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OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
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International Education Programs Service

Fostering International Understanding Among Educators

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In an increasingly interconnected world, concerns about health, the environment, the economy, and security transcend national borders and, as a result, make international partnerships and understanding vital to America's future. The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange (Fulbright-Hays) Act of 1961 aims to foster "the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the United States and other countries of the world." To achieve this goal, it supports focused overseas learning opportunities for educators through Seminars Abroad and Group Projects Abroad programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

The partnerships forged through these programs create a multidirectional bridge for learning. U.S. educators establish working relationships with their counterparts in other countries as well as with other teachers within the traveling group. The programs' impact is multiplied as participants' experiences translate into curricular, outreach and research initiatives that help to create a country-wide cadre of citizens who are knowledgable about gloal topics. In a world in which intercultural understanding is all-important, the Fulbright-Hays programs represent an integral federal investment in our teachers, our children, and our future.

Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad

Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad enable approximately 160 humanities, social sciences and language educators to experience non-West European countries and form vital cross-cultural partnerships each summer. Eligible participants include elementary and secondary (K-12) teachers, postsecondary faculty and education administrators, librarians, museum educators, and media specialists responsible for curricula. Airfare, room and board, tuition and fees, and travel in the destination country are provided by the seminar. The Web site, http://www.ed.gov/programs/iegpssap/index.html, provides detailed program and application information. All seminars result in curriculum development. The following highlights participants' experiences in three recent seminars, representing but a sample of the opportunities available.

New Zealand Seminar (2002):

"Migrations: A Journey to New Understanding" framed the New Zealand 2002 seminar. Following a two-day, pre-departure orientation in Honolulu, eighteen U.S. educators embarked on a journey to gain a new understanding of the South Pacific, its culture, history, and innovations in education. The group of elementary and secondary school principals, teacher trainers, and social studies and language arts teachers visited diverse schools in cities and in towns and had the opportunity to share ideas and form partnerships with teachers and administrators, both within their group and in New Zealand. Representing states from Florida to California, these educators continue to maintain the relationships forged on the seminar.

Sandra Carter, the principal at Rockledge Elementary school in Woodbridge, Virginia, described the New Zealand seminar as the experience of a lifetime. As an administrator, Carter found it particularly helpful to be allowed to observe classrooms, discuss policy with teachers and principals, visit teacher training institutions, compare curriculum and "best practices", as well as Special Education and English as a Second Language programs. She was particularly interested in New Zealand's literacy program, since New Zealand is ranked the third most literate nation in the world. She met with Dame Marie Clay, the creator of the Reading Recovery Program (an internationally renowned short-term intervention program for low-achievng first-graders), and is attempting to use what she learned to improve literacy in her school. Carter explained, "The opportunities for professional growth were plentiful. We made many friendships that will last our lifetimes. It was the best educational experience I have ever had! I would go back and do it all again in a heartbeat!"

South Africa Seminar (2002):

Post-apartheid South Africa provided the setting for on-site education about "Indigenous Knowledge Systems: An Invaluable National Resource" in 2002. Pre-departure orientation included informational meetings on South Africa's history, culture, current conditions and lifestyles, and curriculum development discussions. During four weeks in South Africa, participants met with government officials, researchers, community leaders, educators and representatives from non-governmental and private organizations. They spoke with South African artists, traditional practitioners, and scientists working to raise the social value and status of indigenous knowledge and its integration into modern society. Visiting urban and rural areas, townships, a game reserve, and villages as well as host family stays ensured a diverse and authentic experience. The seminar culminated with a project that enabled each educator to expand and improve current teaching or curriculum development work related to South Africa.

Meredith Barnes, a Spanaway Lake (Washington) High School social studies and English teacher, created a comprehensive curriculum on the apartheid-based themes of non-violence, protest and civil disobedience. It also focused on the history of passive resistance. As trip highlights, she described the visits to Durban's Phoenix settlement where Mahatma Gandhi lived and to Robben Island in Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first post-apartheid president, was jailed for 18 years. In addition, she had the opportunity to meet Albie Sachs, a white anti-apartheid activist who is now a justice on South Africa's new constitutional court.

Upon her return, Barnes worked as an intern for the Washington Education Association. She made presentations to teachers about indigenous cultures and created South Africa-focused course materials for the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) while implementing her new curriculum in her own classroom. According to Barnes, "This was indeed an amazing experience. It questioned my notions of race, prejudice, strength in adversity, and humanity. I left South Africa very changed in my thinking of other people."

China Seminar (2002):

"Transition and Transformation" was designed to give American educators an overview of imperial, revolutionary, and contemporary China. Transition and transformation might also describe the perspectives of participants through the course of their month in China in 2002. Lectures on history, culture, and challenges facing modern China, combined with visits to sites of historic importance, shaped the experience of 16 secondary and postsecondary educators. Participants represented wide-ranging institutions and locations, including Steamboat Springs High School in Colorado; Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida; the University of South Dakota; Triad High School in Illinois; and Gateway Community College in Connecticut, among others.

The seminar focused on four Chinese cities: Beijing, China's capital and home to many universities, government offices and cultural and historic sites; Xi'an, "the cradle of Chinese civilization" in central China and location of numerous archaeological sites and museums; Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan provice in southwestern China, home to many of China's national minorities; and Shanghai, the birthplace of the Communist party, China's largest urban area, and the premier center of trade and industry.

