Internationalisation of the curriculum as transformative learning for tertiary education teachers

Year: 2012

Author: Clifford, Valerie, Montgomery, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:

Purpose

Over the last three decades universities have, almost universally, taken on the mantra of 'internationalisation'. However, what this means is often unexplored in any depth and remains focused on the needs of international students and the financial benefits and kudos international collaboration brings to a university. We wanted to challenge tertiary sector teachers to explore a holistic understanding of what internationalisation might mean in terms of curriculum and provoke them to take action to change their own curricula.

Method

Participants in a one-month fully online course, accessible globally, were invited to explore a radical, rather than liberal, discourse of internationalisation offering a transformative process aimed at developing global citizens. Kitano's (1997) framework of 'exclusive, inclusive and transformative' was used in the course to encourage participants to interrogate their own practice. Taking the most recent cohort, accessing the course from the UK, Australia, NZ, the Netherlands and Columbia, we used NVivo to analyse the online discussions of the course, developing categories from the examples and explanation of practice given by the participants. The data was coded and the emerging categories were agreed by both the authors following a preliminary reading of the texts. For this paper the participants' perception of transformative learning was explored and the impact this had on their conceptualisation of, and pedagogy of, their discipline.

Results

While different participants allocated the same examples of practice to the inclusive and transformative categories, the way participants conceptualised the examples being used transformatively was qualitatively different to how they would use them 'inclusively'. We explored variation in participants' interpretations of transformative learning and changes in their perceptions of their disciplines and of teaching in their disciplines. The study showed that exploration of internationalisation of the curriculum can lead to tertiary teachers questioning the epistemology and ontology of their disciplines and searching for new paradigms and pedagogy.

Conclusion

This study indicates that rather than just 'tinkering around the edges', a more radical approach to curriculum development can stimulate tertiary teachers to question long held discipline and pedagogical beliefs and to explore new curricula and pedagogy. The study shows tertiary teachers moving 'from the comfortable spaces of knowing to the uncomfortable places of learning' (Phillips et al., 2009, p. 1455) through exploring holistic concepts of internationalisation in relation to the curriculum.

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