“Now I know I am a teacher”: International professional experience and reciprocity – act locally: think globally

Year: 2019

Author: Cripps, Clark, John, White, Peta

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Deakin University has been taking students to undertake a three-week, staff-supported practicum in indigenous Vanuatu schools for almost two decades and over the last decade the program has expanded, together with many other universities and schools, to countries in Asia and the Americas. The program has been student funded but has recently been able to gain a number of rounds NCP funding. The relationship between the Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Training and the Vanuatu Institute of Teacher Education (VITE) built up over the decades but recently formalized in Memorandum of Understanding has facilitated lecturers from VITE studying at Deakin University and a closer relationship between the university and Vanuatu’s developing higher education sector. Nevertheless, it has always sat awkwardly within a modern corporatized university which privileges efficiency, uniformity, and measurable outcomes over relationships, talking, and slow contingent development.

This paper uses a longitudinal study drawing on a series of focus group interviews spanning the preparation, professional experience and debriefing of two successive years of the Vanuatu Global Education Program to understand the transformative experience not just in terms of intercultural competence but within a wider discourse of the development of relationships (between students, students and ni-Van teachers, and between lecturers from Deakin and VITE) of reciprocity. Framing the global experience within the growth of professional identity enabled students and lecturers to integrate the often challenging and confronting experiences. The analysis of the development of pre-service teachers’ authorial agency draws on Vygotsky’s concept of perezhivanie.

By analogy with this profound and generative integration of emotion, intellect and experience of the pre-service teachers in an international practicum, I argue that we need not only a more clearly articulated and coordinated model for the provision of and research into the international student experience across all Australian universities but also this program development and research needs to be framed as a mutually respectful collaboration between Australian and international institutions, while still harnessing the power and excitement of individual relationships and contingent opportunities. A good place to start is with the programs we have in place for pre-service teachers across a number of Australian universities and the collaborations between teacher educators that is expressed in this symposium.