Students in English 103 section 092 and two sections of Level 4 students of the Intensive English Institute had an unusual opportunity to work together on projects for one assignment for Fall 2010. Dr. Martha Payne instructed the English 103 students. The instructors for the IEI classes were Dr. Snea Thinsan, from Thailand, and Mr. Jonathan Pierrel from France.
English 103 students and students in IEI Level 4 Open topic met five times to discuss aspects of each other’s cultures. The students met in Library 104, a room large enough to accommodate all of the students and yet allow easy movement around the room. In addition to the students and their instructors, several visitors came to observe sessions: Dr. Yeno Matuka, English Department, Dr. Deborah McMillan, Assistant Director of the IEI, Darren Mills, Reference Librarian, and Dr. Charles Payne, Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity for Ball State.
The American students’ final essay was about an aspect of their international partners’ culture, for example, sports, education, urban myths, marriage, and religion. The international students’ essay concerned an aspect of American culture, for example, university life, and education.
Students from both groups enjoyed working with each other. Some American students noted that they would now like to learn even more about other cultures and perhaps travel overseas. (Kaylee Anacker, Adam Dick, Ryan Duffy, Vanessa Sepiol).
Other American students said that they have become friends with their partners. (Chandler Bateman, Josh Coleman). In fact, Josh even helped his partner, Mohemmed, look for a car.
John Haynes noted that he learned to appreciate “…how hard it would be to be thrown into a different country not knowing much of the native language.”
Joanne Weber found that the project “…taught [her] to be more open about other’s [sic] beliefs.”
Adam Kelly commented that the project “…helped tremendously with reinforcing the importance of research and interviews.”
Michael Farley said that he was interested to see that “…certain things in the U.S .… absolutely blew Jood’s [his partner’s] mind.”
Some of the international students also had comments.
Zhang Huiting said that the “…collaborative work…provided opportunities to communicate with native speakers.”
Doaa AlDani “learned about American history and certain American customs such as Thanksgiving.”
Afaf notes uncovering “… some of the concepts that have been misunderstood about the lifestyles in America.”
Both sets of students struggled at times to understand what each other was saying either because of getting used to English with an accent, or concepts unfamiliar to them. Nevertheless, both sets of students worked through their communication difficulties and learned some patience in the process.
Dr. Martha Payne is one of the Diversity Associates members for 2010-2011 and hopes to develop a similar assignment for Spring 2011.