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A large part of my job is the creation of new teaching materials and methods. I enjoy it, but I'm noticing a few things:

  1. Some international students struggle with my material, not because of the content tested, but because of the context. As an example, if I write a large computer programming problem that requires students to understand, say, the workings of a large North American supermarket first, and then understand how to write a program for one, some international students take considerable extra time to understand what is being asked. Once they get it they can write the code very easily.

  2. I like to provide authentic examples as often as I can, and I feel that having information from non-North American sources would go a long way to provide a greater breadth of examples.

I'd like to foster relationships with educators around the world teaching similar things (math, programming, electric circuits, mainly). My hope is to better understand:

  1. How are instructional materials designed elsewhere in the world?
  2. What kinds of examples and methods can help my international students?
  3. How can I expose my North-American students to a more global way of solving problems

    I've reached out to a few universities but so far my strategy is to just send an email explaining my goals and wait. No one gets back to me.

What are some strategies I can use to start building these relationships? Are there any organizations/whatevers around that help with this sort of thing?

EDIT: I'm noticing some upvotes but not many solid answers (thanks to the one answerer though!). I feel that there might be some interest on this site for a discussion about exchanging information. If so, let me know in the comments. If there is enough interest I have no issue sharing my email address to get the conversation started offline.

  • When you write a large supermarket question then why mention a particular country or you could even have 4 questions with slightly different sets of data in different countries - then the method is the same - at least that’s how I do mine. – Solar Mike May 28 '18 at 13:24
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    @SolarMike Even without mentioning the country there could be unwritten assumptions that are difficult to detect if you do not know that they are assumptions. For a very simple example, I would have answered wrong the question "An apple is $1 and tax is 10%, how much tax do you pay" before coming to NA. Because the idea that the price displayed in the store is the pretax price was alien to me. In North American store the answer is 10¢, elsewhere it would be 9¢. It is not just a matter of not mentioning the country, it's a matter of unwritten assumptions. – user9646 May 28 '18 at 13:33
  • @NajibIdrissi one way you can deal with that is to state : make any assumptions used clear as part of your answer, and if I put your question in a quiz, I would accept either result as correct.... – Solar Mike May 28 '18 at 13:35
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    @SolarMike It is also extra difficulty for the students who may not realize what assumptions they are making. In such a test, you would not write "objects fall to the ground when you let go of them" in the assumption list, because you would consider that to be obvious. If a student forgets to write an assumption, the grader is more likely to understand the assumption if it corresponds to what the grader is used to. – user9646 May 28 '18 at 13:37
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    This discussion is exactly what I'm hoping for. Basically, it's not just about the questions themselves but about making assessments/learning materials that are universal if possible, and that can expose every student to a wider perspective. So yes, I'm sure I can re-write the supermarket questions to be more clear, but I'm hoping to bring a more global perspective to my questions in general – Michael Stachowsky May 28 '18 at 14:13
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I've reached out to a few universities but so far my strategy is to just send an email explaining my goals and wait. No one gets back to me.

Unfortunately, as other questions on this site attest to, this is probably to be expected. Especially if you reach out to "universities"; my guess is that you won't get help from them at an institutional level. But if you find individual people who share your interests, your chances might be better.

I would recommend starting at your own university. Many universities, at least in the US, have teaching and learning centers, or some variant. Their purpose is to support instructors who want to improve their own teaching. They might be able to answer some of your questions directly, or put you in touch with others who can.

If you go to conferences, I've found those to also be great places to discuss teaching.

You might look for instructional materials directly on the internet. Sometimes the instructors who created these will make them publicly available. (In math this is fairly common.) You can learn a lot by reading these directly, and the people who created them might be more likely to respond to cold e-mails. Perhaps not your big-picture questions, but they might be happy to answer questions about their course materials.

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