Creating a Studying Abroad Experience for Elementary Teacher Candidates: Considerations, Challenges, and Impact

Creating a Studying Abroad Experience for Elementary Teacher Candidates: Considerations, Challenges, and Impact

Audra Parker (George Mason University, USA), Kelley E. Webb (George Mason University, USA) and Eleanor Vernon Wilson (University of Virginia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1057-4.ch007
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Abstract

Study abroad experiences provide teacher candidates with opportunities to explore teaching and learning while immersed in diverse international and intercultural settings. International pre-service teaching experiences range from short trips to expose teacher candidates to diverse cultures to extensive internships in which teacher candidates complete their student teaching. In this chapter, the authors created a 4-week intensive field experience for teacher candidates and studied the key features of program design and implementation as well as the impact of participation on teacher candidates' professional development.
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Introduction

In teacher education, the role of field experiences in supporting teacher candidates’ professional growth cannot be understated. Teacher candidates often point to these “real world” experiences as having the most significant impact on their professional development, and individuals and professional groups have long advocated for field work to play a central role in teacher preparation (The Holmes Group, 1986; NCATE, 2010; Zeichner, 2010). This may be due in part to the fact that field experiences provide teacher candidates opportunities to “practice” teaching in scaffolded contexts with classroom teachers. Field experiences also provide an authentic context within which teacher candidates can grapple with perceptions of teaching and learning formed during their K-12 “apprenticeship of observation” (Lortie, 1975) in light of developing theoretical understandings of teaching from their college coursework. During these critical junctures, teacher candidates are able to explore and refine their existing and developing teacher identity.

Field experiences typically occur within teacher candidates’ own local or state context. As a result, learning to teach occurs in a context that is at a minimum familiar and most likely quite similar to that which they experienced as a student. The familiarity can serve to cement their existing beliefs since it often “worked for them” as students. However, opportunities for learning to teach in an international setting provide a unique opportunity for teacher candidates to simultaneously question and confirm their pre-existing presumptions of teaching and learning, while exposing them to diverse international and intercultural teaching and learning experiences in schools (Brindley, Quinn, & Morton, 2009). While existing literature suggests field experiences, even in their simplest form, are complex terrains for teacher candidates to navigate, the literature on impact of an international placement on teacher candidates’ professional development is less robust. One has to wonder if upsetting the cultural apple cart of teacher candidates might expand their notions of teaching, learning and working with diverse cultures (Cushner & Brennan, 2007; Marx & Moss, 2011).

Study abroad experiences, increasingly popular at colleges and universities in the United States, hold potential for enhancing teacher candidates’ worldview in the twenty-first century. Research on such programs suggests they are powerful educational tools, and participation often results in positive outcomes in terms of teacher candidates’ cultural sensitivity and acceptance of diversity (Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, 2005; Cushner, 2007). In teacher education, study abroad opportunities run the gamut from individual global internships to programmatic site-based field experiences in international locations (Brindley et al., 2009; Cushner & Mahon, 2002; Wilson, 2015). Researchers assert studying abroad provides a field context for teacher candidates to simultaneously question and confirm their pre-existing presumptions of teaching and learning, and exposes teacher candidates to diverse international and intercultural teaching and learning experiences in schools (Brindley et al., 2009). As such, there is increasing attention to the role study abroad experiences may play in developing teacher candidates’ empathy toward other cultures as well as in enhancing their understandings of culturally responsive pedagogies (Marx & Moss, 2011; Ochoa, 2010; Rodriguez, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professional Development Schools (PDS): A structure for building and maintaining partnerships between PK-12 schools and teacher preparation programs. The structure includes nine key tenets for guiding partnership development including mutually beneficial relationships, identification and formalization of stakeholder roles, and ongoing professional development for all participants.

Cultural Awareness: The knowledge of, understanding of and experiences with one’s own culture as well as others’ cultures that inform one’s ability to navigate new experiences.

Supervisor: A mentor, coach and/or evaluator for a teacher candidate during their field experiences or student teaching. Typically, supervisors are based at the university.

Student Teaching: The capstone experience in teacher preparation programs.

Field Experience: Placements that situate teacher candidates in ‘real world’ contexts in order to facilitate theory to practice connections. In teacher preparation, these typically occur in PK-12 schools.

Teacher Candidate: A preservice teacher enrolled in a teacher preparation program.

On-Site Translator: A knowledgeable other who supports interpretation of observations and experiences.

Teacher Preparation: Coursework and field work designed to formally prepare preservice teachers for careers in Pk-12 classrooms.

International Field Experience: Placements that situate teacher candidates in contexts outside of their home country in order to facilitate theory to practice connections. In teacher preparation, these typically occur in PK-12 schools.

International Context: An international setting, in our case, England, within which teacher candidates experience teaching and learning in ways that are different from the US.

Partnership: Mutually beneficial collaboration.

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