Navigating Diverse Landscapes: Investigating Experiences of Learning and Teaching in an International Higher Education Community
Much of the research that is conducted into the experiences of students and staff in international higher education communities leans towards a comparison of one specific group with another, usually the 'host' culture. There are very few studies that consider the grass roots experiences of students and staff in learning communities whose participants are drawn from several countries and cultures. The layers of complexity that are added by working with such a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and learning experiences are rarely peeled back to expose the differences. The students are grouped together and defined as 'international' or 'home' as though they were homogeneous groups. Their different perspectives and professional experience may be called upon as contributors to discussion but their immediate experience of the diversity in the group and their construction of their own identities as learners is rarely investigated. Even less common is a reflexive deconstruction of the identity(ies) of the academic tutor and her/his experience of facilitating learning and understanding in such a diverse group. This paper will draw on my in depth narrative research with several postgraduate students in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, UK to share some of the meanings that we ascribe to our experiences of this diverse learning community. Researching across cultures has been defined as 'messy'. I will aim to show how, by working with the messiness, that is the complexity and richness of our differences, and by interrogating my own 'whiteness', I am striving towards connection and understanding.
Keywords: International students, Narrative Research, Higher Education
Dr. Sheila Trahar
Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol