My name is Shyam Sharma, and this is my personal blog alongside a professional portfolio. Linked on top and left are portfolio pages, and on right are links to some of my professional networks. Blog posts are below, with the latest entry on top. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments through any of the venues. Thank you.
In this post, written for my department blog, I share a number of specific teaching tips for helping international students academically transition and succeed better/faster.
- – – – – – – – REPOSTED FROM RhetComp@StonyBrook – – – – – – – -
Part II: Specific Suggestions
In the first part of this post, I highlighted some general difficulties that international students face during their academic transition, focusing on the challenge of understanding/embracing new ideas, assumptions, and approaches about learning and teaching in a new academic system/culture. In this follow up entry, I list some specific suggestions for helping int’l students with their academic transition and success.
Encouraging International Students to Learn about the Big Picture Continue reading
Published in Republica on January 4, 2015
Freedom of Speech The title of an article in an American newspaper reads: “Last Week French Officials Stood Up for Offensive Speech. This Week They’re Arresting People for It.” The understandably complicated response of French government to the terrorist attack in Paris last month is an interesting case from which we can learn how seemingly universal principles and values—such as the “freedom of speech” in this case—are actually contingent on specific cultures and complex sociopolitical issues.
This is a reblog of a post that I wrote for RhetComp@StonyBrook, a blog that I started and facilitated for a year (2013-14) for the Program in Writing in Rhetoric at my university.
- – – – – – – – REPOSTED FROM RhetComp@StonyBrook – – – – – – -
Part I: The Big Picture
Moving from one academic context into another, including in the case of academic disciplines and even levels, can be challenging for any student. But transitioning from the educational culture of one country to that of another altogether can add a whole new set of difficulties. In this post, I would like to highlight how significantly difference in educational practices affect international students’ academic transition and success. Continue reading
“How many of you are ‘international’ students?” I asked one of my college writing classes the first day of semester some time ago.
About a third of the twenty or so students raised their hands, including some that were half-raised, so I paused to ask what that meant.
One student responded: “I was born here in the US but studied in Korea, and my English is not good.” Her father had been a scientist working in the US but the family decided to live back home after some time, eventually sending their daughter back for higher education. A second student had migrated to the US from the Caribbean while he was in middle school but he said he still had concerns about language fluency in general. Yet another student had come to the US more recently but was fluent in speech; instead he was worried about his writing skills. None of these students were on student visa status in the US.
At this point, two additional students decided to join the conversation, and one of them said, “I am NOT an international student but a lot of people think I am, because I ‘look like’ one.” Continue reading
In part I of this post, I discussed the difficulty of “defining” international students. A brief recap: because the word “international” is basically borrowed from the visa section of the International Center, it often means little or nothing when we want to use it for fine-tuning teaching (or for placement purposes). In this post, I describe one main strategy that I use for addressing the challenge.
When I gave up on the term “international” as a convenient way to figure out who needs catching up, I started designing a series of assignments that could help students identify their own challenges. The assignments allow students to study and make explicit the implicit assumptions and expectations of the course and academic work at large, to become aware of their weaknesses and their strengths, and finally, to write about the experiences and knowledge from their past. Such assignments also help students develop a metacognitive knowledge alongside the academic skills that they learn in order to succeed in the new system.
Before I discuss that pedagogical approach and activities and their benefits, however, let me quickly describe a research project that serves as a feedback loop to the pedagogy and helps me address the necessary but flawed logic of deficit, the persistent need to provide additional academic support to the stunningly diverse group of students called “international students.” Please skip to the “teaching section” below if you’re more interested in it.
Translating Success: The Research Project
This is a participatory action research that I started in spring 2013. Hosted at www.translatingsuccess.org, it is based on the idea that because “international” students are a very complex and diverse group of learners, they as individuals can best describe their needs, abilities, and progress. Continue reading
International graduate students accepted in US universities are arguably the best products of the academic systems in their home countries. However, when it comes to translating their prior academic success, these students still face an uphill battle.
Especially for students in the STEM fields, academic transition can be challenging because their academic disciplines and programs cannot afford the time and priority toward helping the students develop a broad enough range of academic and professional “soft” skills.
In this blog entry, I highlight some of the causes and consequences of academic and professional skills gap among international graduate students especially in STEM. Let me try to do so by using my personal experience of academic transition and my professional experience of working to support other international students navigate and succeed in the US academy. Continue reading
Since I made a trip to New York City to visit the SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (SUNY COIL) last week, I’ve been thinking about and trying to find and read any scholarship on how writing teachers in colleges/universities in the US incorporate the element of “global citizenship” (GC) into their teaching.
I knew that the concept of GC is defined and perceived in a wide variety of ways, including as a terrible idea (one that promotes world governance and undermines local cultures and values), as a proxy for imperialism and commercial globalization, as a fancy buzzword that is ultimately empty of practical use and meaning, as a useless ideal, and as a “chimerical idea” (as one professor called it when rejecting my proposal for a seminar paper in graduate school; maybe he saw that I hadn’t done enough research yet and thought that I couldn’t fully engage the complex debates surrounding the topic, or maybe he thought that I took the term at face value–whatever it was, he was the professor!).
But until this week, I didn’t know that there is actually a lot of scholarship in my own discipline that is more or less relevant to the topic. You know this is why I love my discipline, Composition and Rhetoric. The field is diverse, it is interdisciplinary, and if you start looking for resources, you find good ideas about almost anything. But I digress.
So, I went to New York City last week, and was inspired. Continue reading
The increasing distance between how we learn, work, and communicate in the world outside and how we do so in academe has many implications. One of them is that our current educational models may become less relevant and useful in preparing our students for the world/professions outside. Another one is that our students will continue to be educated on the basis of local models that fail to take advantage of ideas, people, and cultures/communities in the broader world. I will try to revisit the issues more extensively some time in the future.
In this post, I share some thoughts and reflections about the concept of “community as curriculum” as I am using it in a graduate course here in SUNY Stony Brook. I borrow the idea from David Cormier (some of you may know him as the person who gave the original MOOCs their name and continues to add truly inspiring intellectual substance to the idea of “open learning”). You can read more about the concept from Dave’s blog here and here.
I normally design courses using an idea as the framework, to undergird the assignments and objectives. In this case, I wanted to experiment a “from x to y” approach to implementing a good idea. Let me explain why after sharing a little about the course itself.
Read full post on the class blog here…
Published in Republica on Oct 29, 2014
The social condition where some people are expected to be “knowers” and others are not—which I call socio-epistemic structure—has drastically changed in our society today. Thanks to democratic revolutions, increased education, and most recently and perhaps most significantly, the rise of alternative social spaces where (seemingly) anyone can say what they like, Uncle Padams aren’t likely to be able to shut down twelve year olds (or others with less power/privilege in society for that matter) that easily anymore.
Unfortunately, as I argue in this piece, the disruption of the traditional socio-epistemic structure has not always translated into general productivity of knowledge, benefit to social institutions such as education, and the enhancement of social justice in areas such as gender equity and intercultural harmony.
Published in the Republica on Nov 20, 2014
Around fifteen years ago, “pharsi” started becoming “farsi” in the mouths of many Nepalis, particularly in the cities. Replacing the Nepali “ph” with the English “f” may sound more “modern,” but it is not only linguistically absurd, it can also be a symptom of an insidious social problem that I want to discuss in this article.
The process of borrowing, mixing, and developing new sounds, words, meanings, and perspectives are natural to any language (though it is sped up by globalization more than ever before). However, the attempts to “leave behind” what is natural and integral to a local language—and by implication, to thought processes, art forms, and knowledge-making—can also be counterproductive.