International Professional Experience: Possibilities and pushback

Year: 2017

Author: Talbot, Debra, Thomas, Matthew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation challenges the legitimacy of mandated governing practices, for example those set by NESA (NSW Educational Standards Authority) in relation to overseas professional experience placements. Working from preservice teachers' experiences in the field and the learning that they report, from both overseas and domestic placements, the methodology of institutional ethnography (Smith, 2005) is employed to understand how overseas placements are governed and enacted. Of interest to this study was the way in which governing texts associated with the conditions and timing of overseas professional experience placement enhance or restrict preservice teachers' access to learning through an overseas placement.

Whether or not overseas professional experience placements assist preservice teachers to provide for the learning needs of a culturally diverse student population in Australian classrooms was the second focus for the study. This inquiry built on prior research, particularly that conducted by Cruickshank & Westbrook (2013) which claims that domestic ITE programs find it difficult to provide the intercultural experiences that would help preservice teachers to meet the challenges of diversity in Australian classrooms. They also report two findings that were of particular interest to our study, namely: the need to position students as the knowers of their own learning; and the important role that changed power relationships play in reflecting on how schooling is done. Our study was also informed by research conducted elsewhere in Australia and in the USA (See, for example, Malewski & Phillion, 2009; Morrison, 2016; Olmedo & Harbon, 2010; Pence & Macgillivray, 2008).

A distinguishing characteristic of our research was the sequencing of focus group interviews to include an interview after the international placement in a small fishing village in the north of Bali but before the next domestic professional experience placement in a variety of metropolitan high schools and another interview after the domestic placement. Prior research projects interviewed students either individually or in focus groups about their overseas experience but did not re-interview the same group of participants following a domestic placement. This additional component of reflection on practice together with the collection of formal reflections that were part of associated coursework provided an additional dimension to understanding the role that overseas professional experience placement played in preservice teachers' learning to cater for the needs of culturally diverse students.