Social Constructivism as a Theoretical Foundation of Cross-Cultural Mentoring for Foreign-Born Faculty

Social Constructivism as a Theoretical Foundation of Cross-Cultural Mentoring for Foreign-Born Faculty

Pi-Chi Han (National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9531-1.ch015


Globalization results in the diffusion of people across geographical boundaries. Over the past twenty years, the number of foreign-born faculty has continued to increase in American universities.. Foreign-born faculty represent a significant labor force in the global academic settings; they bring in diversity, new perspectives, and innovative skills wherever they teach. Research asserts that foreign-born faculty encounter huge cultural change that make their lives tremendously difficult in the host country. Furthermore, studies also suggest that cross-cultural mentoring may serve as a solution to help foreign-born faculty adapt to the host countries.. However, there has been a lack of theoretical justification to conceptualize cross-cultural mentoring. This chapter proposes the theory of social constructivism as the theoretical foundation and suggests an action-reflection practice to help the theory building inquiry and conceptualize cross-cultural mentorship for foreign-born faculty.
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The development of new ways of living in the world together is pivotal to further human progress; we must learn how to see things through the eyes of others and add their knowledge to our personal repertories (Chen & Starosta, 2008, p. 215).

Globalization results in the movement of people across geographical boundaries (Baruch, Budhwar, & Khatri, 2007; Giddens, 1991). In America, the immigrant labors have underscored the country’s economic success. The increase in globalization results in dramatic shifts and rapid changes in the United States' demographics in educational institutions and other workplaces. Richmond (1988) declares that there is a growing demand for importing highly qualified immigrant intellectual talents. In the United States (US), foreign-born academics are considered as "an invaluable asset for U.S. institutions of higher education in their internationalization and globalization endeavors" (Gahungu, 2011, p.3). The demand of foreign-born faculty is on the rise due to cultural pluralism in the US (Hser, 2005; Lin, Pearce, & Wang, 2009; Marvasti, 2005; Richmond, 1988). Notably, in the past 20 years, the number of foreign-born faculty has continued to grow steadily in American universities, making universities the most internationalized institutions (Kim, Twombly, & Wolf-Wendel, 2012). Altbach and Yudkevich (2017) assert that academicians' global mobility has become a signification phenomenon in the 21st-century.

According to the report of Open Doors 2017 Executive Summary, published by Institute of International Education (IIE, 2018a), there were 1,078,822 international students enrolling in U.S. higher educational institutions; the rate increased 3.4 percent increase from 2016 to 2017. The number of international scholars in the United States has increased from 115,098 in 2009-2010 to 134,379 in 2016-2017 (IIE, 2018b). Nearly 75 percent of foreign-born faculty originate from China, India, South Korea, and Germany; they concentrate their fields on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Additionally, foreign-born represent diverse educational and cultural resources that promote campus internationalization. In higher education, over one-third of the institutions include international education in their mission statements (Siaya & Hayward, 2003). In academic terms, internationalization can be interpreted as the transformation of campuses into more international-oriented institutions. This can be achieved through the implementation and integration of international elements into the curricula to increase international faculty on campus (Deardorff, 2004). As the result of the internationalization of higher education, increasing numbers of academics are taking overseas appointments (Altbach, 1996; Eastman & Smith, 1991; Han, 2008; Schermerhorn,1999; Welch, 1997).

When foreign-born faculty continuously increase their presence in American higher education, they also become an important research topic for facilitating internationalized higher education. They enrich students’ learning experiences, intercultural learning opportunities, and add diversity to campus life. In addition, they also contribute to local, state, and national economies significantly (Hser, 2005). McDowell and Singell (2000) concluded that foreign-born faculty are more productive in scholarly activities than their native counterparts. Therefore, foreign-born faculty represent the significant labor force in global academic settings. They bring in diversity, new perspectives, and cutting-edge skills wherever they teach.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Constructivism: The central idea of social constructivism is that human learning is constructed and knowledge is constructed through social interaction and is a shared rather than an individual experience (Vygotsky, 1978).

Action-Reflection Practice: “Reflection is a process of reviewing an experience of practice in order to describe, analyse, evaluate and so inform learning about practice” (Reid, 1993 p.305). Kolb (1984) points out that reflection is an essential element of learning. Schön (1983) suggests that we can engage in reflection either by reflecting-on-action, after the experience, or by reflecting-in-action, during the experience. Reflective practice facilitates learning situations and promotes professionals to continue to learn, grow and develop through their practice (Jarvis, 1992). Daloz (1999) argues that mentorship is a learning journey affected by the social environment where mentor and mentee interact with each other. Therefore, reflective practice is in the context of leading to action and development (McClure, n.d.).

Cross-Cultural Mentoring: Cross-cultural mentoring is regarding the relationship-building process between mentors and protégés based on the differences of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, socio-economic class and so on (Allen & Eby, 2011).

Foreign-Born Faculty: As defined by the U.S. Bureau of Census, the foreign-born population includes anyone who was not a U.S. citizen at birth, including those who have become U.S. citizens through naturalization (Grieco &Trevelyan, 2010, p. 1). The closest to foreign-born faculty in National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) classification is non-resident aliens.

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