Understanding the educational impact of International students in U.S. campus internationalization

Gayle A. Woodruff1, Barbara J. Kappler2

1 University of Minnesota, 230 Heller Hall, 271-19th Ave S, Minnapolis MN 55455 USA
2 University of Minnesota, 190 Humphrey, 301-19th Ave S, Minneapolis MN 55455 USA

Unlike other countries, little research in the U.S. has focused on the educational impact that international students have in campus internationalization. Much focus has been on the challenges that international students face and the institutional structures needed to support those challenges. Our research premise is that international students add value to our campus. In our previous research (Yefanova, Woodruff, Kappler, & Johnstone, 2014), we examined focus group and interview responses from university instructors and students regarding the potential benefits of cross-national interactions by exploring the learning outcomes of both international and domestic students when they interact in the classroom in structured ways. One of our findings pointed to the importance of instructors shifting course design and pedagogical strategies in order to enhance learning for all students – domestic and international. For the second phase of our two-year research project we followed three instructors into the classroom to better understand their teaching philosophies and practices that included cross-national interaction.

Our paper explores the strategies that academic teaching staff and instructors use to facilitate cross-national interaction in the classroom, and the intentionality needed to design learning outcomes and teaching strategies that engage all students in the classroom.  We build upon foundational writing that highlights the importance of pedagogical aspects of curriculum internationalization (Leask, 2009), and the value that international students have in the learning environment (Mestenhauser, 2011, Lee et al, 2014).  We turn to Australian models of teaching and learning (Arkoudis et al 2010, Biggs 2006, and Sanderson 2006) to provide a framework for understanding the educational environment in our classrooms where students can learn from each other.

Our paper concludes with the challenges faced by instructors who desire to internationalize their classrooms by increasing cross-national interactions between students, and we recommend strategies for instructors to consider in designing their class content and pedagogical methods.


Gayle A. Woodruff is the founding director of curriculum and campus internationalization, University of Minnesota. She provides leadership for initiatives aimed at faculty development, campus internationalization, and the evaluation and assessment of internationalization. Previously she directed Minnesota’s study abroad curriculum integration initiative. Gayle has published on numerous topics in international education, served as the faculty mentor for the Minnesota Studies in International Development program to Ecuador, and is the recipient of the University of Minnesota’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.
Gayle served as the chair for the Teaching, Learning, & Scholarship Knowledge Community of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Barbara Kappler, Ph.D., is the Assistant Dean of International Student & Scholar Services in the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance. Barbara holds a B.A. in both Economics and Communication and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Speech Communication. She has 25 years of experience in intercultural communication, program management, teaching, and research. Barbara is also a member of the Graduate Faculty and serves on graduate committees in the department of with the College of Education and Human Development.

Dr. Kappler previously served as Associate Director of ISSS and was responsible for Intercultural Training and Programs, including intercultural communication training. Barbara is co-author of three guides for students, staff, and language instructors on “Maximizing Study Abroad,” as well as a book on communication styles. Her career at the University has been an exciting blend of program and leadership experiences, curriculum development, international communication research, teaching, and working with international students.