International School Teachers' Professional Development in Response to the Needs of Third Culture Kids in the Classroom

International School Teachers' Professional Development in Response to the Needs of Third Culture Kids in the Classroom

Margaret Carter (James Cook University, Australia) and Yvonne McNulty (Singapore Institute of Management University, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8632-8.ch076


This chapter draws on an exploratory qualitative study of 20 teaching staff at an international school in Singapore to examine the professional development needs of international school teachers in response to the needs of Third Culture Kids (TCKs). It explores what the needs of TCKs are, whether teachers at an international school in Singapore have the skills and competencies to be responsive to these needs, and where gaps in professional development for international schoolteachers may exist. Evidence shows that no professional development training in relation to TCKs is provided specific to the international context in which teachers are employed. Issues that are poorly addressed include staff induction, student transitions and identity issues, language support, pastoral care, and curriculum training. Findings contribute to the educational leadership and management of international schoolteachers by contextualizing professional development as a facet of organizational leadership.
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Third Culture Kids (Tcks)

Third Culture Kids are the children of parents who live in a foreign country for their work (Peterson & Plamondon, 2009). Such ‘work’ may include occupations in the military, diplomatic corps, mission field, non-profit sector, education, and international business. TCKs spend a significant portion of their developmental years (birth to 18 years of age) outside their parents’ culture (Pollock & Van Reken, 2009). Useem (1973) defines three cultures that TCKs inhabit. The first is a child’s country of origin and/or parental culture, of which they hold a passport but in which they may or may not have been born. The second culture is the host country in which a child is currently living. The third culture is the community within the second culture that a TCK most identifies with in terms of a shared lifestyle and meaning (e.g., an expatriate compound or an international school). The TCK experience is marked by the continual process of living in and among different cultures, which Pollock and van Reken (2009) argue ‘affects the deeper rather than the more superficial parts of [TCKs] personal or cultural being’.

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