Enhancing Cultural and Linguistic Awareness Through an International Teaching Experience

Enhancing Cultural and Linguistic Awareness Through an International Teaching Experience

Barbara A. Bradley, Andrea Miller Emerson, Arsenio F. Silva
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6249-8.ch012
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The population of students in the United States is becoming increasingly diverse. At the same time, we live in highly interconnected global society with complex world problems. Thus, teachers need to prepare students to live and work collaboratively with people, locally and globally, from diverse background. Yet, how do in-service and preservice teachers support students if they have had limited experiences interacting with and understanding people from diverse backgrounds? This chapter describes a four-week summer study-abroad program in Italy, in which preservice teacher lived with a host family and observed and taught in an Italian school. It presents findings about what preservice teachers learned from (1) living with a host family, (2) observing in an Italian school, (3) becoming a culturally and linguistically diverse learner, and (4) teaching.
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The population of students in the United States (US) is becoming increasingly diverse (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). In addition, we live in a highly interconnected global society with complex world problems. Solving these problems will mean bringing together people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and working collaboratively toward creative solutions. For students to become part of these solutions, we need teachers who can serve culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students (Howard, 2003) and who can help all students develop the ability to understand, learn from, and work collaboratively with people from cultures different from their own (Suárez-Orozco & Sattin, 2007; Wang, Lin, Spalding, Odell, & Klecka, 2011). How do teachers support CLD students if they, themselves, have had limited experiences interacting with, understanding, and collaborating with people from different backgrounds?

Teacher educators must fully commit to the important work of preparing preservice teachers to engage with students and families who are different from themselves. Teacher education programs typically include coursework related to language, culture, diversity, equity, and, as possible, they provide preservice teachers with field experiences, internships, and/or student teaching in diverse settings. While these experiences are invaluable, intense first-hand experiences in a culture different from their own can provide pre-service teachers with additional insight into issues related to culture and language (Cushner, 2009). In fact, directly interacting with individuals in a foreign country creates opportunities for preservice teachers “to broaden their cultural knowledge, learn how others view the world from an insider’s perspective, develop a global perspective, and increase their understanding of the value of multicultural education” (Cushner, 2009, p. 158). Further, intense personal experiences in an international setting can create opportunities for preservice teachers to gain perspective through experiencing unexpected and uncomfortable situations. Teacher educators can guidance preservice teachers as they make strong connections to their teacher preparation coursework and teaching experiences in the US and consider how they might use their experiences abroad in their future teaching.

Overview of the Field Experience in Italy

This chapter describes a 4-week study abroad program in which preservice teachers engaged in a field experience in a town in Northern Italy. The students accepted into this study abroad experience were enrolled in a teacher education program and had previous field experience in schools. Prior to departure, they attended several meetings and completed readings and assignments. Throughout the duration of the program, preservice teachers stayed with and became a part of an Italian host family. In addition, based on their career goals, preservice teachers were placed in classrooms to work alongside Italian teachers and students from preschool to high school. To the best of their abilities considering language differences, preservice teachers observed and participated in class activities and taught English to Italian students. During the program, preservice teachers attended weekly group meetings and several whole group activities (e.g., visiting schools or museums). Finally, preservice teachers reflected on their experiences living abroad and working in schools by completing a blog or journal.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Host Family Placement: The placement of preservice teachers with a family in the host country to promote cultural understanding and exchange of ideas.

Preservice Teacher: A college student who is enrolled in a teacher preparation program in the United States in order to receive state licensure to teach specified grades and/or content areas.

Field Experience: Placement in a school setting so that preservice teacher can observe and teach in order to begin developing the knowledge, skills, and disposition to become an effective teacher.

Immersion: Living and possibly working or going to school in a country other than a person’s own.

Reflection: The act of looking back at one’s words, actions, and beliefs to consider ways to make improvement to one’s self.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Leaners: Students whose first language and culture is not the same as the dominant culture in which they live and attend school.

English Language Learners: Students who are learning to communicate in English and typically require modified instruction to learn English and the content.

School Placement: The placement of preservice teachers in a preschool, elementary, middle, or high school, based on their request, to observe and work to the best of their ability given the language differences, and to teach English to Italian students.

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