The leadership and faculty of the Reich College of Education (RCOE) at Appalachian State University have developed a collaborative culture that emphasizes communities of practice. RCOE’s conceptual framework offers the following direction:
We view our candidates and ourselves as active, continuous learners. Because this process proceeds despite any conscious efforts to alter it, schools and all other agencies should take into account the principles that drive the process. Second, learning occurs as individuals engage in meaningful social activity … As a result, we must pay attention to both the social and the individual nature of teaching, learning, and organizational life.
In building and articulating this community, RCOE has included global understanding in their mission objectives. One specifically states “Integrating multicultural and global perspectives and knowledge into all program areas to prepare graduates to work with diverse populations in diverse environments.” RCOE cultivates an environment where faculty and students have opportunities to build their international perspectives into their coursework and field experiences by relying upon communities of practice and recognizing individual interests among faculty.
With regard to the internationalization of coursework the Dean of Reich College, Charles Duke, reminds us, “Titles don’t tell you everything there is to know about a course.” At RCOE, graduate and undergraduate courses in curriculum design often contain international comparisons, discussions around culture and diverse theories of instruction. Sometimes the comparisons are hands on. For instance, health education students participated in a month-long carbon-neutral trip to New Zealand to develop their outdoor leadership skills and to explore environmental problems facing New Zealand and the United States. Students from Appalachian’s partner institution in New Zealand, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, joined them for portions of the trip. The university purchased green energy in the United States and New Zealand, and the students planted trees to offset carbon dioxide associated with the air and ground transportation for the trip.
As a part of the UNC system, Appalachian State deeply encourages its students to take time during their training to visit schools and classrooms in other countries as a part of their student teaching experience. As with UNC Charlotte, RCOE has taken advantage of the 10 week student teaching requirement in North Carolina to build five and six week student teaching experiences in other countries, such as Scotland, South Africa, and Costa Rica. With about 7-10% of students taking advantage of these opportunities every year and others going abroad for shorter trips. The dean notes that these experiences make a differece. “We see a tremendous growth in self-confidence in participating students – they come back changed, and for the better. Students who participate in these types of learning experience have a chance to move outside their comfort zone and reflect and learn from that time outside the U.S., it stretches their perspective and make them more global thinkers.”
Global and Local Partnerships
Faculty are encouraged to develop their own partnerships, programs, and exchanges in areas of interest.There is evidence that this peer approach is having a significant impact on RCOE and the surrounding communities. One result is a strong relationship with iREX, an international nonprofit organization with the stated mission of providing thought leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally. RCEO has participated as a host campus in the iREX Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program (TEA) for the past four years. In their words:
TEA teachers participate in an academic program at U.S. universities that includes coursework and intensive training in teaching methodologies, curriculum development, and the use of technology for education. The program also includes subject-specific strategies for teachers in the disciplines of math, science, social studies/civics, and English as a foreign or second language. The program includes an internship at a U.S. secondary school to actively immerse participants in the American classroom environment.
Having teachers from other countries actively participating and sharing their experiences with RCOE and the surrounding community infuses both pre-and in-service environments with global perspectives and creates the experience and desire for deeper exchange. An example of a recent deeper exchange is a $266,197 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to Appalachian State to implement a one-year exchange project between three schools in Watauga County and three schools in Taxila, Pakistan. The partner schools in Pakistan and in North Carolina, as well as at Appalachian State, will have virtual and in-person exchange opportunities. Exchanges like iREX and the work with Pakistan provide a significant outreach to public schools using international students, teachers, and teacher candidates.
Further options for ASU students include Alternative Spring Break (ASB) experiences that take small groups of students to international settings; these trips are focused on service learning in different cultures; students may find themselves working on farms or assisting with inner city schools. The week long experience is an intense community building activity that has immense impact on students and their global perspectives.
RCOE’s next goals are to continue to build a strong international faculty who contribute to the entrepreneurial communities of practice. There is an opportunity for all of the academic units with the quality enhancement project to build their international focus. During this project there will be more emphasis on how RCOE and the entire campus continue to build their global perspective.
Finally, consistency to the mission set forth by RCOE leadership and the great leadership at Appalachian State is critical to further internationalization efforts- faculty are sensitive to where emphasis is placed and where resources are available.
Questions to Consider
- What relationships with NGOs exist within your college of education? What opportunities are there to grow and transform that into work that supports the internationalization of your courses?
- Where is there room (both virtual and in-person) to build comparative studies in your instructional methods programs that allow students to experience different models of instruction and approaches to delivering content?
- Does your strategic plan (both campus and college) give you the support needed to create opportunities to internationalize coursework and programs?
- Are you maximizing opportunities within your school calendar? Do students who participate engage in both learning and service activities during their time abroad?
- Have you identified barriers that prohibit faculty from engaging in entrepreneurial activities that will contribute to internationalizing your program? What can be done?