Enhancing better learning outcomes for international pre-service teachers: Reflections from teacher educators on professional experience placement in the ‘Celebrating Cultural Diversity’ Program

Although all pre-service teachers (PSTs) potentially encounter challenges in professional experience placement, some of the challenges are unique to international PSTs. Institutional data indicate a significant proportion of international pre-service teachers do not experience successful outcomes from their professional experience placement (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). Factors such as undeveloped knowledge about the host country’s education curriculum, differences in expectations and classroom reality, differences in teaching and learning approaches, communication problems and relationship issues with mentor teachers have been identified as impacting on the successful completion of the professional experience placements. A team of teacher educators developed the ‘Celebrating Cultural Diversity’ Program (2016) with a social constructivist (Vygotsky 1978) underpinning. This program was designed for all first year international pre-service teachers (n=54) in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. CCD participants work with teachers in 12 Early Childhood sites, 2 Primary and 1 Secondary school settings. These mentors provide opportunities for the international PSTs to observe them teaching, assist in facilitating learning, and to participate in, and contribute to, the setting activities. Throughout their CCD experience, the international PSTs (45 in Early Childhood; 3 in Primary and 6 in Secondary) document their learning by keeping a reflective journal and constructing digital stories. Teacher educators document their experiences engaging with these students, comprising a rich data. Through our analysis, reflections and raised awareness as teacher educators, we challenge ourselves, in collaboration with stakeholders, to propose a more effective professional experience model that is internationally and culturally inclusive. Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103, 1013-1055.Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA