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Reimagining Conversations

Dr Victoria Odeniyi is a Research Fellow at the Decolonising Arts Institute.

The ‘Reimagining Conversations with Multilingual Students’ research project was developed to examine interaction with international students to raise awareness of the educational potential of the use of language.

Image of 2 paintings
Minimalist paintings by Mijung Jung, 2016 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Kristy Noble

The report outlines 6 key recommendations for higher education:

  • The multilingual backgrounds of students and tutors should be seen as a pedagogic resource and as a legitimate part of classroom and creative practice.
  • One way of navigating existing communication imbalances would be to recruit tutors whose language backgrounds are more closely aligned with the multilingual backgrounds of the students they teach.
  • Facilitating class talk online is time consuming and can demand new teaching and communication practices. Tutors can be supported more in developing active student participation in the curriculum and in classroom activities in this regard.
  • Systematic cross-institutional work engaging a broad range of staff would help to raise awareness and to develop greater understanding of the complex and dynamic needs of linguistically and culturally diverse international students with their distinct knowledge.
  • Develop an in-house survey equivalent to the NSS, constructed specifically with the experiences of all postgraduate and undergraduate students with international fee status in mind.
  • If conversations are to be reimagined to allow more contributions to be recognised and diverse voices heard, changes are needed to promote greater linguistic, epistemic, and culturally (more) open inclusion. In return, changes in practices informed by the project findings should benefit all students.
The arrival of ‘Reimagining Conversations’ is timely. It is a matter of urgency for us to carefully consider the educational package our institutions offer to the large numbers of multiethnic and multilingual students. The data-driven snapshots of teaching and learning activities reported by the author open up helpful spaces for productive questioning of our taken-for-granted educational values and pedagogic practices.

Professor Constant Leung Professor of Educational Linguistics, King’s College London

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