In the twenty-first century, educators are experiencing the challenge of working with learners and families who represent a diverse range of experiences, practices, and beliefs. The changing demographics regarding the languages spoken, communication patterns, family configurations and functions, expectations of education, child rearing, problem solving, and access to resources ensure that educators will be working with persons whose culture and experiences are different from their own. Educators will be working with native learners and families who have very different experiences and expectations, as well as children and families who are immigrants from Western and non-Western cultures. As a result, teachers must increasingly be taught to do their work in a global context. This entry looks at what is required and how teacher education can meet these needs.
Demands Of The Global Context
As nations are developing their education systems and opening educational opportunities to a broader population of learners, they are confronting the issues of ensuring the quality of teacher education, dealing with the shortage of qualified teachers, and meeting the needs of more diverse students. In their attempts to meet those needs, nations are recruiting educators from more diverse populations and from abroad. These educators are exiting their own cultural niche to enter the cultures and work with diversities that may be very different from their own.
Educators of the twenty-first century are working in a global society and preparing students to be citizens of that society. National as well as state and local economies are competing for the world’s resources, among them jobs, education, services, minerals, water, fossil fuels, and intellectual property. This competition tends to increase friction between the “haves” and “have nots,” both globally and locally. Immigration and outsourcing of jobs are key issues.
Educators must prepare young people to create policy and practice that address quality-of-life issues and determine who will have access to basic needs/ resources. An unequal distribution of resources and opportunities by ethnic/racial groups will create factors that place children at risk (poor health, poverty, violence, homelessness, migration, education, etc.) and affect local, national, and international societies. Educators will have the responsibility of educating these at-risk learners.
Within this global context, teacher preparation is aimed toward preparing globally competent teachers and, as a result, globally competent students and citizens. Within a global context, teacher education prepares teachers who demonstrate the ability to listen, observe, evaluate, analyze, interpret, and relate political and cultural histories, global systems, and global issues. Teachers are also prepared to understand the interconnectedness and implications of local and national decisions on global issues (nation-states, regions, ethnic groups, European and non-European origins, languages, history, traditions), and vice versa. Teachers prepared within a global context can prepare students to be successful citizens in a global society, who themselves exhibit these same characteristics.
Teacher preparation programs that incorporate a global context focus on personal experiences, intercultural communication, problem solving, and collaboration in the context of global cultures and issues as well as local, state, and national cultures and issues. Personal experiences might include faculty providing their teacher candidates with personal acquaintance and experience with a culture different from their own through field experiences in situations that are new and uncomfortable and bringing the world to their teacher candidates in a way that can be heard and understood. The focus of these experiences should be development of self-knowledge, or awareness and understanding by teacher candidates of their own filters, beliefs, practices, and norms. Providing teacher candidates with opportunities to experience, interpret, reflect on, and share out-of-comfort-zone experiences with the guidance of faculty and trusted others encourages them to listen to people who others may think have nothing to say, see what the larger society often overlooks, and understand the implications for their own professional practice.
A focus on intercultural communication would include modeling new or alternative ways of seeing and knowing and discovering patterns of connection between communities of professional and social communities. This focus involves exploration of communication as more than language differences, analyzing factors such as gestures, paralanguage, context, and so on. Faculty must model listening, observing, and establishing rapport quickly, and they should provide teacher candidates with multiple opportunities and contexts to practice these skills themselves.
Developing globally competent problem solvers involves providing teacher candidates with opportunities of direct observation, investigation, experimentation, and skill in the application of their knowledge and skills, modeling a collaborative mindset in problem solving and taking advantage of the diversity of ideas, practices, and beliefs represented rather than fearing them. Faculty must encourage their teacher candidates to take the initiative and risks of using old knowledge and skills in unique ways or circumstances.
By modeling and providing opportunities to develop resourcefulness and adaptability in using information in new and changing situations and environments, faculty will help their teacher candidates build perseverance so that they can overcome barriers and/or continue despite barriers. Such experiences challenge faculty and teacher candidates to explore their own beliefs and those of others, and to develop self-reliance and self-confidence to function in multiple, dissonant environments and work in difficult and ambiguous settings.
Faculty developing globally competent collaborators use enthusiasm and humor in their interactions with others, and they enlist allies to model being an effective and cooperative team player and motivating others to excel. Faculty model and provide opportunities for teacher candidates to collaborate effectively and knowledgeably on teams consisting of individuals representing multiple discipline perspectives as well as cultural perspectives, in diverse settings and contexts. Teacher candidates are encouraged to engage in personal and professional inquisitiveness and enlist allies to support their explorations and practice.
In conclusion, teachers of the twenty-first century can expect to plan and implement curriculum and instruction and to monitor learning outcomes for international learners. Whether the venue is a classroom in their native country or in a foreign country, whether the audience be PreK–12 students, higher education students, or in-service teachers, educators must be prepared to address their own and their learners’ culture at each stage of the education process— planning, implementation, and follow-up.
Knowing the contexts of the learning and teaching of teachers is important in planning teacher preparation content, processes, and experiences. Understanding the communication and language similarities and differences among agencies, disciplines, and locales is another key to success. Teacher preparation for decision making and practice is facilitated by familiarity with the legal and social policies governing delivery of services to learners with diverse abilities, as well as the involvement of their families and communities. Finally, the need to build easily accessible shared knowledge regarding attitudes, policies, and practices in teacher preparation, teaching, and special needs learners across cultures and globally, as well as knowledge and use of materials normed and appropriate for different cultures’ learners, is ongoing and should be addressed.
- Baumgratz, G. (1995). Language, culture and global competence: An essay on ambiguity. European Journal of Education, 30(4), 437–447.
- Flournoy, M. A. (1993, November). Educating globally competent teachers. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Council on International Educational Exchange, Washington, DC.
- Marx, G. (2000). Ten trends: Educating children for a profoundly different future. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.
- LanguageCorps: http://www.LanguageCorps.com
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