Study Shock: How familiar are you with your international students’ pain points?

How well are your international students adapting to the tacit expectations of your learning and assessment processes? If you are actively targeting international students, you need to get a handle on your CIP (Culturally Inclusive Pedagogy)!

As part of my ongoing research into tacit knowledge, I recently came across a very interesting article concerning International Students. Maribel Blasco released a paper in 2015 entitled, Making the tacit explicit: rethinking culturally inclusive pedagogy in international student academic adaptation. She posits that, “ The data show how a major source of confusion for these students has to do with the tacit logics and expectations that shape how the formal steps of the learning cycle are understood and enacted locally, notably how learning and assessment moments are defined and related to one another.” (P. 86) This resonated with my times as the Dean of a business college in Vancouver, Canada that catered exclusively to international students, as well as my subsequent work around the globe.

“Theoretically, the article draws on tacit knowledge and sense-making theories to analyse student narratives of their encounter with the Danish system for inclusion from the learner to the educational institution.” (p. 86) Students coming from different countries, each with it’s own unique approach to learning and assessment, may never be able to fully grasp your institutions processes, rules, culture, etc. from a general student manual. Thus the concept of CIP (Culturally Inclusive Pedagogy). Which means an institution needs to consider a number of educational dichotomies:

  • rote learning vs critical thinking
  • extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation
  • power distance and high/low uncertainty avoidance
  • democratic vs authoritarian teaching

How many of these concepts have you considered when composing a student manual?

course cycle

Learning Cycle Cognitive Dissonance: Pain Point Examples
In 2008 I was one of the founders of Canadian College in Vancouver, BC. As there was a sister ESL school, the college made use of the same marketing channels and 95% of the students were international students.   Having worked with international students the previous 5 years in various capacities, I thought I had a good handle being able to set up the college to minimize the kind of cognitive dissonance mentioned in this article. Reality check! About 2/3 of the way through the first semester I had to completely rewrite the student manual along with a number of course and institutional documents for the following reasons:

Prepping for Class
Article: The research found that International Students from certain countries had trouble coming to grips with the fact that pre-reading was not monitored, nor was much of it on the exam.

My experience was similar. Students from Western Europe understood pre-reading was necessary for class discussion. Students from Eastern Europe were more familiar with scanning the textbook, then post-class reading important sections. North Asian students did little pre-reading, and my Saudi students had the computer read to them from the digital PDF books we were using.

During Class
The article refers to a number of students coming from countries where questioning a teacher was strongly discouraged and thus were uncomfortable with the informal almost peer-like relationship of the teachers in Denmark and even distrusted this arrangement feeling like it could work against them.

My experience with students from Eastern Europe and Russia was similar. It took many of them quite a while to not only questions some of the comments coming from teachers, but giving their opinion. Students from Latin American countries loved lively group work, but it took North Asian students a while to not only participate, but to see how these activities greatly added to what their learning moments.

The article mentions that certain international students had trouble completing self-directed assignments and projects that led to student stress and poor grades. There even seemed to be quite a bit of confusion about assignment weighting.

I had Russian students that were used to only oral exams, Asian students who had issues with plagiarism (even though it was thoroughly explained), and many others that had real troubles with the critical thinking behind short case studies of exam essay questions.

The article concludes with a series of possible questions to ask at specific times in the learning cycle in order to extricate the tacit assumptions being made. However at this point, I am curious how readers would answer the following question. If you were producing a piece of software, whom would you prefer to write the technical manual or online guide? An SME who wrote the program, OR someone familiar with the software specifications but who takes a ‘users’ perspective? The major problem with having someone too close to a project (software, course, game, app) write the user (student) manual is that they make many unconscious assumptions about prior knowledge of a step of process, which makes it difficult to see from a variety of perspectives. Quite often it is much easier for a pair of ‘fresh eyes’ to see what those too close to the process can’t.


So again I ask, how familiar are you with your international students’ pain points?



