Pedagogical interventions to motivate students

A series of pedagogical interventions were conducted in two English- medium instruction (EMI) courses at University A (Gender Studies and Cultural Studies) to enhance students’ comprehension of the lectures and to enhance their motivation by fulfilling the three psychological needs (i.e., the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness) of self-determination theory (SDT). The pedagogical interventions were of various types and were employed at different times throughout the course. They included assigning students to small groups with international students, utilizing online discussion forums and providing a preparatory session for the final exam. One Japanese professor in area studies taught both courses in which the interventions were employed. She was willing to collaborate with me because she knew the importance of faculty development in pedagogy, particularly in classrooms with diverse needs. She was also aware of Japanese students’ lower pass rates and performances compared to the international students in EMI. Each course comprised 14 classes and a final exam over a period of seven weeks (see Table 5.1 for an overview of the series of pedagogical interventions). A quantitative study in Gender Studies and a qualitative study in both Gender Studies and Cultural Studies were conducted to examine the impact of the pedagogical interventions. This chapter describes the pedagogical interventions first and reports the quantitative study to examine the impacts of the interventions.

My role in Gender Studies and Cultural Studies was a combination of English teacher/ researcher. I observed more than half the course and helped students when they had a hard time following the lectures. On the other hand, I told the students I was not going to be involved in grading. I planned and conducted the series of pedagogical interventions, but the lesson plans were completely made by the EMI disciplinary instructor.

In the beginning, the EMI disciplinary instructor was concerned about the international students’ reactions. She predicted that some of them might feel it was unfair if they thought that only the Japanese students would be getting extra help. To proactively address this issue, the pedagogical interventions involved everyone in the class, including international students. In addition, the objectives of the series of the pedagogical interventions and the details were explained in the syllabi, as well as orally at the beginning of each course. Consequently, the international students made no complaints related to the pedagogical interventions.

The pedagogical interventions from the perspective of SDT

Fulfilling the need for autonomy is critical in educational contexts (Reeve, 2002). It can be achieved by understanding the classroom from the students’ perspective. This means that any interventions that involve listening to students’ accounts and acting upon their opinions are already autonomously supportive to some degree. With the theoretical background discussed in Chapter 2 in mind, the following measures were implemented in both the Gender Studies and Cultural Studies courses to help fulfill the need for autonomy.

  • (1) /l/i orientation for the interventions. The orientation lasted about 10 minutes and was presented in a lecture-style format. It explained the aims of the series of pedagogical interventions and how they would help deepen learning for all the students, not just Japanese students. Sharing how the pedagogical interventions were valuable for learning helped everyone see its significance.
  • (2) A student course-evaluation session. After the midterm exam during lesson seven, the EMI disciplinary instructor left the classroom. Then, the students, the TAs, and I discussed what the students liked about the course and things they wanted the EMI disciplinary instructor to change. Afterward, the TAs and I shared some of the most frequent suggestions with the disciplinary instructor. The purpose of this session was to create a space where students could express their doubts or negative feelings about the course without external pressure.
  • (3) /l/i online discussion forum in English. Students were welcome to ask any questions, give recommendations for the course and share what they knew about the course content at any time. To encourage them to post their comments and to promote their interest in the content, I expressed my appreciation to the students by replying to most of the comments individually. Furthermore, I shared some supplemental websites. Again, the goal was to create a community for the students where they could be honest with their opinions and emotions, even negative ones. In addition, my contact information was on the syllabus so that they could contact me (in either Japanese or English) at any time. I set it up this way because I thought that some students might prefer to share their thoughts privately.
  • (4) Online discussion forums in Japanese. In Cultural Studies, online discussion forums in Japanese were created. In Gender Studies, online discussion forums in Japanese were not utilized, and there were only a few students who posted their comments there. It indicated that a little more scaffolding should be provided. Thus, aiming to help them practice posting their comments without a language barrier, online discussions forums in Japanese were offered in Cultural Studies. In the online discussion forums, students were asked to share their anxieties and worries as well as things they could not follow during the lectures. I stated that comments not directly related to the content were also welcome (e.g., communication problems with classmates, concerns about one’s English). This was intended to boost the need for autonomy as well as to satisfy the need for relatedness, which will be discussed later in this chapter.
 
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