Book Review: Internationalizing Teacher Education in the United States

Internationalizing Teacher Education in the United States
Beverly D. Shaklee and Supriya Baily (editors).
Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012
ISBN 978-1-4422-1248-0 (hbk): $66.50
261 pages

by Jason C. Fitzgerald

Internationalizing Teacher Education in the United States comprises an editorial introduction, eleven chapters and a concluding remarks section. A subject (but no author) index is provided.  It is organized by three sections, taking the reader from the theoretical framing of internationalizing teacher education to practical implications and applications of this work, concluding with a call for action by the first editor.  Its aim is to provide a framework by which teacher preparation programs can formalize their curricular commitments to internationalizing teacher education, helping “new teachers to have a strong foundation in order to ensure that the students they work with will be better prepared for an increasingly interdependent world” (p. 2).

The book begins with an exploration of the theoretical frameworks commonly referred to in the international, multicultural, and globalization education literature. Kolar’s chapter provides an insightful entry into this topic, contextualizing similarities and differences within the United States while also creating a shared understanding among readers of different knowledge levels. This initial chapter is then skillfully followed by Cushner’s work on intercultural competence related to teacher preparation. Beyond the definitional issues that Kolar explores, Cushner continues to problematize the internationalizing of education by exploring the “intercultural conundrum” (p. 41), where today’s students tend to have more ethnorelative views than their more ethnocentric teachers. Together, these first two chapters provide a scholarly yet accessible entry into the book’s topic.

Whereas Chapters 1 and 2 ground the reader in theory, Chapters 4 and 5 ground that theory into the practice of teaching. Engel and Olden argue that the nationalistic leanings of the Common Core State Standards (recently adopted by most states in the U.S. focusing mainly on English and Math coursework) limit the internationalization conversations in U.S. educational policy and practice; many scholars have recently taken up this argument (e.g., Sahlberg, 2011; Wagner, 2008), making this a prescient chapter. Although their argument is solid for those well versed in critical theory, the chapter is made less convincing by the lack of explanation about how teachers can work within the CCSS framework while still incorporating global perspectives. In practice, such examples are provided throughout the rest of the book; still, it would have been helpful to get a sampling in this chapter.

Chapter 5 continues the practical implications of internationalizing teacher education by exploring how Australia, as an example, conceptualizes its own work in the area. Explaining that many Australian pre-service teachers travel abroad for their first teaching jobs, Tudball argues that not only do they need reflective experience in international contexts but that teacher education faculty must also model those perspectives for their students. Indeed, Australia has political and economic interests in internationalizing their programs; its geographic location requires international competence it the country wishes to remain relevant in the exploding Asian marketplace (Tan & Rubdy, 2008). In this sense, Australia might be an exceptional example that only moderately relates to the U.S. context. Nevertheless, Tudball’s explanation of how Australian teacher preparation programs framing their coursework adds an example of how theory and practice can work together and provides an excellent bridge to Section 2, where authors explore strategies and practices for internationalizing teacher education.

Chapters 6 and 7 refocus the reader’s attention away from the macro-contexts of the book’s argument towards the specifics of international education, specifically focusing on teachers’ work with international families. Day’s chapter explores how teachers can prepare to work to build inclusive schools through a case-study approach. Drawing on practical examples from her own work, these narratives frame the work on international education in the “at home” model (See Tudball’s work, same volume). Baily’s chapter expands this conversation by exploring the role that teachers can play in supporting refugee students who do not have an official nationalities or connections with any of the various cultures found in U.S. schools. Both of these chapters provide strong practical examples of how teacher preparation programs can help pre-service teachers gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they will need to help all of their students succeed.

Interestingly, Grant and Salohshoor (Chapter 10) also focuse on student—teacher interactions specifically related to the tensions between ESOL and EFL education although two chapters about programmatic structures separate it. The authors provide specific recommendations for teacher education programs to support “geostrategic and contextually responsive” instruction (p. 206). In all three chapters, the idea that pre-service teachers need socio-pedagogic preparation is central. These authors exceed at explaining why such preparation is needed. They do, however, look rather myopically at teacher preparation program curriculum, not looking outside the traditional educational structures to think about how civically engaged teacher preparation might support these goals in more meaningful ways.

Chapters 8 and 9 both focus on programmatic ways in which pre-service teachers are prepared to teach in an internationalized context. Daly’s Chapter 8 compares and contrasts Advanced Placement coursework with the International Baccalaureate program. Admittedly, only three universities in the U.S. prepare IB program teachers; George Mason, where Daly is a doctoral candidate, is one of these, leaving the chapter feeling a bit too self-congratulatory and unhelpful for other programs, which do not have IB preparation programs. Chapter 9 describes an international exchange between U.S. STEM and world language pre-service teachers and those in Russia. This chapter is a bit more useful for helping teacher education programs think about preparing teachers who “think systemically about their practice and learn from experience” (p. 179) in an international context; however, the structure of the chapter does not fit with the conversational tone of the rest of the book.  

For those programs that are unable to support student exchange programs, Chapter 11 offers some suggestions about how virtual fieldtrips, WebQuests, and Multiuser Virtual Environments (MUVEs) can facilitate intercultural learning and interaction. In this chapter, Sprague suggests that students should shift from “hanging out” with educational technology to learn how to “mess around” with it, increasing their interactions and learning by involving themselves in the social dynamics of virtual interactions, to cite Ito, et al. (2009). While MUVEs may be far beyond the scope of what school districts can technologically support and/or teachers are willing to engage, the central argument in strong.

These chapters are thoughtfully connected by section introductions and concluding thoughts written by Shaklee, providing an excellent introductory collection of work in this field from expert theorists and practitioners. Taken together, the chapters in this book offer an important call to rethink the diversity experiences important for pre-service teachers to have in order to teach in an increasingly diverse, complex, and flat world (Friedman, 2008). I have already begun recommending this book to my colleagues.

References:

Friedman, T. L. (2008). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., boyd, d., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., et al. (2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press.

Tan, P., & Rubdy, R. (Eds.). (2008). Language as commodity: Global structures, local marketplaces. New York: Continuum International Publishing.

Wagner, T. (2008). The global achievement gap: Why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need -- and what we can do about it. New York: Basic Books.

______________________________________________________________________________

Jason C. Fitzgerald is an assistant professor of education at Wagner College, where he teaches social studies education, multicultural education, and educational technology classes. His research focuses on how action civics can support 21st Century learning skills and impact overall student achievement.