Based on the concepts of this article and my own experiences, I have developed a three-phase process to help institutions uncover their tacit assumptions with regards to learning and assessments. Other than having a pair of experienced ‘fresh eyes’, why else might you consider this form of audit?

The ROI is pretty obvious:
-Greater retention rates
-Increased completion rates
-Increased student success rates
Any or all three can lead to increased financial growth, more word-of-mouth referrals, better marketing stories, and a potential for more institutional partnerships.

Feel free to contact me to discuss what a TK audit at your institution would look like.


Hey HR, I am more than a ‘check BOX’

Hey HR, I am more than a ‘check box’

I understand the need for screening and comparing at scale, but here’s the thing… I am more than a little confused by some observations I have made from a number of posts here on LinkedIn. There are some glaring contradictory messages between inspirational quotes that get massive ‘likes’, company JD buzzwords and what happens in the real world.

Confusing messages:
“Be bold”
“Follow your dreams”
“Failure produces wisdom”
“Visionary leader”
“Out-of-the-box thinking”

I am sure the messaging from the likes of Branson, Musk, Emerson, Einstein, Drucker, (add your own inspiration here) and even a recent Accenture (Fortune favors the bold) post are not on the minds of the entry level clerk or algorithm that does initial vetting. Furthermore, most great successes have had some failure along the way, how does that figure into the screening process? (And please, don’t BS me with all the hype about predictive modeling as the new face of HR.)

Research shows that team diversity makes an organization stronger and more competitive, yet many JDs seem to be carbon copies of others, even from within the same organization. Could this be a contributing factor why so many industries are facing diversity issues?

Confusing CV migration software:
I can’t be the only one who is frustrated to the nth degree by the useless process of trying to make my life (via CV) fit into a predetermined set of boxes. In the past few months I have attempted ti use migration software on both small and huge company portals.  BUT I have yet to find one that even remotely works with a basic resume, let alone a detailed CV with 10 years of freelance Training/Consulting smack dab in the middle of my career. The results are hilarious at best, and absurd at worst. I eventually realized it is much easier to cut & paste the basic information, which of course is a mere shadow on one’s real abilities.

Hey IBM, if the great and powerful Watson can beat a chess master, why can’t it develop a CV migration software that actually works?
Hey HR Directors, if coders around the globe can meet and eventually agree on a standard for HTML5, why can’t HR departments collaborate on a better software.


ConfusiHR check boxng Comparison Process:
If HR is so focused on comparing apples to apples, what happens if someone is an out-of-the-box cumquat or visionary sirloin steak? The point is, the vast majority of the people whose lives inspire us, never fit into a check BOX.


So after a quick scan of my CV, (and a peek at my contact’s profiles) I realize:

  • Having diverse experiences, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Out-of-the-box thinking, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Wisdom learned the ‘hard way’, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Overcoming major challenges, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Freelancing, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Being truly innovative, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Having worked in multiple countries, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Challenging the status quo, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Being adept at seeing what others can’t, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Tacit knowledge, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!
  • Indirect learning, doesn’t fit into a check BOX!

Either drop all the buzzwords and speak plainly about what is really needed, OR create much better systems and processes, because I, (along with millions of others) don’t fit into a check BOX!

Final thought: Maybe Drucker was right, and it is time to completely rethink how we assess talent. (Or let talent assess themselves?)


Education Myths…#12

Myth #12 (of 12): ADDIE is outdated

There has been some lively discussion recently in LinkedIn concerning the best curriculum design method for today’s fast paced world. So perhaps its time to rethink the role of content in teaching and learning. A fresh perspective on this problem includes thinking about our role as faculty and that of our students, as well as reconsidering the nature of curriculum design. (Monahan, 2015)

As an ISD (Instructional System Designer) I personally am still a big proponent of ADDIE (see my approach below) and have nothing negative to say against others using other systems given their circumstances. Use what works for you and gets the results you need.

However, I realize confusion abounds about ADDIE given many people only utilize the Instructional Designer components: ‘DDI’ or ADDIE light. Meaning, I do take issue with those who attack a proven concept based on misuse or misunderstanding.

