My name is Shyam Sharma, and this is my personal blog alongside a professional portfolio. Linked on top 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 will appreciate your comments on my blog posts, which cover issues such as international education and students, new media in writing studies, cross-cultural rhetoric and communication, and critical pedagogy (which can be filtered as themes/ categories from the right).
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/implementing 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 writing in particular and their academic transition and success in general.
Encouraging International Students to Learn about the Big Picture read full post…
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.
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. read full post…
Some time ago, while I was teaching a first-year writing course that only had international students, after a good class discussion about the importance of writing courses like that as a place to learn some of the fundamentals of American higher education, one student followed me to my office to say how inspired he was by the discussion. But then he added, with tears in his eyes, that he was dropping out of that summer course. After finding out how much the course would cost him during the summer term, he had talked to his parents in South Korea and decided to not take it.
Since the advent of what is called the “global turn” in Writing Studies, our scholarship, programs, and pedagogies have been increasingly focusing on internationalization as a critical educational goal of higher education that we are well positioned to help advance. This interest has manifested particularly in the discourse about multilingualism, translingualism, transnational writing research, and cross-cultural communicative competence. I strongly believe that, as writing teachers, we are an egalitarian, progressive, and sensitive community of scholars who appreciate what our students from around the world bring to our classrooms—how they continue to teach and inspire us—how all students benefit from the increasingly globalized classrooms. read full post…
When I taught the graduate-level writing in the disciplines (or “GWID,” as I call it) course last summer, which had a lot of nonnative English speaking (NNES) students, I faced a lot of conundrums. How much time should I allocate to help students with basic writing skills in an advanced writing course like that? Especially when NNES students seek help with their “language,” should I insist that they instead learn how to situate their writing at the advanced level and in their specialized research/scholarship? Should I challenge them to focus on higher-order issues in their writing even when they tell me that their advisors recommended/required the class to help them “fix” what are essentially lower-order concerns? Am I missing something because I am looking at things from my own discipline’s/profession’s perspective and failing to appreciate other points of view as much as mine?
– – – – – – – – REPOSTED FROM RhetComp@StonyBrook – – – – – – – – read full post…
After reading a new monthly issue of blog posts by a group of English teachers in Nepal earlier today, I had to get off my chest something that I’ve wanted to for a long time and pour it into a blog post. So, here it is, especially for friends and colleagues who have been told that you can’t produce good writing without perfect English or that good scholarship needs to meet a certain standard of quality and rigor and whatnot. The standards are usually local (often cast successfully as global and objective for a long time), they’re highly political (used for maintaining structures of privilege), and most of those who maintain the systems of privilege probably believe that it is all meritocratic (so, don’t be too upset with them!).
Scholarship and the Global Peripheries
The word “scholarship” brings to my mind another term, “scholar,” or a highly learned individual who writes to produce new knowledge, who publishes in prestigious venues, and whose ideas lead and shape his [yeah, I still can’t get rid of the male image in my mind] academic discipline. Growing up in one third world country (until high school) and then living and working in another (for more than a decade), I never considered anyone in those parts of the world as producers of new and significant knowledge in the academic fields that I studied.
In fact, I still struggle in my mind to think about regular teachers (especially those in the developing world) as scholars and writers in the same way as those whose manuscripts qualify among the five or ten percent of total submissions made to established journals in their respective fields at the few global centers. Deep in my mind, the ideas and experiences of people in the global peripheries—outside of the hallowed institutions of knowledge at geopolitical and cultural centers where there are more resources, opportunities, and the power to define what counts as significant—don’t seem to carry as much value, even for their own contexts, even for their own work and lives.
So, yes, I am confessing that I can’t help assuming that the work of the five or ten percent of those who get published at the global centers (and that now includes me), those who have doctoral degrees and are usually tenured at prestigious universities, those who have made it to the top of the professional ladders … best determine what counts as genuine scholarship. I automatically imagine that the extreme minority of seeming geniuses as the standard bearers of quality, novelty, substance, and significance with regard to content, method, and professional practice in any field. read full post…
rather political responses to the ongoing redistribution of economic and geopolitical power around the world …. Living in the US, a society where monolingual policies and assumptions are (understandably) prevalent in most walks of life, I was pleased to see the emerging appreciation of multilingualism because I think this will only have positive outcomes on local and global levels.
During the past year, I came across a lot of news items (including some based on scientific studies) about the benefits of multilingualism. There was so much on this issue that I sometimes wondered if the scientific and sociological studies were essentially a part of
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When I first learned about massive open online courses, the truly massive xMOOC types, I thought, OMG, now I too can finally educate the world from the convenience of my laptop and the high speed internet that I have. In fact, I had just bought a new MacBook Air at the time. And, being a writing teacher, I wanted to teach writing, because, you know, everyone in the world needs to “write better.” Perfect.
What I needed in order to get started was a course banner, especially an image that would represent the kind of writing that I teach, “academic” writing.
“Academics” has to do with wisely thinking through existing knowledge and generating new ideas, so I thought the best image to represent it would be, oh, yes, the “owl”!
However, before I settled on the owl and slapped a big wise owl image at the top of the screen, I wanted to take a quick moment to ensure that most (if not all) students/ participants from around the world would get my point when they see my course banner.
Five minutes of Googling led to another five, then an hour, and finally after three full hours of reading what I found about the owl as a symbol, I was discouraged. I lost my confidence in the power of my laptop, as well as my years of experience teaching while tethered to one particular context at a time. I sat there, face-in-palms, somewhat glad that I didn’t use a local metaphor to claim to convey a particular meaning universally. I was glad I knew how to Google.
read full post…
“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.” read full post…
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. read full post…