Teaching and Learning adaptation for International students: The case of international students in Sweden


  • Juan Negreira Montero
  • Ala Pazirandeh
  • Jingjing Zhang
  • Delphine Bard
  • Vahid Sohrabpour


Swedish higher education, international students, teaching and learning adaptation, sociocultural theory, cultural-­shock, academic-­shock


Many studies have been done on teaching and learning about Western and Eastern international students. Yet the learning practice of international students and the relevant teaching strategies in Sweden are seldom seen in research. This paper presents the experiences of international students in Sweden both from “culture shock” and “academic shock” perspectives, and links the results with teachers’ experiences based on a student survey and interviews with teachers. Sociocultural theory of learning is applied to understand this complex interaction and guides us towards a higher mutuallearning goal. The main challenges and perceived differences between international students and Swedish students were, for example, the knowledge transfer issue due to language barriers, and formality of teacher-­student relationships, among others. To face the challenges, the teachers have also taken some relevant measures, such as speaking plain English, frequent check on understanding, understand student backgrounds before teaching, and a suggestion to separate the class between international students and the local. The results show a two-­way adaptation model from both teachers and students. Yet a mutual learning goal has not been reached. Since the teachers still perceive the international students as the “bearer of problems”, rather than the “bearer of cultures”.