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Universities Prepare Globally Competent Teachers

We know that the key to graduating globally competent students is to ensure our teachers are themselves globally competent. Betty Soppelsa, Deputy Executive Director for Conference Planning, NAFSA: Association of International Educators looks at some of the work that is being done to provide pre-service teachers with a global experience.

By Betty Soppelsa

We know the realities of 21st century society and how they demand new skills and dispositions from our students. Our society is now more demographically diverse and globally interdependent, requiring cross-cultural communication and leadership skills; it is now innovation driven, requiring lifelong learning and the ability to adapt to rapid change; and the global society is resource-challenged, requiring the use of sustainable practices underpinned by global thinking.

Dr. David Moss from the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education has found that there are four key elements of successful global teacher preparation.

  1. Teacher candidates must engage in direct experience in culturally and linguistically complex settings and capitalize on the intercultural nature of domestic intercultural field placements.
  2. Programs must transcend discrete units of study and disciplinary boundaries and help candidates leverage learning from international experiences to domestic contexts.
  3. International field placements (internships) and short-term study abroad opportunities, such as those integrated into the teacher education program at the University of Connecticut, make the international real.
  4. Finally, Moss underscores the importance of faculty development opportunities to enable the infusion of global knowledge and thinking into the curriculum.

To assist with the imperative of cultural self-reflection, Moss developed, My Cultural Awareness Profile, which presents questions for teacher candidates to stimulate their self-reflection and development of cultural awareness. Multiple choice and free writing questions focus on exploring global context, learning about cultures, knowing oneself as cultural, and communicating across cultural differences. Moss uses the profile before, during, and after international field experiences, to help candidates to assess the development of their cultural awareness and competence and encourage further learning.

Dr. Stephen Koziol, Director of the Office of International Initiatives, College of Education, University of Maryland, has assisted the university in taking an integrated approach to internationalizing teacher education. Central to the transformation of their curriculum was the development of a college-wide strategic plan for change that mandated support for faculty development and commitment; leadership and infrastructure to support change and ensure cohesiveness and communication; and formative assessment to monitor progress and allow for refinement of plans. Success was born from responding to and facilitating domestic and international opportunities at the college, including a number of initiatives that deepened internationalization: a Fellows Program that provided support for faculty to focus on development of global content to transform courses; a Principals Academy, linking principals with college faculty to build commitment and expertise for internationalization of their schools; a program for Distinguished Fulbright Teachers, bringing expertise and perspectives from around the world; and a state summit on internationalizing education.

To learn more about efforts to internationalize teacher preparation programs, please see the papers by NAFSA and the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding on the importance of preparing globally competent teachers.

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