There are three main ADDIE phases that, for a variety of well meaning reasons, many leave out: Assessment, Evaluation, and most importantly, the ‘prototyping’ aspect of Development phase. This blog will address all three.

Assessment of Needs
Conducting Needs Analysis: Is it Really Important?  by Arshavskiy (2016) is a very interesting post from a couple of weeks ago. Her premise is that “Good instructional designers must be able to recognize the ultimate reason the training is needed and seamlessly help the clients select the most appropriate training modality.” Obviously written from a corporate training perspective, but she is accurate in her statement. Moreover, she begins the article by hinting that the contracting body (company, institution, etc) already knows what the needs are. Here I fear is the great mistake many make: an over reliance of 3rd party needs assessment information.

There are a million reports that highlight what skills new grads need for the workplace. However, each new grad cohort is unique so why not just quickly double check to see what is really needed with a specific group. Furthermore, big consulting companies are making a killing generating global and country specific education needs reports that are wholeheartedly accepted by education officials. With all the sweeping comments about groups of learners, I wonder what happened to the ‘I’ in ILP? (see Myth #7)

Developing & Prototyping
I was recently involved with a HUGE project in a Middle East country that would make the ultimate case study for how NOT to bring Western education into foreign countries. At one point I asked the top people at the Skills Standards group why this project was never prototyped. “Jeff, there just wasn’t time.” was the answer. Sorry, but when a government dedicates USD $1 Billion for a new education initiative, you make time to prototype! If a company wants to try a unique training procedure across all divisions, you make time to prototype! If a university wants to deliver old content in a very radical way, you make time to prototype.

Tech & startup companies are all about fast prototyping. Build fast and break fast is the motto. Educators need to feel free to prototype lessons/courses/programs that can be overhauled as they are delivered, WITHOUT retribution from governing bodies. Surely this is a better model than suffering through many inspections with poor grades and told to make changes ‘or else!’

A course /program evaluation has three perspectives: course level; institution level; and the regulatory level. Given that regulatory bodies around the globe are so diverse and different I will only concern myself with the first two.

There is a group in the US that has started to do some interesting things with surveys to measure what tests alone can’t. They are using surveys to analyse data to generate a number of ‘data driven aha moments’ providing insights about teachers, content and students. They created a framework with four attributes: growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management and social awareness. (Kamenetz, 2015) Not only does this seem to dovetail with what employers want, it also supports Kim’s (2015) notion that, “If personalized learning is to become the dominant paradigm for education in the U.S., more school districts are going to need to follow their path independently, via broader cultural change.”

Final Thought: Should not any course/program/institution be ultimately ‘judged’ against whether participants are progressing in their Individual learning journey? (Luckily my current research is working on such a process. Stay tuned!)




Education Myths….#1   Education Myths….#2   Education Myths….#3

Education Myths….#4   Education Myths….#5   Education Myths….#6

Education Myths….#7   Education Myths….#8   Education Myths….#9

Education Myths….#10  Education Myths….#11  Education Myths….#12

Education Myths…#11

Myth #11 (of 12): Bloom is no longer relevant

Any organization, teacher, trainer or instructor who focuses on ‘noun’ objectives (see myth #10) can’t help but only focus on the cognitive domain. However, if you only focus on the cognitive domain, learners may have trouble in finding value in the material that is being covered. “In spite of the wide acceptance of Bloom’s taxonomy, educators have largely ignored the affective domain, focusing instead on the cognitive.” (Bolin, 2005)  “What is the ‘value’ in learning this information/skill?” “Why are we studying this?” “How is it relevant to my situation?” Whether stated in class, or with colleagues at lunch, or with family at night, these statements resonate around the globe.

