Pedagogy and International Students

I thought I would write this week about the extraordinary growth over the past generation in the number of international students attending North American universities, the pedagogical challenges this growth has presented—and about one aspect of the latest edition of our Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose that represents a response to these challenges.

Thirty years ago EAL* students represented at most a tiny minority at any North American university, and it was possible to provide international students with special help in ways that their sheer numbers often make impossible today—when it’s not uncommon for half the students enrolled in a first-year class to be international students.

When it comes to reading many of the sorts of texts that are taught in North American universities, language itself is not the only challenge to understanding for international students; lack of familiarity with cultural reference points presents challenges too. Phrases such as “Middle America” or “in drag” or “X factor” likely require no glossing for the student who has gone through school in Chicago or Calgary—and glossing all such references would in some cases make for quite a cluttered page. Yet these terms and many others like them may well seem obscure or confusing to a student who has recently arrived in North America for the first time.

For this latest edition of The Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose we’ve responded to this dichotomy by doing something that so far as I’m aware is unprecedented: we have provided two sets of notes. Within the bound book itself the reader will find annotations that aim to help explain words or phrases likely to be unfamiliar to any first-year student; on the anthology’s companion website, students will find a set of additional notes—notes designed to be of particular help to EAL students and/or students who have little familiarity with North American culture. (They may be of help as well to some students who have grown up entirely in North America; every student of course arrives at university with a different background.) Words and phrases for which additional notes are provided are marked in the anthology with a small asterisk. The additional set of notes may be read online or printed out and kept handy as the student reads the relevant selection.

The latest edition of The Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose is I think a remarkable book in a number of other ways too. But those other ways are I suspect of interest only to those who might be interested in adding an anthology of non-fiction prose to their first-year reading lists.** The practice of providing an additional set of notes online, on the other hand, seems to me something that academics (and publishers) may want to explore in a variety of contexts. I’ll be very interested to hear your comments—and to see if the practice becomes at all widespread.

All the best to you,


* It is a measure of the degree to which English-speaking North Americans are unaccustomed to learning other languages that “ESL” (English as a Second Language) and “For Multilingual Writers” are the headings most often used when material of this sort of being covered. We prefer the term “EAL” (English as an Additional Language)—a term that that does not presume all native English speakers to be unilingual, and also a term that allows for the possibility that someone learning English may already know several other languages.

**For those who are interested, The Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose, third edition(ISBN) 978-1-55481-333-9 was published in 2016, and The Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose, third Canadian edition (ISBN) 978-1-55481-346-9 is now at press and scheduled for August publication. If you’re teaching a relevant course and would like to see a copy of either one, you can request an examination copy through the product page. More information on requesting examination copies is available here.

Posted on August 2, 2017