Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Internationalization - Feb 8 discussion group summary

Bob Cowin facilitated our second face-to-face discussion on the theme of Internationalization yesterday at David Lam and provides this summary. Please feel free to comment. (You can also read the summary of the Jan 25 discussion of Internationalization here.) --Scott

Internationalization discussion group summary - from Bob Cowin, Director of Institutional Research

The discussion at Lam about internationalization was very much about how we define and conceptualize the term, and about pedagogy.

"Internationalization" comes loaded with baggage, everything from peace initiatives following World War I and well-meaning evangelism to money and crass revenue generation. It's not a term that rallies faculty and perhaps the time has come for educators to reappropriate international education.

The literature on internationalization is about engagement and about fostering a transformational change in students' lives, both inside and outside the classroom. This is why study-abroad programs can be so powerful.

Educational discussion of internationalization frequently concern course content, but content alone is insufficient. What a person knows is often disconnected from what a person does.

We need to be thinking about the pedagogy of an internationalized curriculum, including how to benefit from the diversity that is already in our classrooms and, increasingly, among the College's employees.

The key might be to add "learning" to the conversation, i.e. Internationalizing Learning. This would move us beyond the minority of students who pay international fees or participate in exchanges. It would encourage us to make better use of two important pedagogies, namely critical thinking and engagement, with all our students.

The "relational piece," and not so much course content, is at the core of internationalizing learning. Building learning communities and effectively drawing upon the existing knowledge of our bi and trilingual students are ways to begin addressing the challenge.

Yes, revenue generation and international marketing matter. The message from the Lam group seemed to be, though, that we shouldn't stop there. Rather, the College needs to think expansively about the meaning of internationalization.

The conversation could include everything from ethics - when do we do our international students more harm than good? - to replicating aspects of the immersion experience here at home. The Academic Signature competencies for all students of intercultural communication, teamwork and social responsibility might be vehicles to help internationalize learning.

On a personal note, I was struck by the similarity of tone of this discussion with the one I attended at Lam about research and scholarly activity. Those who attended were passionate, yet open minded and respectful. They could envision good things happening, and yet were very aware of problem areas and how things can go off track. I left both groups with plenty to ponder and feeling rather privileged to have been present.

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What do you think? We welcome your comments on the Internationalization discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Due to another meeting conflict I was unable to attend the strategic planning session on internationalization. I would like to express my support for students and faculty who engage in study abroad opportunities. They are enriching experiences for both students and faculty. Having been involved in the China Field School in 2008, for many students it was their first opportunity to visit a foreign country off the North American continent and it truly was an experience they will never forget. There are challenges to organizing, marketing and leading a study abroad or field school. However, Douglas is on the right track in supporting these and I would echo earlier suggestions that we look at a certificate or citation of some kind for students who participate in a field school as part of their studies. To some extent we are still in the "learning by doing" stage with our study abroad programs. No two are alike and they do have challenges but the rewards can be tremendous for all those involved. I would encourage management to support these learning and teaching opportunities by identifying them in the strategic plan, setting goals and objectives and providing resources as part of an implementation strategy.

    Mike McPhee
    Geography Instructor and
    Coordinator, Associate of Arts Degrees

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