I am a Masters graduate student studying finance at a large public university located in a major city. Recently, I accepted a job as a teaching assistant. A significant number of students are from non-western cultures, with East Asia being especially heavily represented(China, S.Korea, etc). In leading discussion,I have found communication to be a problem and I strongly sense it has cultural roots.
Encouraging participation through questions does not seem to help and the students seem to be painfully shy. I attempt discussion that builds upon the text, but the students seem to have trouble expressing themselves and finding their voice. I use mainly open ended questions with some close ended questions for clarification. At the very first session, I explained my expectations:
- Respect is crucial. While attacks on ideas are encouraged, personal attacks are inappropriate.
- Creativity of thought is encouraged
- That I am open to feedback about the students opinions.
- Acknowledge wish to speak by raising hand
I feel its important for students to have their own ideas and to actively engage in these smaller discussion sections as it applies the concepts taught in lecture. In addition, I want feedback regarding what I can do better and students' opinions are valuable.
Some relevant background
- English proficiency: Understandable but mediocre with accent
- Most present in the USA less than 1 year
- No family present in the US.
Coming from a western culture (USA), aside from leveraging the professor, what else can I do to improve the efficacy of these discussion groups?