Abstract: U.S. College Students Learning Experiences with Foreign-Born Faculty Who Speak with "Accents" (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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U.S. College Students Learning Experiences with Foreign-Born Faculty Who Speak with "Accents"

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sung-Ju Kim, PhD, Assistant professor, NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Soonok An, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC
Maura Nsonwu, PhD, Professor, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Sharon Morrison, PhD, Professor, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Background and Purpose: Despite the contemporary merits of valuing diversity and inclusion in higher education and the emphasis of cultural competency in helping service curricula, we know little about how diversity among faculty members has contributed to college students’ education. This study examined U.S. college students’ learning experiences with foreign-born faculty. This study also explored college students’ socio-demographic characteristics associated with their perceived impact of learning from a foreign-born faculty member on their understanding of human diversity and their learning process and outcome.

Methods: We collected data through a cross-sectional online survey of college students (N=539) who were enrolled in three state universities in the Southeastern U.S.A. We purposefully recruited students in social work, nursing, public health, and/or psychology programs who completed the survey between September 2019 and March 2020. We used a modified instrument with measures designed by Chang et al. (2014), Mamiseishivli & Lee (2018), and Yao et al. (2012).Dependent variables that indicate the students’ learning experiences with foreign-born faculty included students’ perception of 1) the faculty with accents; 2) self-growth in understanding individual diversity and differences; 3) faculty communication clarity; 4) faculty teaching competencies; 5) faculty approachability; 6) faculty supportiveness/responsiveness; and 7) their learning outcomes. Independent variables included students’ socio-demographic characteristics such as learning experiences with foreign-born faculty at the college level, the number of classes taken with foreign-born faculty, and students’ gender, nativity, and citizenship. We perform descriptive and inferential statistical analysis using SPSS software to highlight college students’ socio-demographic characteristics and explore associations between college students’ socio-demographic characteristics and the perceived impact of learning from a foreign-born faculty with an accent on student understanding of human diversity, their learning process and outcomes.

Results: More than 90 percent of the students reported that they had taken classes with a foreign-born faculty during their college education. Students took an average of 2.5 classes with foreign-born faculty. Students who were instructed by foreign-born faculty, compared to students who did not have this learning experience, were more likely to present positive attitudes toward their learning experiences with foreign-born instructors regarding the level of engagement with students, communication clarity, teaching competencies, approachability, and supportiveness demonstrated by foreign-born faculty (p< 0.5). Students who had taken multiple classes with foreign-born faculty were more likely to be positive in all of the seven variables of learning experiences (p<0.5). On the other hand, there were no statistically significant differences in other socio-demographic characteristics.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings suggest that, unlike students’ innate characteristics such as gender and citizenship, they acquired positive learning experiences in taking classes and personally interacting with foreign-born faculty. The findings reveal that faculty diversity and inclusion in higher education, particularly in disciplines of human services, should be further promoted as positive learning experiences for students. Future studies could examine the influence of foreign-born faculty upon social work students’ learning outcomes in developing their cultural competency.