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Meeting the needs of international students in VET

A new book from ACER examines how educators in the vocational education and training sector adapt the curriculum and their teaching methods to meet the needs of international students.

More than four million international students, most of them from Asia, study overseas each year, the majority of them in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. While Australia is one of the big three providers of university education for international students, it also has a high percentage of international students enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) certificate or diploma courses, yet there is little research into the ways the curriculum and approaches to teaching can be tailored to meet the needs of international students in the VET sector.

A new book from ACER Press by Dr Ly Thi Tran, Teaching International Students in Vocational Education, helps to fill that research gap. Dr Tran’s book investigates the ways VET teachers, student coordinators and program managers adapt curriculum and teaching to meet the needs of international students enrolled in courses from cookery and carpentry to community welfare and accounting.

'The presence of international students in VET classrooms and their diverse learning characteristics have created new challenges, as well as possibilities, for teachers to transform their pedagogic practices and reshape the VET pedagogy landscape,' Dr Tran notes in the book.

According to Dr Tran, catering for the divergent study purposes of international students is an enormous challenge for teachers, particularly since many teachers are ‘learning on the job’ to develop effective practices to meet the divergent study purposes of students in an ad hoc rather than a systematic way.

'Effective approaches to teaching international students recognise and harness teaching and learning situations, by which not only international students but in fact all students can develop and enrich their “international” knowledge, skills and attributes,' Dr Tran notes.

'Many of these approaches focus on developing learners’ abilities to look at the broader issues in an intercultural context, to capitalise on their own intellectual resources and prior experiences, and to navigate and adapt vocational skills to different national contexts.'

Teaching International Students in Vocational Education addresses:

  • competency based training – addressing prescribed skills, knowledge and attributes to be attained by students
  • an intercultural approach – addressing skills, knowledge and attitudes in relation to students’ understanding of vocational practices in their home countries
  • a language and vocational learning integration approach – addressing effective language support to help international students to develop English language skills relevant to course-specific subject content
  • a perspective transformation approach – addressing a broader outlook to help international students to develop a global perspective on their profession and skills
  • a value-added approach – incorporating a developed understanding of the conceptual principles and disciplinary knowledge of the course, beyond minimum compliance
  • an interpersonal relations-focused approach – addressing respect for and valuing international students, and
  • work-based and experiential learning – addressing work-based training and work placements to provide ‘real-world’ learning for international VET students.

Writing in the book’s foreword, Dr Gavin Moodie, a Principal Policy Adviser at RMIT University, observes that a core goal of all tertiary education should be to develop students’ cosmopolitan capacity to think and act as transnational citizens and professionals.

'Because good pedagogy is not restricted to students in particular categories and does not stop at sectoral boundaries, this book contributes valuably to vocational and higher education teaching generally,' Dr Moodie writes. ■

Further information:
Teaching International Students in Vocational Education by Dr Ly Thi Tran is published by ACER Press. More information is available at the < ACER Shop Online >

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