Integrating Study Abroad in Teacher Education: Enhancing the Curriculum

Integrating Study Abroad in Teacher Education: Enhancing the Curriculum

Yasemin Kırkgöz (Cukurova University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0169-5.ch024
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This chapter describes the design of an innovative ‘Study Abroad' curriculum to be integrated into teacher education departments. The curriculum is based upon the results of in-depth interviews administered to teacher candidates and/or practicing teachers of English following their return from a study abroad program. The curriculum is designed with a view to meeting the needs of prospective study abroad student teachers of English, and to address possible challenges that may result from their participation in such programs. The most innovative aspect of the curriculum is that it incorporates problem scenarios, and provides experiential hands-on practice. The curriculum comprises ten modules, each focused on a different topic. It is expected that the curriculum will enhance teacher educators' awareness of the contribution(s) study abroad makes to create global citizens, and increase teacher educators' knowledge about the learning needs of prospective study abroad student teachers.
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Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have begun to recognize the need to equip students with the skills necessary to cope with the complexities of an increasingly globalized world by implementing study abroad programs; a powerful educational tool for internationalizing the HE curriculum. Over the last few decades, the world has seen an increasing number of students traveling abroad for study. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that international student mobility worldwide reached 3.7 million in 2011, representing a 75% increase since 2000 (OECD, 2011). As a result, an increasing number of pre-service student teachers as well as practicing teachers of English have become interested in studying abroad. Study abroad programs, defined as education that occurs outside the participant’s home country, take various forms; exchange programs, internship and service-learning programs, direct enrollment programs, sponsored study abroad programs, special international student programs and summer study abroad programs, as long as these programs are directed to a significant degree by learning goals. As noted by Hopkins (1999),

Study abroad programs take many forms, but all share the characteristic that, by their very nature, they provide students with a healthy dose of experiential learning. Immersing oneself in another culture provides new opportunities for learning-by-doing, virtually twenty-four hours a day. (p. 36)

Substantial research has been produced purporting the advantages of studying abroad (e.g., Asaoka, 2009; Button et al., 2005; Dwyer, 2004a, Dwyer, 2004b; Goodwin & Nacht, 1988; Lassegard, 2013). Studies, generally, tend to focus on the generalized benefits, which include increased competitiveness in the global job market, foreign language proficiency, and intercultural knowledge and skills (Anderson et al., 2006; Dywer, 2004). Sutton and Rubin (2001) found that study abroad students acquire academic-based knowledge in the areas of world geography, cultural knowledge and global interdependence compared to those without this experience. Douglas and Jones-Rikkers (2001) reported that the study abroad experience results in increased level of ‘worldmindedness’, namely, the sense of belonging to humankind. Study abroad experiences expose students to different cultures, helping them to gain comprehensive understandings of global contexts and global citizenship (Linder & McGaha, 2013), facilitating ‘the individuals’ retaining intercultural understanding over a lifetime’ (Dywer, 2004, p. 151). Study abroad is widely considered an important opportunity to learn ‘intercultural competences’ through the first-hand experience of another culture (Davies & Pike, 2009; Skelly, 2009), and an appreciation for cultural differences.

The literature also suggests that students demonstrate significantly language fluency upon returning from an overseas sojourn (Freed, 1995; Stansfield, 1975), as well as higher proficiency in intercultural communication (Williams, 2005). Students who go abroad even for short periods are consistently reported returning with higher levels of confidence and self-efficacy in the foreign language, increased motivation for further study (Ingram, 2005), greater independence and maturity over the course of an international experience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Study Abroad: It is a program which enables students to attend a school or a program outside their country of residence and receive academic course credit related to their university major.

International Exchange Office: It is an office that is affiliated to universities that are involved in international exchange programs. Among its numerous functions are establishing academic cooperation with colleges and universities abroad and giving the necessary assistance to outgoing students and academic staff in their selection, placement, registration at the partner institutions.

Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA): This is a program offered by the Fulbright, in which the participant spends one year at an accredited institute of HE in US. FLTAs are expected to teach a foreign language and they can also take up some university courses. A Turkish native speaking English language teacher FLTA to US, for instance, is expected to teach Turkish as a foreign language in an American institute of HE, organized by Fulbright.

Work and Travel: It is a US program that offers students from other nationalities the experience to work along with local Americans. The program gives its participants a study abroad experience and through working the participants can cover their travel and other expenses.

Erasmus Student Exchange: It is an exchange program that enables students from European countries to study for part of their degree in another country. For example, under the ERASMUS exchange program a Turkish student in a teacher education program can study in an EU member country for the period or one or two academic terms provided he/he meets the requirements.

Scenario: The name, originating from a script used in film/television industry that contains details on the appearance of characters, scenes, and the sequence of episodes, is a picture of a phenomenon, sequence of events, or situation, such as that the individual is likely to encounter in the real life situation. It can be designed by the teacher based on certain assumptions with the aim of preparing students for the real life situations.

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