Internationalisation Experiences of Australia’s Future Teachers: A Comparison Across Local and International Students

Year: 2018

Author: Dollinger, Mollie, Teo, Ian, Arkoudis, Sophia, Aquaro, Daniela, McPhee, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One of the main drivers of internationalisation in higher education is to support future graduates for the challenges associated with globalisation and the subsequent growing importance of cross-cultural skills in the workplace. Australian teachers, in particular, are likely to teach in multicultural and diverse classrooms where they will not only be expected to foster an inclusive atmosphere but also have responsibility for instilling inclusivity in future generations. However, few studies to date have investigated the internationalisation experiences of future teachers. In this study, therefore, we have explored definitions, expectations and experiences of internationalisation in a sample of postgraduate students at a large research-intensive university studying towards their teaching qualifications.
Within our study, we have sought to move beyond categorisations that group international students into a single category without the nuances of the differences between groups. In particular, we see this in relation to the 'Asian category' by researchers and policymakers who overlook distinct differences between individuals from different national backgrounds. An aim of the study was to further analyse the expectations and experiences of internationalisation across local and international students' cohorts to ascertain if differences did exist between these population, or if they have similar internationalisation experiences. Our results indicate that while students' individual experiences vary, both local and international students report many of the same challenges to the internationalisation of their educational experience. Challenges include bridging cultural differences, sustaining long-term social interactions and friendships, and utilising other peer groups to learn more about global perspectives.
The results of our study help inform a range of program, institutional and national policies. While the results from the study point to challenges towards the internationalisation experiences of students, the data also helps highlight how these challenges may be mitigated or addressed in the future. Setting clear expectations for students before entering programs, stressing the importance of cross-cultural skills and encouraging pedagogy that helps bring students of different cultural backgrounds together may all be important mechanisms for improving inter-cultural relationships and fostering international perspectives. In the cohort of Australia's future teachers, this is especially critical, as teachers who are globally-informed and experienced with international perspective taking may be more likely to support similar strategies to their own students one day. In our presentation, therefore, we will offer practical tips for improving internationalisation experiences of students and advise on the future direction of research in the area.