Enhancing English language proficiency and empowering international students

A Connections Seminar

This seminar will share the strategies used by Associate Professor Mira Kim, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, and Dr Nirmani Wijenayake, Faculty of Science, to support and empower international students. Mira will share her experience and findings from the self-directed learning English course, Personalized English Language Enhancement (PELE), analysing the relationships between students’ confidence, self-efficacy and connection to the university and well-being. Nirmani will share three practical strategies used in her courses that develop students’ writing and groupwork skills to encourage sharing unique ideas and cultures within the classroom.


A holistic approach to enhance international students’ English language proficiency and well-being 

In this presentation, Mira will share her experiences and strategies to help engage and support international students based on an interdisciplinary study that aimed to improve students' language and communication skills at UNSW. The study assessed the impacts of a self-directed learning English course called Personalised English Language Enhancement (PELE) and compared the results of international students who did and did not take the course, analysing the relationships between students' confidence, self-efficacy, connection to the university and well-being. The study found that PELE benefited students on almost all variables measured. These findings suggest that PELE provides a holistic solution to aid international students in their studies, with important implications for educators and institutions seeking to enhance the language proficiency and well-being of international students. 


Three Strategies for Empowering International Students

In this presentation, Nirmani will discuss three specific strategies that she has incorporated into her general education course to support international students and encourage the sharing of unique ideas and cultures within the classroom. As many of Nirmani's students lack a background in science, her first strategy involves teaching them effective writing and studying skills for scientific disciplines. The next two strategies focus on providing opportunities for sharing cultural perspectives and building learning communities through group work. The goal of these strategies is to boost student confidence and foster greater engagement with the course material, leading to a more inclusive and rewarding learning environment for all. 


About the Speakers

Mira Kim headshot

Mira Kim is an Associate Professor in Translation and Interpreting Studies at the School of Humanities and Languages, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UNSW. Her research interests are divided into three categories: translation studies, Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and personalised autonomous language learning. The three main research fields are synergistically integrated, which empowers her to expand her research areas and share her knowledge beyond her boundary. For example, she undertook a research project entitled English Language Acquisition Support for International Students (ELASIS) funded by UNSW (SEF#2). Through the project, she developed a course called Personalised English Language Enhancement (PELE) to help students to enhance their English language skills. This credit-bearing course has been offered every semester since 2017 benefiting many students, international and domestic, across faculties at UNSW.  
Recently, she has published two books, Systemic Functional Linguistics and Translation Studies (2021) and Korean Grammar: A Systemic-Functional Approach (2023). 


Nirmani Wijenayake headshot

Dr Nirmani Wijenayake is an education-focused Senior Lecturer from the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW. With over 10 years of experience in higher education, she has taught and coordinated large undergraduate courses in biochemistry and cell biology. With a passion for promoting teamwork and collaboration, student well-being, project-based learning, and innovative technology, she has made a significant impact on promoting student engagement and learning. Nirmani won the UNSW Vice Chancellor’s teaching award for outstanding contribution to student learning in 2020 and is a Senior Fellow of the UK’s higher education academy. 



This event is a part of the Connections series, consisting of seminars and workshops that provide you with the opportunity to learn from your colleagues to inform your own teaching practice.