Investigating an Australian international teaching practicum in China: Benefits, challenges and tensions

Year: 2019

Author: Jin, Aijing, Parr, Graham

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Universities across the world are investing in a range of international mobility programs for students and staff to internationalize their cultural, curriculum and pedagogical offerings. One example of this investment is in the area of collaborative international teaching practicums managed by faculties or schools of education. Australian universities who offer international practicum programs typically claim that they help the next generation of pre-service teachers (PSTs) to understand and respond to the benefits and challenges of globalization. Teacher education policy drivers in Australia are also focused on the benefits and challenges of globalization. For example, the Australian Professional Standards for (Graduate) Teachers now expects teacher education providers to produce graduates who are “responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds” (AITSL, 2017). International teaching practicums are one of the many ways that universities are responding to this policy imperative.

In the context of Australian higher education’s increasing interest in international mobility, this study investigates one international teaching practicum managed by an Australian university. Much of the research literature about international practicums focuses on the experiences of the mobile PSTs, and/or the academic leaders who facilitate and support the learning of these PSTs, but there is little attention given to the effects of the practicum on the host institutions or mentoring teachers. This research includes some consideration of the Australian PSTs and their experiences, but it also examines the perceptions of the hosting Chinese mentor teachers and the school students taught by the visiting PSTs.

Utilizing a case study design and thematic analysis methods, the authors critically investigate how participants from both Australia and China perceived the benefits and challenges of that practicum. The analysis draws on data from the Australian PSTs’ written reflective reports, transcripts of interviews with Chinese mentor teachers, and responses to questionnaires completed by Chinese students who had been taught by the Australian PSTs. The data shows that this international teaching practicum was a mutually beneficial and valuable experience for all participants, especially in terms of enriched intercultural awareness. The study also revealed challenges and tensions with respect to the meeting of Australian and Chinese educational systems because of their very different social and cultural contexts. Recommendations are made for improving the experience of all participants in international teaching practicums into the future.

Keywords: International teaching practicum, intercultural teaching and learning, Australia, China.