22 SES 08 A, Internationalisation and Student Mobility Part 2
Paper Session continued from 22 SES 07 A
As the defining trend of this century, internationalization poses novel tasks and challenges to higher education and teacher training. Engaging with this, an increasing number and variety of exchange programs are being established for student teachers to gain intercultural experience as interns in schools abroad. While there is research about internships in schools in general (e.g. Holdaway et al., 1994, Abell et al., 1995, Hussain and Mahmood, 2010) as well as about studying abroad (e.g. Dolby, 2004, Janes, 2008, Tarrant et al., 2014), the broad aim of this study is to understand how these internships are seen by the student teachers in order to explore how the exchange programs may not only enrich teacher training but also contributes towards the development of intercultural practices that proactively help to adjust higher education to our times of globalisation.
A more specific research interest was to what extend and in what way the teacher students’ felt (actively) involved in or (merely passively) excluded from the educational practices in their schools. The background of this inductively developed interest is that all research participants reported that they faced massive challenges both in terms of communication with teachers and students and with regards to broader cultural differences concerning what a school is for and what it means to teach. These challenges were described as both productive for and inhibiting involvement in teaching activities.
These two research interests are mirrored in the studies’ research question: In what ways do student teachers apprehend their experience as interns in a foreign country's school and how do they describe the relation between being involved in and excluded from educational practices in their schools?
The theoretical framework for the studies’ research design is the tradition of empirical phenomenology (Aspers 2009) against which Ference Marton developed variation theory (Marton and Booth, 1997, Lo, 2012) which emphasizes the variations between several accounts of one phenomenon (an internship in a school abroad). With regards to the studies’ topic, the specific interest in ambivalent experiences, i.e. how lived internationalization can be described both as enriching and excluding, refers to concepts of education (or “Bildung”) as discontinuous (English 2013) or negative (Koller 2012) experience. According to these accounts, experiences such as foreignness, uncertainty and struggle are essential to educational processes. Koller even states that the experience of crises are necessary in order to challenge and transform the subjects’ relations to him-/herself and the world (Koller 2012, p. 17), building on Hegel and Husserl as well as contemporary phenomenologists such as Bernhard Waldenfels. This theoretical background allows a sophisticated understanding of the ambivalent descriptions, i.e. the potentially fruitful aspect in descriptions of experiences of exclusion.
The studies’ research question focuses on a second order perspective which investigates not a phenomenon itself (for example by observation) but rather studies perceptions of the phenomenon (Marton, 1981, p. 182). To answer the research question, a qualitative method design was built up using the methodology of phenomenography, which is an approach "for mapping the qualitatively different ways in which people experience, conceptualise, perceive, and understand various aspects of, and phenomena in, the world around them" (Marton, 1986, p. 31). Therefore, phenomenography offers several well verified methods (Marton, 1988, Dall'Alba, 2000) to investigate "'something seen in some way by someone'" (Marton, 2000, p. 105) or "'[a] way of experiencing something'" (Marton and Booth, 1997, p. 112). Interviews were conducted with 24 students coming from various parts of the world (mostly Europe) after their internship experience in Swedish schools. This is a quite big cohort in comparison to other phenomenological investigations (Trigwell, 2000, p. 66). Its advantage was a maximized probability of heterogeneous descriptions. To achieve this, I worked without a theoretical sampling but pragmatically asked all foreign students who applied for the course that included an internship for an interview (two-thirds agreed). The data were collected with semi-structured interviews about twenty minutes in length. In the interviews open questions were used (e.g.: "After your experience: What do you think your internship was about?") to get descriptions as personal as possible. The data was analysed with two different methods in view of the two parts of the research question. First, a phenomenographic analysis (Marton, 1988) generated a set of categories of description in order to find variations in the way the students explained their experiences of their internship. From a methodical point of view this set should be "stable and generalizable […], even if the individuals 'move' from one category to another" (Marton, 1981, p. 195). Second, a qualitative content analysis (Schreier 2012) provided a schema of points of which each had both involving and excluding aspects. Afterwards, the relation between the involving and excluding aspects were analyzed.
