opportunities for social interaction.
        In relation to the problems and issues students encountered in their interactions,
language and cultural issues surprisingly accounted for 32 percent of the responses, given
the vast literature dedicated to this issue (Burton & Zhang, 2007; Robertson et al., 2000).
A majority of responses focused on staff availability and staff approachability. This
suggests that researchers must move beyond classifying the differences between
International and local students and focus on common factors such as staff availability
and approachability that may affect both groups in different ways. When the language
and cultural barriers are considered alongside the absence of the staff availability and
approachability, this may contribute to a further sense of isolation for the international
students. Coincidently, students who were uncomfortable with their environment at
UWA, reported feeling alienated from the institute.
        While following previous recommendations (Li and Campbell, 2006; Hee and
Woodrow, 2008) that university services must help International students in adjusting to
the language and culture, the university must also train staff to be more approachable and
available to discuss issues with International students, especially given that 69 percent
believe that staff have at least partial responsibility in helping them adjust to the new
surroundings. This is especially valid when viewed in the context of previous findings (Li
& Campbell, 2001) where International students reported a lack of support from
academic staff who they expected to be more nurturing.
Students’ Expectations and Perceptions of Academic Staff
The results of the study indicate that students expect staff to be responsible in helping
them adjust to a new environment, thus helping clarify the discrepancy in the literature
(Khawaja & Dempsey, 2008; Gillete, 2005). Interactions with staff during the initial
stage of sojourn not only inform them of the local culture and language, but also help
them cope with the loneliness and stress of living independently. Students‟ dissatisfaction
with the level of faculty support at the QUT does not seem surprising, given the obvious
benefits of these interactions (Khawaja & Dempsey, 2008). Students‟ mention of staff as
„social models‟, further reinforces the idea that staff are expected to guide and nurture
students (Campbell & Li, 2008). This contrasts with the suggestions of Hee and
Woodrow (2008), where students maintained distance from staff out of respect for their
authority, indicating that the perceptions of Korean students cannot be generalised to the
International student population. Furthermore, the finding that students expect more
                                           International Students‟ interactions with staff
11
frequent interactions of better quality, strongly suggests that students view staff as role
models and resources for help, rather than authority figures that must be distanced.
 Student Suggestions
Given that very few students interacted frequently and that a majority of students report a
lack of staff availability and approachability as major impediments to interactions;
university policies must address these issues by expanding consultation times and
training staff to be more approachable. Students expect to interact academically with
faculty, believing them to have more exposure to other educational models. Students
suggest staff to be more patient and knowledgeable of the cultural and language barriers
that International students face, especially, given that these students (78%) alone initiate
the interactions. In extending the recommendation of Australian Universities Quality
Agency (AUQA) for UWA, it is important to introduce formalised cross-cultural
awareness training, for all staff, not just those teaching offshore. Students recommend
increasing contact hours, having longer tutorial times or regular face-to-face consultation
times with the tutors or the head of departments. Some suggest organising staff-student
activities such as sports, faculty dinner, outings or barbeques, although understanding that
staff may not be available due to other commitments.

                                         Conclusion

The findings of this current study extend previous research by incorporating student
expectations and suggestions while trying to view International students as integral
elements of the university structure. Such a view has allowed the current study to reveal
the difficulties and barriers that students face in interacting with staff, such as staff
availability and approachability, which may contribute to a sense of isolation amongst
International students.
        Future research must investigate if the lack of opportunities for interaction
contributes to a sense of isolation and whether students and staff deem it appropriate to
engage in interactions for personal and social purposes, as advocated by Pascerella and
Terenzini (1976). If students are informed of the appropriateness of social interaction
and staff are trained to be more approachable; then with increased consultation times, the
frequency and quality of interaction with staff will look promising. Despite this, 68
percent of students are satisfied with the frequency and quality of interaction, and the
recommendations and suggestions put forth in this paper, if implemented, can only seek
to improve the quality of education at UWA and attract the International student body to
invest in an excellent quality education where they feel they belong.

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