WERA-IRN Teacher Education Symposium: Learning to teach through teaching in other countries: How a network of teacher preparation programs have designed and implemented teaching practicum exchanges

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Abstract Summary

Learning to teach in globally competent and culturally responsive ways is one primary argument for the internationalization of teacher education (Longview Foundation, 2008; Merryfield, 2000; Schneider, 2003; Quezada, 2010).  There are many ways people have conceptualized what internationalization of teacher education means and looks like (see e.g., Brennan & Cleary, 2007; Cushner & Brennan, 2007; Mahon & Cushner, 2002; Mahon & Espinetti, 2007) but the crux of these ideas is that teachers need experiences with students from multiple cultures (see e.g, Cochran-Smith, 2001; Goodlad, 1990; Ladson-Billings 2001), experiences where they are a minority within a culture (Sleeter, 2001), and experiences with the resources and perspectives of peoples from different parts of the world. Few international experiences involve a significant period of supervised teaching in school settings. In this symposium, researchers from four countries—U.S.A, Singapore, Denmark & Switzerland—involved in a larger network of supervised teaching exchanges report on specific aspects of that “practicum exchange” experience. They will share the rationale each institution has for doing the exchange; how it is designed and why; what they design for the teacher candidates they host from other countries; and outcomes studied thus far. These researchers are part of a larger group of international researchers who are working together to study the design and the effects of the international practicum exchange within and across their contexts. 

Chairperson: Prof Tan Oon Seng
Centre Director, Centre for Research in Child Development
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University

Discussant: Prof Tan Oon Seng
Centre Director, Centre for Research in Child Development
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University

Symposium Entry 1: Learning to teach through teaching in other countries: The program in the United States 
Authors: Dr Tine Sloan
Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S.A.

This paper describes the design and rationale for the international teaching practicum exchange that this U.S. teacher preparation program engages in with four other countries. It also reports on a study that examined the ways this international teaching experience impacted the perspectives, pedagogies, and practices of the U.S. teacher candidates. Subjects were eleven preservice teachers who experienced teaching in Denmark, Switzerland or Singapore. The design of the exchange program is greatly enhanced by the close partnerships and annual meetings of faculty from the each country involved in the larger exchange. The design of the program, the activity with partners, and the results of the present study have important implications for designing preparation of teachers to meet 21st century demands of global competencies and culturally responsive pedagogy. It also has profound potential to change teacher candidates’ perspectives on the education they see in their own countries.

Symposium Entry 2: International teaching practicum facilitated by VIA University College
Authors: Dr Søren Iversen Hansen
Institution: VIA University College

This paper describes the design and the institutional and national rationale for the international teaching practicum programs and internationalization at VIA UC. It also briefly touches on other internationally related fieldwork activities that come close to the nature of practicums. It also provides TC and institutional perspectives on the international teaching practicum program and in addition to that a typology of TCs. Ensuring quality in the practicum program will be described as this is considered a priority in order to develop the program further. The process from the initial contact with the TC until the bachelor project/graduation and how the TC’s international professional experiences are applied at VIA UC is seen as a way to ensure a washback effect of the program. The evaluation process and the outcome of international teaching practicum are also areas that are considered important and at the same time challenging, examples of schemes and surveys will serve to demonstrate how these two areas are dealt with in order to “grasp” the outcome.  

Symposium Entry 3: When contrasts become inspiration: International practicum experiences by teacher candidates from Switzerland 
Authors: Prof. Esther Kamm; Dr. Carola Mantel (presenting)
Institution: University of Teacher Education Zug, Zugerbergstrasse 3, 6300 Zug

Student mobility and international experience become increasingly popular and loaded with expectations for rich learning opportunities. Teacher candidates are expected to learn by being exposed to different teaching styles, education systems and social surroundings. However, studies have shown that the potential for learning during study abroad is rarely fully exploited (e.g. Jackson & Oguro, 2018; Mitchell & Paras, 2018; Vande Berg, 2009). If we aim at supporting and optimising these experiences for the benefits of professionalised teaching, we need to gain further scientific evidence about the potential and limitations of study abroad experiences.

We therefore focus on the following research questions:

How do teacher candidates benefit from an international practicum experience?

What, how and from whom do they learn?

For this purpose, we conducted four group discussions with teacher candidates after their return from a four-week international practicum. The data is analysed with a hermeneutical approach that does not only allow insight into the explicit articulation of experience, but also into the implicit frameworks of orientation by the respondents (Bohnsack, 2010). Within this analytical process, theoretical framings are understood in terms of ‘sensitising concepts’ (Glaser, 1978) that come into play in a close conversation with the data. 

Our analysis has shown that learning as well as non-learning take place. Firstly, there is learning by dealing with contrasts which can be understood in terms of Piaget’s ‘assimilative learning’. Secondly, there is learning by dealing with challenges or disorienting dilemma resulting into new ways of thinking and change of attitude, which can be seen as Piaget’s ‘accomodative learning’ (Piaget & Inhelder, 1974; see also Mezirow, 2012). And finally, there are experiences of non-learning due to a lack of involvement or an overly challenging level of discomfort. Overall, a rich field of learning opportunities can be seen that provide a deeper understanding of how learning during study abroad can be supported.

Symposium Entry 4: Developing teachers with multiple perspectives: The international practicum/teaching assistantship programme at the National Institute of Education, Singapore

Author: Dr Alexius Chia 
Institution: National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Teaching is a complex ‘professional thinking activity’ (Calderhead, 1987) that requires teachers to assume a personal responsibility towards life-long learning, challenging personal assumptions, reflecting critically about their practice, and making informed decisions about teaching and the learning needs of their learners (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Tan, 2003). In order to develop this skill set and be effective practitioners in the 21st century classroom, student teachers have to acquire and possess a multiple-perspectival disposition. This mindset includes local values and practices gained through guided mentoring in school; and, importantly, a lived global experience. This broadened mindset will in time help build an enriched set of skills and dispositions to undertake teaching and learning in new and engaged ways. This presentation will describe a unique programme called international practicum/teaching assistantship – one in which NIE shares with 20 partner universities across the globe. It will explain how NIE’s Office of Teacher Education designs and manages this programme. And it will illustrate how the various platforms and opportunities created are able to facilitate student teachers’ international learning experiences.

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