Systemic Change: Institution-Wide Internationalization Efforts

Internationalization efforts in colleges of education can often be the result of internationalization at the campus level - either in cooporation of or as a directive from a president or provost who understands the importance of the process.  The Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement at the American Council on Education has been supporting campus-wide internationalization efforts for over a decade.  The Center offers an Internationalization Laboratory where campuses are guided through a two year process to help identify an internationalization team, poinpoint current internationalization efforts, and develop a strategic plan.  It also offers an Institute for Leading Internationalization for senior campus leaders responsible for internationalization.

Several institutions have taken a campus-wide approach to internationalization.  Miami University in Oxford, Ohio restructured its general education requirements and instituted the “Global Miami Plan” that requires all students – regardless of major – to complete 36 hours of foundational courses, six to nine of which must be focused on global perspectives.  To fulfill the global perspectives requirement, students may complete six hours of study abroad, take 9 hours of global courses designed to “help students develop the ability to communicate and act respectfully across linguistic and cultural differences,” or take nine hours of Global Clusters courses – classes grouped together that focus on a specific global theme or issue. In their senior year, students are also required to complete a capstone project.  They are provided myriad choices, and several capstone options focus on education.

At the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, undergraduates are required to take “Global and Intercultural Connections” to graduate.  All undergraduate students at the University of Maryland College Park are required to fulfill a diversity requirement, and these courses fall under either the “Understanding Plural Societies” or “Cultural Competence” categories.  Some courses that fulfill the requirement include “Essentials of Intercultural Communication,” “Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication for Teaching English Language Learners,” and “Cultural Competence, Leadership, and You”  (the latter two are offered through the College of Education).

To fulfill their general education requirements, all students at William Patterson University in New Jersey are required to take one year (six credits) of a foreign language, and one course in Global Awareness for a total of 12 credits in global or international education. Elementary and early childhood education majors may choose from a lengthy list of non-western focused courses to complete this requirement.

The University of Kentucky formed a multi-disciplinary interanationalization task force, comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators from across campus.  The group devised a strategic plan for internationalization that mapped out specific activities to meet the institution's larger internationalization goals.  The plan has since been revised, and campus commitment for internationalization stands strong. As a result, many colleges - including the College of Education - responded by developing its own plan and introducing initaitives that aligned with the university's internationalization goals.

Such institution-wide requirements ensure that students who decide to pursue a teaching credential later in their undergraduate education, or after having completed an undergraduate degree in another field, will come to their professional education courses with some knowledge about the world outside the United States.

In her report To Leave No Teacher Behind, Schneider (2007) interviewed over 400 higher education faculty, staff, and students, and 100 current teachers.  She found that nearly 100% of teachers and well over half of higher education respondents identified strengthening the general education of teachers-in-training to enhance international exposure. Increasing the number of globally oriented requirements is only one way to achieve this. Integrating international modules into general education courses was by far the most popular strategy among campus interviewees, which included faculty and administrators in both Education and the Arts and Sciences. Indeed, internationalizing courses in all areas as part of ongoing course revisions seems an effective strategy for the 21st century campus, with real potential effect on prospective teachers. 

References:  

Schneider, A. I.  (2007).  To Leave No Teacher Behind:  Building International Competence into the Undergraduate Training of K-12 Teachers.

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