20 SES 09, International Students' Experiences: Key factors in higher education
Paper/Ignite Talk Session
Currently, sociocultural diversity becomes a key focus in the classroom processes, including language learning. This research examines the commonalities and differences in the formation of intrinsic motivation of local and international students based on their socio-cultural background and the impact of their motivation on their studies. The sample consisted of 107 students of Foreign Languages Department in Kazan Federal University (56% Russians, 44% foreign). Our research describes the psychological process in interaction with social and cultural environment and may serve as a tool for teachers to support developmental strategies. Findings aim to increase intercultural understanding between international students and foreign language teachers as well as to improve university policies that address students’ needs. Foreign students acquire values of the new sociocultural environment, they have to establish both social contacts, overcome a language barrier and integrate with the new society. Their success in educational activity has to do with the social environment of higher institution and stimulate their intellectual activity. Sociocultural adaptation is considered to be one of the main conditions which accompanies the stress which international students experience at their coming into new life and thus it forms their motivation. Motivation that initiates and sustains behavior is one of the most significant components of learning in any environment. These basic theories include the theory of integrative motivation introduced during the social-psychological period by R. Gardner and W. Lambert, attribution theory and its implications for task persistence and goal attainment as developed by B. Weiner, and the self-determination theory with its categories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation developed during the cognitive-situated period by E. Ryan and R. Deci. International students have higher values and educational motives at the initial stages of education (during their first two years of study). They are willing to master profession and obtain a diploma, so they develop quite dynamically. It is pertinent to point out that intrinsic motivation declines across the transition from junior to senior high school. In addition, identified, introjected and external motivation also declines over time. Motivation also remains as one substantial aspect that influences different stages of foreign language acquisition. Thus, language teaching should result in the students understanding the foreign culture and acquiring positive attitudes and acceptance to the speakers of the foreign language and their cultures.
The idea to sum up the experience and research the topic in the article came after we noticed a certain difference between the ways first-year students get motivated. Recently there have been many changes in the general conception of Russian universities, which due to globalization of studies naturally leads to having more international students all around the country. We also examined several other plausible predictors of culture shock and adaptation, to rule them out and to establish the singular importance of self-determined motivation.
The percentage of ethnic minorities among students of Kazan Federal University has grown rapidly lately. The difference between local and foreign students seems somehow very contrastive at some points. It also gives an idea of how different their concepts of life and studies are.
Although there is a huge research on the topic of socio-cultural impact on the formation of internal motivation of students, we still see the necessity to describe some peculiarities and possible differences of the process in a certain region of Russian Federation. The main aim of the research is to see what kind of diversity international and local students have in their motivational strategies. The main hypothesis is that international students from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan etc. tend to get motivated for active and successful studies more easily than those students living in the area.
The participants were first-year students of Foreign Languages Department of Elabuga Institute of Kazan Federal University (Russian Federation). The sample consisted of 107 students, aged between 18 and 20 (male – 37,4%; female – 62,6%; standard deviation – 0,9). The choice of age was not the result of random; it was based on the existent curriculum and the most obvious difference between first-year students (freshers). There were local and international students respectively. A qualitative case study paradigm was used in order to explore the motivational constructs and sociocultural aspects related to foreign students. The qualitative approach was chosen because of its focus on meaning as it is understood in the context of participants’ life experiences inside and outside of the auditorium. To clarify the motivation of the students in the classroom, the first part of the Rean technique was applied. Interviews and psychological questionnaires were used to understand the contrasts in internal goals for achievement in students, to rate importance and frequency of different motivational strategies. As the curriculum for first year-students comprises such topics as “Family. Relations”, “House and Home”, “Professions and occupations”, it helps a teacher know some information about ethnic and socioeconomic status of students they had prior to their student life. Each unit lasted for 6 weeks. The students were being questioned during their first year of study, all through the semesters (2017-2018). They usually had three special English conversational classes a week, which comprised a half of their six scheduled English lessons weekly. Most interviews were held right at the lessons when students answered questions about their family ways, made up dialogues and situations about what their life used to be before they went to university. As a result or each study unit, the teacher delivered a final diagnostic test, during which students had an individual talk with their tutor and were supposed to revise all the studied material answering a list of questions on the topic. Thus they gave their tutor a chance to sum up their experience and analyze it. Every such poll finds out how exactly and why their intrinsic motivation is formed. All answer sheets turned out to be relevant. The standard error was ±2%. Several theorists have posited the nature of family relations as explanatory factors in personal development and educational achievements.
Research work with 107 students of Kazan Federal University has shown that international students coming to study from different countries (Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan and Turkmenistan) tend to experience mental and even physical discomfort, which strengthens their general belief in achieving their goal. 63% of foreign students claim that they are home-sick and absence of relatives prevents them from focusing on formation of motivation , 14% of students complain that they lack their habitual way of life and conditions , and 23% of students can't formulate the exact reason. At the same time, 45% of local students consider that support of relatives and feeling at home allows them to feel motivated, 21% consider that an opportunity to lead their convenient life and normal conditions has direct influence on their motivation while 36% don't even try to examine the reasons for their motivation. Due to considerable differences in climate, geography, religion, national food, culture, customs, foreign students at fist feel very stressed about this change of sociocultural environment. Habitual communication is broken, they have to adapt to new external and internal conditions. Students from former Soviet republics (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) get shock and misunderstanding of what they see in Russia. Add to this opposition their previous low education level, weak preparation on profile disciplines and special school subjects, difference in forms and methods of training in the Russian higher education institution from forms and methods of training in high schools of their native land. University teachers should try to use this developmental strategy frequently and employ at lessons more tasks involving the idea of students’ future lifestyle. Motivated studies result in high-quality learning and conceptual understanding, as well as enhanced personal growth and adjustment. Cultural differences we defined may help to identify motivational vulnerabilities.
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