Case Study of a Sustained Educator Partnership between the U.S. and Norway

Case Study of a Sustained Educator Partnership between the U.S. and Norway

David C. Virtue (University of South Carolina, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1057-4.ch002
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This chapter describes an ongoing international partnership that involves the exchange of Norwegian secondary school teachers and U.S. college students with an overarching goal of promoting cultural understanding. The author implemented a descriptive, action research case study to document the background and history of the partnership, describe the key partners and their roles, outline the academic activities, discuss logistical and fiscal considerations, and address issues of sustainability and plans for the future. The author aims to provide a comprehensive narrative of the development and implementation of the partnership from its inception to provide a basis for improving and advancing the partnership in the future. The author also discusses lessons that may inform similar international collaborations.
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Teacher educators must create learning experiences that help pre- and in-service teachers develop intercultural skills, global competence, and diverse perspectives to combat the lack of diversity in the teaching force (Albert Shanker Institute, 2015; Sleeter, 2001). Study abroad experiences can internationalize the teacher education curriculum (Longview Foundation, 2008; Merryfield, 2000; Schneider, 2004) and help learners develop “worldmindedness” (Merryfield, Lo, Po, & Kasai, 2008). In addition, such programs can provide valuable intercultural immersion experiences in which students “have to grapple with being in the minority, do not necessarily know how to act, and are temporarily unable to retreat to the comfort of a culturally familiar setting (Sleeter, 2001, p. 97).

International student teaching placements hold great promise for promoting intercultural competence of educators (Cushner & Brennan, 2007; Kissock & Richardson, 2010), but such experiences are long in duration and not widely accessible to students at all institutions. Short-term study abroad programs and study tours, however, have become increasingly popular in all areas of higher education (Hulstrand, 2015), including education. While research suggests that long-term programs may be more beneficial for students, Dwyer (2004) found that short-term summer programs were nearly as effective as year-long and full-semester programs at influencing areas of students’ personal growth including self-confidence, maturity, and world view. Education students can benefit greatly from carefully designed, short-term study abroad programs that engage students in “direct, authentic cultural encounters and guided reflection upon those encounters” (Engle & Engle, 2003, p. 7).

While researchers have examined the outcomes of short-term study abroad programs for educators (Sharma, Phillion, & Malewski, 2011; Shiveley & Misco, 2015), few have documented practical aspects of program development in a rigorous, systematic way. Program developers must, for example, be careful not to over-schedule or over-work the students (Hulstrand, 2015) and to allow ample time and space for reflection (Sharma, Phillion, & Malewski, 2011). The course experiences—which may include classroom observations, lectures, and cultural events—must be academic and not touristic in purpose (Hulstrand, 2015). Costs must also be chief consideration for program developers. The Forum on Education Abroad State of the Field 2015 survey found that he top-ranked concern for respondents was program costs and rising costs (4.3/5.0, -0.2), and U.S. respondents identified the rising cost of participation as the top challenge to increasing the number of students participating in education abroad (The Forum on Education Abroad, 2016).

Since 2010, the University of South Carolina (USC) has been engaged in the professional development of Norwegian secondary school teachers through a series of study tours in South Carolina. The partnership has evolved from a study tour of the South for teachers from throughout Norway to a true reciprocal partnership between USC and the upper secondary schools in one district: the Romerike region of Akershus County. In-service teachers from Norway and preservice teachers from USC engage in short-term study abroad programs that involve classroom lectures and workshops, observations and interactive meetings in schools, visits to cultural and historic sites, and informal cultural immersion experiences.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Intercultural Competence: The ability to communicate and interact effectively and appropriately with people from different cultures.

Study Abroad: An academic experience for students that takes place in a country other than their own.

Worldmindedness: A term coined by Merryfield and colleagues (2008) that refers to a person’s disposition to think and care about how his or her actions and decisions affect and are affected by other people around the world.

Akershus: A county in southern Norway that borders Oslo and is the second most populated county in the country.

Romerike: A region in Akershus County, Norway.

Videregåendeskole: Upper secondary schools in Norway that offer academic and technical education to students.

Homestay: A housing arrangement in a private home for participants in a study abroad experience.

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