Teacher Preparation Opinion

Teaching the Teacher

By Anthony Jackson & Jennifer Manise — December 21, 2011 5 min read
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Teachers have a hard time teaching what they don’t know and a rapidly changing world does pose challenges to teacher education programs. I’ve asked Jennifer Manise, the executive director of The Longview Foundation, to share some of the Foundation’s work on teacher training initiatives happening throughout the country, and to highlight some of the models that have successfully connected classrooms to the greater world.

There are many great examples of how schools, districts, and states around the country are adopting a global vision, integrating international content into all subject areas, and emphasizing world language learning. There is an ever-improving range of international experiences for students. But before we declare victory, a very real challenge persists. How do we consistently provide all students with the chance to hone knowledge, skills, and values that can be described as global competence and that will allow them to be effective participants in the global marketplace? The work cannot be done independently by students; it still falls on teachers and leaders to cultivate this learning climate. A teacher with a global perspective can infuse the classroom experience with learning about and from the world and simultaneously equip and engage today’s student. A teacher without global interest will not.

So, how do we scale small successes to a broader range of teachers? In-service teachers need access to meaningful exchange opportunities as has been discussed in previous blog posts. They also need high-quality professional development resources and a schedule that allows for their active participation.

Another essential element to a sustainable global classroom focus for teachers is teacher preparation programs themselves. Traditional prep programs at schools of education prepare more classroom teachers than any alternative preparation method in the United States. Within the traditional route, many of these teacher preparation programs are internationalizing coursework or strands and some are completely overhauling their programs to be more globally minded.

Teacher preparation programs around the country are embracing innovative approaches beyond traveling abroad and adopting pioneering ideas. As a result, some clear strands of effort have been identified that make a difference in how graduates of that program teach. Specific program elements that make a difference include:

    Internationalization of coursework both in the teacher preparation program and within the colleges of arts and sciences. Some campuses have forged partnerships with arts and sciences faculty (including those in Title VI Centers), while others hold seminars with international visitors or others with international expertise. Some programs who have been working on partnering within their schools to internationalize programs include University of California, Long Beach; Appalachian State; Indiana University; and University of Texas, Austin, just to name a few examples.

    Partnerships between institutions on their internationalization efforts. An even deeper level of exchange and understanding is happening through university collaborations. Kent State University, the University of Akron, and University of Miami, Ohio are in their second year of partnership to manage a fellowship focused on globalizing their coursework. They are actively seeking to transform their classes in every subject matter. In addition, they regularly meet to discuss their progress and program impact. These three campuses also are working toward developing a draft framework to define elements for a Global Certification program for teachers in Ohio. This trend of campuses collaborating to internationalize teacher preparation programs is spreading to other states. New Jersey has a similar effort being started by Rutgers Graduate School of Education. The University of North Carolina’s Council of Deans and International Programs just held their second Internationalizing Teacher Education Forum and are looking for ways they can collaborate across campuses. Partnership at this level adds a layer of complexity as every campus has their own distinct approach, but the extra challenge has led to deeper sharing of practice and hopefully a long-term broader impact.

    • Another key element is that of connecting pre-service teachers to in-service classrooms that are have already have a global learning focus. At the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences, their mission reflects a global perspective and student teachers are placed in field experiences that support building upon the knowledge and skills obtained through coursework. In another approach, Indiana University gives students studying Spanish education the opportunity to participate in service projects oriented toward immigrants and refugees in the surrounding area. Those formative weeks in classrooms culminate in the opportunity to build skills and reinforce the mission and vision of the programs; ultimately, it leads to more globalized classrooms across the region.

    A final element of strong program design is building in connections between pre- and in-service teachers to learn about “the global in the local” through internships, professional development, and fellowship programs. Connecting with local organizations, heritage groups, cultural organizations, and internationally themed schools can provide the local context of a global perspective. Tulane University Graduate Education School is hosting an event for 200 teachers and teacher leaders this spring to map out a plan on how to globalize their practice. The University of Maryland just completed a year-long fellows program for 10 principals in schools across the state to plan, discuss, and execute a globalization project within their schools. Their experiences were shared with the College of Education, who have a similar program for faculty to globalize their coursework. Initiatives like these allow pre- and in-service teachers to deeply examine their practice and connect learning.

Visit these programs to learn more about the great work is being done, but recognize it needs to exponentially increase if we hope to impact a broader audience of classrooms. This work can begin slowly, with the support of leadership and key influencers. Global competence cannot, and need not, remain beyond the reach of all of tomorrow’s teachers and students. Teacher educators have begun charting a new course in response to the imperative for reform as they meet the students of tomorrow. More universities deserve our support in internationalizing their programs as they prepare teachers to be ready to meet the demand.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.