Top tips for the intercultural class room

This year students nominated Kai Hockerts for the Best Teacher Award and it sparked dialogue with teachers and students alike, because some students felt Kai’s approach would have made an even bigger impact if applied during the first semester. Here are some of the top tips for addressing the challenges particular to the SDC intercultural class room.


Scenario 1: Only the same few students participate in class discussion and I want everyone to join in.

Let them discuss with the person next to them or in small groups for 2 minutes, before you open up for a class debate.

Some students need a little time to reflect, especially in the first semester where many are getting used to having classes in English while others are just too damn shy to raise that hand.


Scenario 2: I don’t get any response when I ask “any questions?” even though I sense the students didn’t fully understand the complexities.

Turn it around. Before your lecture or introduction to particularly tricky content tell the students that at any time you might point to any student in the room and ask them to explain to everyone what you just said and then remind them that they should feel free to interrupt if something is unclear to them.

This way all students are incited to be active listeners. In China it is not considered good form to interrupt the teacher and ask questions during a class, the Chinese students take a while getting used to the new class room culture, this method helps them get into the new habit of asking questions.


Scenario 3: The Chinese and International students cluster according to nationality and I need them to mix.

Make it a rule that students always sit next to someone of a different nationality than their own.

This only works if you enforce it! Before the class starts, remind the students of the rule and have them switch seats.

An added advantage is that it is always fast and easy to create mixed groups of 2-6 on the spot.


Scenario 4: The students seem unprepared, I am not convinced they’ve read anything before class.

Upload your readings as early as possible.

Guide their reading with 3- 5 questions.

If you have a lot of readings, consider dividing them into compulsory and recommended readings or divide them between groups beforehand, each group in charge of explaining a text. If you find it conducive for your teaching sessions, let the students discuss the texts in groups before class.

The students are expected to read for class, but the work load and number of classes is larger than they are used to, so it requires planning. The Chinese students also work for their Chinese supervisor and can be given work from them with very short notice. Also, some read English texts in a slower pace, especially in the beginning. So the earlier you can upload the better!


Scenario 5: A lot of Danish and Chinese is spoken in the class room, and I want them to stick to English.

Introduce the 1 yuan penalty cup. No two students of same nationality are allowed to speak in their native tongue with each other. If an international student speaks Chinese or a Chinese student speaks Danish, they are allowed to do that, free of charge! The money collected in the cup goes to a charity or a social event together.

Remember it only works if you enforce it! Kai did so with great success…


Finally, if you have top tips to share of your own or get stuck with a problem, let us know!