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AEI Surveys Faculty on ‘International Student Academic Needs,’ Responds to FAQs

A faculty survey created by UO’s American English Institute (AEI) explored the classroom implications of UO’s growing international student population. Distributed to all faculty in January by the Office of Communications, it garnered 223 responses representing 49 departments.

The AEI, a unit of more than 100 faculty within the Department of Linguistics, is charged with offering mandatory academic English courses to matriculated international students who meet the minimum Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score for admission, but require additional support and instruction.

“Our goal in distributing the survey was to gather information to inform the AEIS curriculum revision process to better meet the needs of our non-native English-speaking (NNS) international students. We wanted to find out what instructors do most in their classes, as well as what, if any, challenges they find their NNS students are having,” said AEI Associate Director Alison Evans.

With UO’s international enrollment at a record high (just under 3,000 students this academic year), the AEI, Office of International Affairs, and academic units are experimenting with new on-campus placement testing requirements and advising structures, and academic English courses directly linked to “content” courses within the disciplines–and all are attempting to gauge where to direct resources and effort to best serve students.

“The survey revealed the enormous time and energy our faculty are willing to devote to their students’ success, but also highlighted urgent concern among respondents about the low level of English language proficiency among many of their students. These results will be integral to a range of campus-wide conversations—we thank faculty for their time and insight.”

To answer common questions raised in the survey, Evans, Jennifer Rice, an AEI instructor, and TEP’s Lee Rumbarger have created the FAQ document below, filling in answers with assistance from several campus partners and other AEI faculty members.

1. What is the standard of English needed for non-native English speakers to enter UO? How does it compare to other institutions?

For UO admission, students must have a minimum score of 61 on the Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). This score is lower than schools in UO’s OUS-designated Association of American Universities peer group. For example, the University of Washington’s score is a 76 (which streams students into preparatory academic English courses); the University of California-Santa Barbara is an 80; Indiana University a 79; and UC Boulder a 75.

2. How are students with low TOEFL scores prepared to enter the curriculum?

Though they’ve been admitted to the university, students with a TOEFL score between 61 and 87 must take AEI’s academic English courses (called AEIS) during their first year. These courses focus on speaking and listening, reading, and writing in an American higher education context. (Course descriptions are here.) However, many students delay taking AEIS courses—even adding then dropping them to overcome registration holds. Instead, they retake the TOEFL in the hope of scoring an 88 and, thus, being exempted from AEIS requirements. Many are unsuccessful in this strategy and end up taking the test many times while delaying the instruction they need.

3. How are international students faring academically at UO?

Pretty well. The cohorts of international students who entered in Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 had an average first-year GPA of 2.99, slightly lower than their Oregonian (3.09) and domestic non-resident peers (3.06). That said, UO was more likely to retain these international students for their second year than either group of domestic students, according to “International Freshman Performance,” a study prepared by the Office of Enrollment Management. Continue reading AEI Surveys Faculty on ‘International Student Academic Needs,’ Responds to FAQs

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