Internationalisation is a current, socially relevant issue in various forums. Internationalisation is often linked to the development of Finnish society and therefore this term and concept can frequently be found on the pages of various international, national and local strategy documents.

In those documents, internationalisation is often described as a desired change process, where competence and expertise develop as the result of increased mobility and diversity. Internationalisation is also a part of Finland’s higher education and science policy as well as of universities’ strategies. Too often, however, it is manifested mainly just as the amount of student exchange periods or the number of foreign students studying in Finland.

What else then is internationalisation?

According to the strategy of the University of Jyväskylä, the enhancement of internationalisation competence is part of each student’s personal study plan. The goal is to offer our students diverse opportunities to include curricular elements in their studies to support their international competences, through which they would gain good skills for international cooperation. So, what kind of teaching enhances internationalisation competence?

At the Centre for Multilingual Academic Communication (Movi), we provide communication and language studies for nearly everyone studying at JYU: undergraduates, postgraduates and staff members.

These studies are designed to enhance students’ communication and language skills so they are able to act as experts in their field in international, multicultural and multilingual environments and networks. Hence, the students need versatile and multilingual communication skills as well as intercultural competences. In our view, these skills are at the heart of international competence.

To give our students better insight into what competence is concerned here, we have developed a pedagogically supportive assessment model to facilitate student’s multilingual and intercultural competences. In this model, assessment is a tool for learning – a tool for self- and peer-assessment that takes into account the contextual and culture-bound nature of interaction.

Our model for multilingual and intercultural communication skills has been elaborated and tested together with students since 2017. The assessment model is still being developed, but based on initial feedback, we can say that through the assessment students obtain a picture of continuously developing competence that can be advanced in different settings and contexts. A student commented that completing the assessment is time consuming and challenging, but that through making it, the student could perceive and consider various areas and dimensions of such competence. Above all, the student wrote that they now understand how learning can continue throughout one’s life.

In addition to the assessment model, we are currently designing new kinds of study modules for a number of subjects and departments. These new modules aim at enhancing students’ internationalisation competence.

We have also prepared a website for supervisors, students and staff members that offers support material for instruction related to internationalization as well as for the needs of competence assessment. With this website, we also wish to highlight that internationalisation is a situated and contextual phenomenon. It is about more than exchanges or foreign students on campus but also encounters, learning new things, and may at times include some anxiety and prejudice as well. Internationalisation calls for appropriate capabilities, skills and tools. The capabilities and tools chosen for the website will be supplemented during spring 2020, when their functionality will be piloted in collaboration with faculties.

Lotta Kokkonen, Teija Natri and Juha Jalkanen
Centre for Multilingual Academic Communication

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