International Students and Grading CriteriaI teach college English courses, and many of my students each year are international students for whom English is a second anguage.  All international...

International Students and Grading Criteria

I teach college English courses, and many of my students each year are international students for whom English is a second anguage.  All international students are required to take Basic nglish before they can take Compostion and Western World Literature, both core requirements.  Once students demonstrate their language skills by successfully completing Basic English (passing with a minimum of a C), they are placed into Composition.

Once they are mainstreamed into the core requirements, they are held to the same guidelines, standards, and criteria as are all university students.  However, there are always international students who struggle to write what is known as Standard English, with proper syntax and verbage. 

How do other teachers here handle similar situations?  Even if there is a mandate that all students be graded using the same criteria, do you adapt for ESL students?  How do you manage that without the charge of, say, being too generous or lenient with them, or even worse, of passing them to the next class when their oeverall skills are below what the University expects?  I see this from both sides, quite honestly, though I do constantly worry about what is the best and the right thing for those students whose English is (shall I say) imperfect and whose writing is not up to University standards.  They are still learning, after all.

Any opinions or input will be greatly appreciated.

Expert Answers
engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here in Florida, home of the FCAT and other state-mandated train wrecks, we HAVE to modify and accomodate for international students using ESE and ESOL protocols. There are a bunch of different ways to do this (and I'm sure all of us are familar with them), but sometimes the teacher's best judgment can be the best tool in the box:

During one year at a charter school I taught at, I received in my class a new student directly from France. She was placed with lower-level students to begin with, but she hardly spoke a word of standard American English. Bearing that in mind, I translated the directions for her first few assignments into French, which I had had three years of from high school to college. After a few weeks, she had no need for the translation services any more, and when she encountered occasional difficulty on various assignments, she knew I could literally "speak her language." She eventually became one of the best students I had that year.

 I say all that to say this: We can't box all ESL students into the same little egg crate. Individualizing modifications and accomodations is very necessary, albeit time-consuming. It's worth the rewards in the end. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have taught ESOL classes on the college level as well as ENG 101 and 1o2 where many ESOL students are enrolled.  Most colleges which offer ESOL courses also offer writing tutoring for students like ESOL students who struggle with the basics.  I usually mark the papers once and explain it to them in office hours, and after that, I expect them to be on the ball.  Mistakes which are repeated cause point deductions...regardless of nationality.  Most of the ESOL students are conscientious enough that they will make use of writing tutors or peer tutors.  They should also come to your office hours if they are having trouble understanding the mistakes they make.  Otherwise, you can assume they understand your syllabus and standards and stick with it.  They are not lacking in intelligence...just language ability.  This is nothing a little extra time can't conquer. You might suggest pairing them with more capable learners in your class, but on the college level this may not work as well as on the high school level.  Good Luck!

ianthe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thank you, mrerick, for answering my post.  I suppose I should just continue as I have been: helping the students as much as possible and keeping the criteria the same for all students.  Even after a few years of teaching, though, I don't like to see students fail, even when it's of their doing (i.e., they stop coming to class and doing any work; they never have drafts for conferences, etc).  I want all students to succeed, but that is neither fair nor realistic I know.  The international students do struggle so much, though, that I really spend a lot of time thinking of how to help them.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It really depends on the school policy.  How to make fair policy is not my area.  I have sometimes been able to influence administration, but usually not.  When these students are your class, have them make the most of the opportunity rather than worry about grades.  It is not about the grades, it's about the learning.

At my school, students take French from grade K.  When a child transfers in, he or she gets tutored but gets no grade for awhile.  Obviously sometimes a grade needs to be assigned, but it is just for bookkeeping purposes.

mrerick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I often get foreign exchange students in my senior English class, which is mostly composition with some literature mixed in.  Those students have to be graded on the same scale as their peers as a part of their exchange program - grades have to stay up or they go home!  As seniors, I expect most of my students to spend a majority of their time on the research and development of their paper; these poor exchange students are still lost with small things like verb placement because of the language differences.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In our department, we also hold the same standards for all students, so for these students, they receive tutoring in your Learning Assistance Center with same-language tutors who have passed the course they are currently in with an "A" or a "B."  Working with other students who are ESL who've had success in that course helps these students who are struggling.  Also, I try to help them whenever possible, too.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I suppose teaching at the college level is different than teaching at the high school level. However, part of being a good teacher is using differentiated instruction to give each student the skills he or she needs to be successful. Administrators should realize that treating students the same is not the same as treating students fairly. Do what you feel is fair for you and your students.