The phenomenographic analysis of the interviews generated an outcome space of the experience of an internship in school abroad as: A. International Comparison: conceptualizing the internship in a school abroad as a setting for comparison between the home country and the internship country B. Real Practice: conceptualizing the internship in a school abroad as how practice is in relation to what was learned theoretically during university or to what reputation the country's schools have C. Personal Development: conceptualizing the internship in a school abroad as a setting for personal development D. Professional Knowledge: conceptualizing the internship in a school abroad as a setting for increasing professional knowledge As the strongest relation between the categories, the students express the phenomenon in the categories A&B more as a setting whereas in C&D there is a stronger focus on the result of this setting. Therefore, one can state an impact of A&B on C&D. In A&B, the phenomenon is seen more as something conceptual and perceived in the world, while in C&D the phenomenon is seen more temporal and linked to the perceiving person. Both the categories and their relations were described in detail and examples were provided which were analysed closely. The qualitative content analysis resulted in an extensive schema of points of which each had both involving and excluding aspects. As it is too large to fully present it without using tables, I will provide one example in order to explain the general idea: “communication”. On the one hand, almost all students mentioned this as main source of exclusion as no one was able to speak the classroom language. On the other hand, some students described how this fact led them to more deliberately using gestures or objects as teaching material which was described as extremely enriching experience.
Abell, S. K. et al. (1995). "'Somebody to count on': Mentor/Intern Relationships in a Beginning Teacher Internship Program," Teaching & Teacher Education 11: 173-188. Aspers, P. (2009). “Empirical Phenomenology: A Qualitative Research Approach,” Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology 9: 1-12. Dall'Alba, G. (2000). "Reflections on some faces of phenomenography," in J. A. Bowden and E. Walsh (eds): Phenomenography. Melbourne: RMIT University Press, pp. 83-101. Dolby, N. (2004). "Encountering an American self: Study abroad and national identity," Comparative Education Review 48: 150-173. English, A. (2013). Discontinuity in Learning: Dewey, Herbart, and Education as Transformation. New York: Cambridge University Press. Holdaway, E. A. et al. (1994). "The Value of an Internship Program for Beginning Teachers," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 16: 205-221. Hussain, I. and Mahmood, S. T. (2010). "Practice Teaching or Internship: Professional Development of Prospective Teachers through their Pre-Service Training Programmes," Journal of Educational Research 13: 105-122. Janes, D. (2008). "Beyond the tourist gaze: Cultural learning on an American ‘semester abroad’ programme in London," Journal of Research in International Education 7: 21-35. Koller, H.-C. (2012). Bildung anders denken. Einführung in die Theorie transformatorischer Bildungsprozesse. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Lo, M.L. (2012). Variation Theory and the Improvement of Teaching and Learning. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. Marton, F. (1981). "Phenomenography – Describing the world around us," Instructional Science 10: 177-200. Marton, F. (1986). "Phenomenography – A Research Approach to Investigating Different Understandings of Reality," Journal of Thought 21: 28-49. Marton, F. (1988). "Phenomenography: Exploring different conceptions of reality," in D. M. Fetterman (ed): Qualitative approaches to evaluating education: A silent scientific revolution. New York: Praeger, pp. 176-298. Marton, F. (2000). "The structure of awareness," in J. A. Bowden and E. Walsh (eds): Phenomenography. Melbourne: RMIT University Press, pp. 102-116. Marton, F. and Booth, S. (1997). Learning and Awareness. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Schreier, M. (2012). Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice. London: SAGE. Tarrant, M. A., Rubin, D. L. and Stoner, L. (2014). "The Added Value of Study Abroad: Fostering a Global Citizenry," Journal of Studies in International Education 18: 141-161. Trigwell, K. (2000). "A phenomenographic interview on phenomenography," in J. A. Bowden and E. Walsh (eds): Phenomenography. Melbourne: RMIT University Press, pp. 62-82.
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