Examining Cultures of Learning and Their Perceived Impact on The Learning of Culturally Diverse Students in A Graduate Course in Education

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Roumi Ilieva, Faculty of Education

Project team: Neha Arora, research assistant

Timeframe: May 2018 to June 2019

Funding: $5250

Course addressed: EDUC 824 – Seminar in Second Language Teaching

Final report: View Roumi Ilieva's final report (PDF)

Description: There have been recent calls to take into account “cultures of learning” when addressing the internationalization of higher education (Jin & Cortazzi, 2017). Gaining awareness of how cultural frameworks guide expectations and interpretations of teaching and learning environments, as well as classroom communication practices, reflects the need “to learn about, from, and with each other’s cultures of learning” (ibid., p. 241) in order to enhance learning opportunities in today’s globalized university settings. This study will inquire into how cultural assumptions about classroom activities, teaching, and learning impact the expectations and participation of graduate students from a range of cultural backgrounds enrolled in the Teaching English as an Additional Language (TEAL) Master’s program for international students at Simon Fraser University.

I am particularly interested in how the cross-cultural interactions they engage in as part of collaborative activities common in Canadian classrooms are viewed as supporting or constraining students’ perceived learning of the course content. I am also interested in finding out to what students might attribute any potential changes in their classroom participation, their expectations about optimal classroom environments, and their understandings of the concept of “cultures of learning”.


Jin, L. & Cortazzi, M. (2017) Practising cultures of learning in internationalising universities, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38(3), 237-250. doi: 10.1080/01434632.2015.1134548

Questions addressed:

  • What are students’ expectations of optimal classroom environments and are perceived “cultures of learning” impacting those?
  • How do classroom activities align with students’ expectations and what is their impact on class participation?
  • Are there changes in students’ assumptions about optimal classroom environments at the end of the course?
  • Have there been (positive or negative) changes in students’ participation in classroom activities and engagement with their classmates?
  • To what do students attribute any potential changes in their class participation, their expectations about optimal classroom environment, and their understandings of “cultures of learning”?

Knowledge sharing: I intend to present on my project in at least two venues, one would be the SFU Teaching and Learning Symposium and the other would be at a conference with a focus on the internationalization of higher education. I intend to collaborate with my RA Neha for the conference presentation as well as in preparing an academic publication based on this research.

Keywords: cultures of learning, cross-cultural interactions, international students, classroom participation