22 SES 11 C, Immigrants and Refugees: Intercultural Perspectives on teaching and learning
As many immigrant students make their way to universities in Europe, increasing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity brings new demands on tertiary institutions. This is also the case in Iceland. As adult immigrant students undergo the process of integration, they are faced with an additional challenge of becoming acquainted with the host country’s university culture. This requires raising awareness among university staff members of potential social and educational marginalization or exclusion of immigrant students and taking steps toward enhancing access and support for them (Anderson, 2008; Gundara, 2000; Rizvi & Lingard, 2010).
Research has indicated that immigrant students in universities in many cases have great ambitions and resilience in spite of educational and social obstacles (Gray, Rolph & Melamid, 1996; Owens & Lynch, 2012). However, an understanding of their diverse conditions is important in order to provide appropriate and culturally responsive teaching, services and consultation (Gay, 2000; Hertzberg, 2017). Engstrom and Tinto (2008) claim that access to education for minority students, including immigrant student without support is not opportunity. They note that it is the role of universities to facilitate the education of these students, by encouraging them to participate in different projects and activities on campus, provide purposeful consultation and peer support. Findings of other studies also indicate that such resources and solutions result in success for these students and other minority students (Crisp & Cruz, 2009; Engstrom & Tinto 2008; Wilson & Arendale, 2011).
This study is based on the research project Educational aspirations, opportunities and challenges for immigrants in university education in Iceland (2016-2018), funded by the Icelandic Research Fund (RANNÍS). The main purpose of the project is to study immigrant students’ aspirations, opportunities and challenges in three universities in Iceland. The project also aims to identify regulatory policies regarding immigrant students, as well as the kind of formal support available in the universities and how these students make use of the support which is provided.
The theoretical framework of the study is critical multicultural studies (Parekh, 2006) and culturally responsive adult education (Gay, 2010; Guy, 1999). This paper also draws on theories of self-directed learning (Knowles, 1989) in which learners are responsible for their own learning, through diagnosing their learning needs, setting their learning goals, identifying available resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes. A self-directed learner is defined as one who independently searches for new information (Avdal, 2013). Knowles´ (1984) principles of adult learning are also relevant to the study, i.e. that adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction; experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities; adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life; and adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.
The aim of the paper is to explore educational opportunities and challenges that immigrant students face in relation to self-direction and independence which is expected of them at the three Icelandic universities. How for example universities in Iceland, through flow of information, support and references help immigrant students become independent learners and accept responsibilities for their learning. The paper also sheds light on how students from different cultural background experience their self-directed learning, indicating the factors in the learning environment that encourage or impede the immigrant students’ self-directedness in their learning.
Qualitative data were gathered from focus group and individual interviews with 41 students currently or previously enrolled in an undergraduate programme in three largest universities in Iceland. The students were recruited through snowball sampling and reflect diversity in terms of gender, age, origin, heritage languages, number of years in Iceland and in the Icelandic school system, proficiency in their heritage language and Icelandic and socio-economic status. Interviews were conducted in Icelandic and English. Additonally, our data are derived from interviews with 16 staff members, including teachers, counsellors and representatives of administration from the same three universities. Data were analysed simultaneously through coding and thematic analysis was used to synthesize main findings (Braun & Clarke, 2013). Atlas.ti software was used as a tool to facilitate the coding and thematic analytical process.
The findings reveal diverse attitude of students and staff members towards students‘ self-direction and independence. While some of the participating students show their lack of knowledge toward the university system, language and teaching methods, others are more familiar with the system and they depend on themselves in actively seeking further assistance if they feel they need this. Staff members´ views toward immigrant students are also diverse, but they agree on the fact that students should hold responsibilites when they enter university and that the university environment facilitates self-directed learning. However, some of the participating students claimed that they felt insecure and that information was lacking in many aspects related to their studies. Furthermore, many of them reported that they did not know where they could seek assistance and support. The findings indicate that in order to respond to the growing diversity of students, universities in Iceland need to develop more flexible support services and provide necessary information in more visible and flexible ways. The findings have implications for tertiary institutions in Europe in addressing the diverse needs of growing number of immigrant students, specifically those experiencing difficulties from cultural and educational conflicts and mismatches. Accordingly, the authors recommend that educators be involved in designing learning and develop indiviualized learning environment based on the foundational model of andragogy and pedagogy (Pew, 2007) in order to empower these students in their new educational settings.
Anderson, J. A. (2008). Driving change through diversity and globalization: Transformative lead¬ership in the academy. Stirling, VA: Stylus. Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research: A practical guide for beginners. London: SAGE. Crisp, G. & Cruz, I. (2009). Mentoring college students: A critical review of the literature between 1990 and 2007. Research in Higher Education, 50, 525–545. Engstrom, C. & Tinto, V. (2008). Access without support is not opportunity. Change, 40(1), 46–50. Gay, G. (2010). Acting on beliefs in teacher education for cultural diversity. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1–2), 143–152. Gray, M. J., Rolph, E. S. & Melamid, E. (1996). Immigration and higher education: Institutional responses to changing demographics. Santa Monica, Ca: RAND. Gundara, J. S. (2000). Interculturalism, education and inclusion. London: Paul Chapman. Guy, T. C. (1999). Culture as context for adult education: The need for culturally relevant adult education. New directions for adult and continuing education, 82, 5–18. Hertzberg, F. (2017). Swedish career guidance counsellors’ recognition of newly arrived migrant students’ knowledge and educational strategies. Nordisk tidsskrift í veiledningspedagogikk, 1(2), 45–61. Knowles, M. (1984). The adult learner: A neglected species (3rd ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing. Owens, J. & Lynch, S. M. (2012). Black and Hispanic immigrants’ resilience against negative-ability racial stereotypes at selective colleges and universities in the United States. Sociology of Education, 85(4), 303–325. Parekh, B. (2006). Rethinking multiculturalism: Cultural diversity and political theory (2nd edition). London: Palgrave. Pew, S. (2007). Andragogy and pedagogy as foundational theory for student motivation in higher education. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 2(1), 14-25. Rizvi, F. & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing education policy. London: Routledge. Wilson, W. L. & Arendale, D. R. (2011). Peer educators in learning assistance programs: Best practices for new programs. New Directions for Student Services, 133, 41–53.
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