22 SES 08 A, Paper Session
In the 21st century, academic knowledge exchange takes many forms which have been studied extensively by social and educational researchers (Morley, 2018). International academic networks (IAN), however, have been given less attention (Boring, 2015). One of the main characteristics of IANs is its diversity: different nationalities of participants, institutional traditions, disciplinary and pedagogical cultures and educational philosophies. The interactions and communications within these networks produce a social space which at times dissolves cultural boundaries and evolves into a collective identity and at times, is accompanied by reverse processes of reaffirmation and the assertion of differences (Flüchter & Schötli, 2015).
Two IANs on teacher education have been commissioned by the State Secretariat of Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) of Switzerland and coordinated by the Zurich University of Teacher Education. Each network brings together 24 academics of teacher education from different countries: in “Learning Cultures in Universities” (LECU) participants are from Albania, Kosovo and Switzerland, and in “Swiss‐North African Academic Network” (SINAN) from Tunisia, Egypt and Switzerland.
The aim of these networks is to reflect on theories around competency‐based education and exchange innovative teaching and learning practices. We meet 4 times in LECU and 3 times in SINAN. The three-day meetings took place every time in a different country. During the meetings, hosts organised visits to schools and university classrooms, discussions and presentations in workshops and cultural and social gatherings. Moreover, the network participants performed a “trio work”, understood as a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project, with teachers from three different countries, an optional “duo work” between two participants of the same country and wrote their teaching philosophy. In-between meetings, participants have taken part in online peer reviews of their trio work, in organised webinars, and will be contributing in a focus groups with academics from both networks. They will all meet at a final joint symposium in Zurich in November 2021.
The content of the meetings had to do with university didactics (designing blended-courses and formulating learning outcomes, teaching and learning methods, assessment and the student experience). While the first meeting programme was suggested by the organising university, the other programmes were agreed with the host universities. The network was conceived as an exchange of experiences in equal conditions of expertise.
Learning taking place during these networks has been extensive, both in terms of teaching competences developed in the workshops, research competences in the duo or trio projects, and international and transcultural competences from the mutual exchange of visits and use of different languages for communication as well as for the personal insights and lived experiences. Our study aims to examine the experiences promoted during these exchanges among scholars in two IANs in order to contribute to a more elaborated understanding of transcultural qualities and learning processes inherent in the interactions within these social spaces. The guiding question is: How do 48 academics involved in teacher education live the professional development within IANs in terms of competences, collaboration and challenges?
The theoretical background is framed around the notions of communities of practice, as social learning spaces (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trainer, 2020), and workplace learning, as a place of reflection and peer collaboration (Evers, Kreijns, & Van der Heijden, 2016). In addition, the SoTL approach (Boyer, 1990) of systematically investigating one's own teaching, and reflecting own teaching philosophies (Schönwetter et al., 2002) are ways to illustrate teachers’ espoused theories of competence-oriented teaching and learning (Bachmann, 2018).
SINAN and LECU projects are funded by the State Secretariat for Research and Innovation (SERI) in Switzerland with the aim to meet the Confederation objectives of promoting collaboration projects in the MENA (North-Africa and Middle East) and Balkans regions. The research approach adopted along the development of the networks can shed light on new areas of interest for academic knowledge and competence development, can contribute to the enhancement of new academic agreements and have policy implications for the development of further networks. Due to the exploratory nature of the present study, qualitative research methods are used to gain insight into the phenomena from the participants’ perspectives. Data gathered ethically consist of a) programmes and documents produced during the meetings, b) analogue observations of two trios, c) teaching philosophies of participants in one of the networks and d) the reflections of two semi-structured online focus groups. More concretely, the documents analysed comprised the content of the programmes of all the different meetings and the observation of the implementation of different activities. A longitudinal observation of the work of two trios was conducted in every meeting (4 observations of a LECU trio; and 2 observations of a SINAN trio). The observation included references to the process of getting to know each other, the process of decision-making about the SoTL topic and the development of the working together throughout the network. The teaching philosophies were analysed against the framework of Schönwetter et al. (2002) and taking into consideration the guidelines suggested, that is the consideration to reflect about the purpose of teaching and learning; the role of teachers and students; the interaction among teacher and students, the role of normative study programme or university documents, the methods for teaching, learning and assessment. In the analysis, the language form was also examined. In all cases, a content thematic analysis (Krippendorf, 2004) was performed. The calculation of intercoder agreement was considered to check that data and coding are deemed reliable. The individual teaching philosophies of the LECU network were coded and analysed with MAXQDA. The focus groups will take place in the spring semester. Transcripts of the focus group discussions will also be coded deductively and inductively in an iterative process.
Current findings show that deciding the content of the meetings’ programme was necessary to have the host academics involved into conceptual discussions. The fact that the participants had different level of English language competence was not a problem: strategies were sought as to understand each other during the network meetings. Social and cultural gatherings helped understand the values embedded in the curricula of teacher education. The topic of the SoTL project was in most of the trios related to aspects of competency-based education. Despite they showed similar interests in choosing the idea of the project, the dynamics of the trios differ due to different level of language competency and of assumption of leadership or responsibilities. The experiences highlight the importance of working collaboratively to seek contextually appropriate solutions; mutual engagement to promote shared responsibility for developing the work; and sharing a common language around teaching competencies. Teaching philosophies (Feixas & Berzi, 2020) followed similar topics (in part suggested by the guidelines), but they used different language formats to express their beliefs (using personal forms like “I” or “me” or impersonal ones such “academics should…”. Differences are found in the acknowledgement of contextual factors. In all countries, academic concerns about professional development (Van der Klink et al., 2017) are related to improving the quality of their school system by offering the best training to future teachers. The differences were visible between Swiss and the rest of participants because of the teaching conditions in the fragile geopolitical context of the Balkans and the South Mediterranean region. In sum, there is a complex flux of opportunities and constraints in IANs. While gains include transcultural learning, enhanced professionalization and intercultural competencies, there are also challenging aspects to networking which have to be addressed, including fear of isolation, language barriers and assumption of roles.
-Bachmann, H. (2018). Competence-oriented teaching and learning in higher education - Essentials. Bern: HEP Verlag. -Boring, P., et al. (2015). International mobility: Findings from a survey of researchers in the EU. Science and Public Policy, 42,6: 811-826. -Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. -Evers, A. T., Kreijns, K., & Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M. (2016). The design and validation of an instrument to measure teachers’ professional development at work. Studies in Continuing Education, 38,2, 162-178. -Feixas, M. & Berzi, A. (2020). Guided by theory, informed by practice: Teaching philosophies of academics from universities of teacher education. ETH Learning and Teaching Journal, 2,2, 417-422. -Flüchter, A. & Schöttli, J. (Eds) (2015). Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context. Cham: Springer. -Keay, J., et al. (2014). Improving learning and teaching in transnational education: can communities of practice help? Journal of Education for Teaching, 40,3: 251-266. -Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. -Morley, L., et al. (2018). Internationalisation and migrant academics: the hidden narratives of mobility. Higher Education, 76,3: 537-554. -Schönwetter, D.J., Sokal, L.; Friesen, M. & Taylor, K.L. (2002). Teaching philosophies reconsidered: A conceptual model for the development and evaluation of teaching philosophy statements, International Journal for Academic Development, 7,1, 83-97. -Van der Klink, M., Kools, Q., Avissar, G., White, S., & Sakata, T. (2017). Professional development of teacher educators: what do they do? Findings from an explorative international study. Professional Development in Education, 43,2, 163-178. -Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2020). Learning to Make a Difference: Value Creation in Social Learning Spaces. Cambridge University Press.
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