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Is it enough to talk about the weather? Preparing future international graduates for effective workplace communication

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 11:30am – 12:00pm parallel session



Room 7 – 301-G053 Med Chem



Dr Jenny Mendieta
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Jenny Jones
University of Auckland, New Zealand



The student body in higher education institutions in New Zealand varies significantly in terms of language and cultural background and prior educational experience due to growing numbers of international students. Students may, for instance, have more confidence in their oral rather than written skills or vice versa. However, as theory and practice indicate, demonstrating adequate oral and written communicative ability is important for international students to thrive in their studies. Good communication skills are also often rated highly by employers as a key competency required by graduates. Accordingly, as Bernaschina and Smith note (2012, p5), entry-level students face two significant challenges: “becoming literate in the language of the university and their area of study; and also beginning to work on the skills and knowledge necessary for their future employment”. One skill that students are expected to develop, but which is not always explicitly taught at university, is how to communicate effectively in the workplace environment.

To address this issue and help international students understand how people interact in the work context in New Zealand, especially those students who use English as an additional language (EAL), Libraries and Learning Services from the University of Auckland has developed the Intercultural Communication workshop series. These workshops, grounded on the workplace research and resources developed by the Victoria University of Wellington, aim to introduce students to a range of speech functions (e.g., making small talk, refusing, disagreeing) that can often be high risk and face-threatening. The series seeks to raise students’ awareness of particular English language functions and New Zealand cultural practices so they can learn how to communicate effectively with potential employers and colleagues, and also with classmates and lecturers. In this presentation, we will outline the process involved in the development of the workshops, showcase the resources used, and discuss students’ initial responses to the initiative.



Bernaschina, P., & Smith, S. (2012). Embedded writing instruction in the first year curriculum. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 1-10.
Briguglio, C. & Watson, S. (2014). Embedding language development across the curriculum in higher education. A continuum of development support. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 37(1), p.67-74.
Arkoudis, S., Baik, C., Marginson, S. & Cassidy, E. (2012). Internationalising the student experience in Australian tertiary education: Developing criteria and indicators. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education. Retrieved from
Zevallos, Z. (2012). Context and outcomes of intercultural education amongst international students in Australia. Intercultural Education, 23(1), 41–49.


Presentation topic

Students – Future Graduates

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