For my first blog post, I decided to do some literature review on studying abroad and the impact this has on pre-service teachers. Teachers today much be prepared to experience diversity in many ways such as in learning styles, special needs and cultural differences. Many teacher preparation programs recognize this need and have study abroad opportunities for teachers to develop global competency.
I’ve looked at three studies focused on surveying the impact of a study abroad teaching experience. Although study abroad programs and experiences vary, here are three key areas of teacher growth that are fairly consistent across these studies.
Gaining a greater understanding of other cultures and developing a more open mind.
I think this relates well to travel in general. You learn a lot more from experiencing something than from a textbook. Similarly, living in a different culture will foster a sense of understanding that can’t be gained from just reading about it. Many of the teachers highlighted that this helped them connect and build relationships with students from different cultural backgrounds. Some teachers were placed in areas which lacked the resources, technology and instructional material which we have here. They learned innovative and cost-effective ways to teach and also developed an appreciation for the resources they had back home.
One big cultural difference I noticed in Korea compared to Canada, was that teachers were allowed to be more affectionate toward students. For example, hugging children was common and acceptable. This related more to the communal and familial culture. During a camping trip, a parent actually came up and fed me with his hand (I was struggling to eat this strange shrimp creature) and I found it very normal and sweet. I also showered with my female co-workers in a communal bath area. It sounds really weird here, but by then I was so adapted to the communal culture (and had been to bath houses) that I wasn’t even phased and understood that it was just part of the culture.
Experiencing another education system and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their own education system.
Here is one quote from Shiveley and Misco’s (2015) follow-up study on teachers who had a pre-service experience observing and teaching classrooms in Europe.
“made me re-think my entire teaching philosophy. It allowed me to see how differently things are done in Europe and, in some regards, how things are done better. Although I don’t get to make many curricular choices, I try to narrate as much as I can about what I’m doing. This is something I remember in the younger classrooms I saw in Europe (p. 113). ”
As a teacher in Korea, I also was able to see the differences in education systems and compare this to our system. Korea is a place which highly values education and many students attend public school in the morning, followed by private schooling in the evening. In High School it’s not uncommon for students to attend school from 8 am to 11 pm in one day. There is one standardize exam, called the Sunenug which students spend their lives preparing for. This test is DIFFICULT. I have a BSc in Ecology and am a native English speaker. One of the English questions was rearranging paragraphs from an academic Ecology paper. I got it wrong!
I was shocked at how much pressure students experience for this one unpractical exam. I was able to compare this to the standardized testing done in Alberta and it really raised my perspective on the pressure we put on students.
Becoming more confident as risk-takers and willing to try out new ways of teaching.
Travelling to another country where you do not speak the language can be a scary thing. Many teachers highlighted how the experience increased their independence and confidence. Learning to teach is already a challenge, but doing it in a new environment with a language barrier adds another dimension. I still remember my first day teaching in Korea. I went to the school and had no idea where to go. I was also the only foreigner in the school and it was so challenging to be the odd one out. However, it ended up being such a great experience and my growth was exponential. Looking back, I’m very proud of myself for doing it and am willing to take more risks in teaching as I know the rewards are worth it. I also developed a more “it will all work out” attitude which helps in a stressful classroom setting!
Are there any other things you would add to the list?
Another common benefit was that learning a second language helped student teachers be more prepared and empathetic in teaching English Language Learners. However, I’ll leave writing about that for next week!
Devillar, A., Devillar, B. R. A., & Jiang, B. (2012). From student teaching abroad to teaching in the U .S . Classroom: Effects of global experiences on local instructional practice. Teacher Education Quarterly, (Summer).
Landerholm, E., Professor Emerita, E., & Chacko, J. B. (2013). Student Teaching Abroad: An Experience for 21st Century Teachers Student Teaching Abroad: An Experience for 21 s Century Teachers. In Worldwide Form on Education and Culture Presentation. Rome, Italy.
Shiveley, J., & Misco, T. (2015). Long-Term Impacts of Short-Term Study Abroad: Teacher Perceptions of Preservice Study Abroad Experiences. Retrieved from https://frontiersjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/SHIVELEY-MISCO-FrontiersXXI-LongTermImpactsofShortTermStudyAbroad.pdf