International students’ mental health and their experience of higher education in Australia: Rethinking our modes of teaching to enable better learning outcomes for all students

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Conference Proceeding
Book of abstracts, 2018, pp. 20 - 20 (1)
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A 2016 Australian study of international students and mental health identified three broad dimensions to mental ill health amongst international students: adjusting to unfamiliar academic practices, managing everyday life in a different cultural context, and recognising and seeking professional help for mental health problems. In the 2016 QILT survey, international students rated their overall experience in the Australian higher education sector six points lower than their domestic peers, with learner engagement five points lower and teacher quality four points lower. There has been a discourse around teaching quality and student quality in discussions surrounding this issue, but the challenges international students experience in Australia goes well beyond the classroom. However, the pedagogical question arises as to what teaching staff can do to support the learning of international students from diverse backgrounds and with different learning needs. In this paper, we discuss the need to stop looking at the issue through a deficit model and look at the rich range of knowledge that we (and our classrooms) can gain from international students; many of them have been top performers in their home countries before they come here, but quickly get disheartened when they are stereotyped in a negative way, on top of all the culture shock and other adjustments they go through. Many are also struggling with other life issues as some landlords and employers exploit them also, for they are not always aware of their rights. The solutions go beyond just teachers and university support systems; we need to get domestic students on board in dealing with this issue, for the perceptions of domestic students play a big part in an international students’ dayto-day experience in the classroom. Part of the issue also lies with our Westernised, Australianfocused content and modalities in many of our subjects. Giving room for flexibility in content choice and assessment choice, but still within the scope of a subject’s learning outcomes has yielded positive results for some of us.
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