The reason most young people (certainly in the West) want to get a license is – for freedom. To go driving in your own car (or borrow the parents car if still at home) is a huge step in independence. Therefore, the affective goal of getting a license is to feel independent and seen as a pseudo right-of-passage to growing up. The socio-motor goal is to drive safely (usually to keep tickets and insurance costs low), thus the need to learn to drive in various conditions and terrains. The cognitive goal is to pass the test. But the cognitive needs the affective for motivation and the socio-motor to pass the practical aspects of the test. Whether you realize it or not, we utilize all three domains in our personal lives here in the 21st Century.

21st Century Bloom: A few years ago I decided to delve into Bloom and see what the recent literature had to say. They all had some interesting ideas and a few researchers had developed updated versions. Instead of having to choose a version of Bloom to fit my situation, I decided to compile all the versions into one table per domain.(bloom DOMAIN+TABLES) This document consists of three pages – one table for each domain – but uses some of the newer terminology to describe each level. Too simplify things, I used different color text in the tables that corresponds with the source citation at the bottom of each page.

I then proceeded to generate a few ‘training’ videos on how to best utilize these tables when planning course/lesson outcomes. I selected the topic of ‘giving a presentation’ as these skills are needed across all education systems and require a heavy does of all three domains. Given that outcomes are the core reason for the existence of any lesson/course/program, writing them should take the most time and effort.

Final Thought: From Sandy Welton (link to discussion)
-If you tell someone how to do something, does this mean they know it?
-If you show someone how to do something, does this mean they can do it?
-If someone knows how to do something, does this mean they will do it?


Education Myths….#1   Education Myths….#2   Education Myths….#3

Education Myths….#4   Education Myths….#5   Education Myths….#6

Education Myths….#7   Education Myths….#8   Education Myths….#9

Education Myths….#10  Education Myths….#11  Education Myths….#12

Education Myths…#10

Myth #10: Learning is a noun

Learning is an action verb: To learn
Education is a noun.

This distinction between ‘education’ and ‘to learn’ also makes me wonder if we need a brief discussion about Objectives vs. Outcomes. Many may think this is just a matter of semantics, but it is more about underlying philosophical mindset. Look at the table below to see what I mean:

Only focusing on objectives (as defined in the table) can’t help but produce a noun experience for students. However, a lesson/course/program focused on authentic (real life) outcomes will facilitate students to learn.

In a very interesting article, Why business leaders need to take on the education revolution, Gray (2015), makes the statement, “…in today’s system, we ‘learn’ and after this we ‘do’.” In the context of the article, “’learn’” is referring acquiring cognitive information and after completing education, we “’do’” or apply that information.

Think about this: If you have ever driven a standard (stick shift) car or truck, I want to you pause reading this blog, take a few minutes to think, and imagine you are trying to explain to someone – just verbally explain – how to use a stick shift. Should be easy, right? I once did a class on writing instructions and asked students to explain the steps in tying a shoelace, without any graphics.

One of the rougher sides of any sport has nothing to do with physicality, but ability to be better. ‘What have you done for me lately’ is common theme in life for the 21st century. Whether in life, school or work, learning is an active process. “…in the workplace of the 21st century, what you know is still important, but what you can learn is just as vital a metric for success.” (kim, 2015)  The ability to continually learn and adapt is a key commodity in modern life. Though both the UK and US education systems are in the throws of reform, what can the average teacher/instructor adapt now?  How about assessments!

Weimer (2015) has a unique take on a better utilization of rubrics. I think rubrics have value if teachers use them to get students past what the teacher wants to what criteria make papers, projects and performance excellent.” Her article also discusses the benefits of having students co-create the rubrics. Spangler (2015) takes this one step further by having students take responsibility to curate evidence of their own learning. “Flipped instruction personalizes education by ‘redirecting attention away from the teacher and putting attention on the learner and learning.’

Final thought: “Today’s global economy increasingly rewards creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and collaboration.” (Kim, 2015)


Education Myths….#1     Education Myths….#2    Education Myths….#3

Education Myths….#4    Education Myths….#5    Education Myths….#6

Education Myths….#7    Education Myths….#8    Education Myths….#9

Education Myths….#10   Education Myths….#11  Education Myths….#12