Exploring the learning experiences of Teacher Candidates through an international internship

Year: 2019

Author: Di, Biase, Rhonda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Our global mobility opportunity is offered as an elective in the final semester of a Master of Teaching program where students are able to gain experience in a school in an international setting in the final semester of their studies. We offer options in Thailand, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Maldives, Vietnam, Chile, Finland, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Research indicates that such international practicums can have a profound experience on teacher candidate’s development as a teacher. The experience provides opportunities for pre-service teachers to question their existing assumptions, expand their understanding of education and teaching, gain cross-cultural skills, experience teaching in an international context and learn to communicate and work with international teachers.

By undertaking this short internship, students experience the full life of a school outside of Australia, through immersion in the day-to-day activities within the school. Through the written component of this subject students analyse their teaching and learning experiences in the international setting, compare and contrast the international experiences to their local placements and reflect on their professional development and teaching philosophies.

The aim of this study was to examine the professional learning of students undertaking this international elective. Data were collected through personal reflections and questionnaires following the internship experience. The responses illustrated the development of knowledge and expertise across the following three broad areas. (1) Development of professional skills such as learning new methods of teaching, developing understanding of bilingual education, exploring new curriculum, learning about the needs of boarding students, considering the needs of students from non-English speaking backgrounds and gaining knowledge about out-of-school programs and community service. (2) Development of cross-cultural awareness articulated as learning about other cultures, interacting with students and teachers from diverse backgrounds, appreciating the importance of being open-minded to new experiences and different ways of working and learning about other countries through first-hand experience (3) Personal and professional growth articulated in the following ways: capacity to learn from challenging experiences, reflection on teaching philosophies, questioning assumptions about learning and teaching, gaining confidence as a teacher and perception of increased competitiveness for employment.

Considering the professional learning found through this investigation, it raises a tension between managing the financial and logistical demands of offering such a subject and reconciling to what the extent we should expand to new schools in new international settings, so more students are able to engage in this global mobility experience.