Marcia Frost, an economic historian at Wittenburg University in Springfield, Ohio, formed important professional and personal partnerships, benefiting from the opportunity for open conversation with Chinese hosts about personal experiences during the Cultural Revolution and the transition from command to market socialism. An Asian specialist, Marcia found that making contacts with scholars, Ministry of Education personnel and school teachers, and visiting varied non-tourist sites were extremely valuable for her research. Studying both villages and large urban areas over extended periods of time, she hopes to draw comparisons between China and India. Additionally, she has incorporated what she learned into classes she teaches. The slides from China and examples from her personal experience help students in her Economies in Transition and Economic Development courses become more engaged in the material. According to Frost, "the positive impact on my students' learning has been the most beneficial part of my China seminar."

Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad

The Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program funds U.S. colleges and universities, state departments of education and private non-profit educational organizations to coordinate short-term (5-6 week) seminars, curriculum development teams, 3-12 month group research projects, or advanced intensive language institutes. Emphasis is placed on humanities, social sciences and languages in non-West European contexts, addressing regional and national curricular priorities. Participants apply directly to the institution hosting the project; alternatively, they design a project that meets the regional or national needs that they have identified and submit a proposal to ED. These projects allow participants to obtain valuable overseas study experience that translates into direct gains for their home institutions' curricula. The Web site, http://www.ed.gov/programs/iegpsgpa/index.html, provides detailed program and application information. Following are highlights about three projects and participants showcasing curriculum development teams, short term seminars and intensive language training in three diverse places: Nicaragua, Russia/Central Asia, and Indonesia.

Nicaragua: People, Culture and History: A Curriculum Development Project

In summer 2002, "Nicaragua: People, Culture and History" aimed to develop new curricula that would incorporate both US and Nicaraguan points of view. Under the guidance of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS), twelve secondary school social studies and Spanish language teachers participated in the project, conducting research, acquiring teaching resources and designing interdisciplinary Spanish language and social studies curricula.

An eight week pre-trip seminar led by Latin American Studies faculty and curriculum development specialists laid the foundation for research and materials collection in Nicaragua. During the four-week overseas segment, participants connected with Nicaraguans, learned about attitudes and ideas regarding politics and society and exchanged teaching resources and strategies. Educators became students in an effort to create the bilateral curriculum, working side-by-side with public school teachers in Managua, observing limited materials and supplies in overcrowded classrooms. A resulting exchange of Spanish language lessons for U.S. educators for computer technology lessons for Nicaraguan educators is one example of the ongoing impact of these partnerships.

The project concluded with post-trip curriculum development wrap-up meetings at the University of Pittsburgh. These meetings allowed participants to organize materials and pilot teach new units. Curriculum sharing and dissemination of the resulting materials have been fostered through a designated Web site and a series of professional development workshops for teachers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The team developed a cross-cultural resource guide for teachers, offering a broad overview on Nicaragua for both social studies and Spanish language classes. The curricular focus helped fill a gap in teaching resources on Latin American countries; most available textbooks contain very little information about Central America and with few exceptions focus on Spain and Mexico.

According to Rosalind Eannarino, CLAS Project Director and Outreach Coordinator, "Our travels in the country brought to light for us the many similarities we share as humans; common values that far outweigh any cultural differences." Participants were overwhelmingly pleased with the experience. Jeff Poole, a Spanish teacher at Franklin Regional school district in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, explains "I was impressed that we saw many different aspects of Nicaragua.... We actually got to know the people and every effort was made to spend as much time as possible with them…. Nicaragua created a lasting impression on every one of us."

Len Donaldson, a history teacher and curriculum consultant, has applied the curriculum in the course he teaches at Robert Morris University entitled "The Developing World." He uses the lessons to stimulate students to think critically about life in a developing country and to address misconceptions about people nd cultures outside the students' frame of reference. He commented, "Our goal was to design a curriculum that would speak with a Nicaraguan voice. It has also become a part of us and has changed, in very subtle but significant ways, how we hear the world's peoples and cultures."

American Councils for International Education (ACTR): Short-Term Seminars

In the post-Cold War world, Russia and the independent states of the former Soviet Union play an important role in maintaining global stability. Knowledge of this region is crucial to U.S. security. To build this knowledge base, the American Councils for International Education (ACTR) sponsors three Group Projects Abroad programs enabling current and pre-service elementary, secondary, and postsecondary language teachers to study language, culture, literature and pedagogy. The ACTR Summer Russian Language Teachers Program, the ACTR Russian Language and Area Studies Program and the American Councils Regional Language Program combine elements of short-term seminars with advanced overseas intensive language projects. They help teachers from across the country integrate international studies into schools' and universities' curricula while providing language training overseas. Information about these programs is located at http://www.americancouncils.org/.

In the fall of 2002, ACTR distributed surveys to past participants in the ACTR Summer Russian Language Teachers Program, held at Moscow State University, in order to assess the impact of the program on professional development. Participants overwhelmingly affirmed that the program had aided their professional development, and strengthened language and teaching skills. Further, they were able to gather important teaching materials that they would not have been able to find in the United States. They highlighted the benefit of networking with fellow Russian teachers, noting that in their profession they were relatively isolated within their individual schools and welcomed the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with their colleagues. According to Dr. David Andrews, professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Georgetown University and a 2002 participant, "It would be no exaggeration to say that this is perhaps the most important resource for teachers of Russian today."

Undergraduate and graduate students planning teaching careers study Russian or the languages of Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova for a summer, semester, or year through the ACTR Russian Language and Area Studies Program and the American Councils Regional Language Program. In selecting a location for their studies, students choose among the Russian State Pedagogical University in St. Petersberg, Moscow International University in Moscow, the CORA Russian Language Center in Vladmir, and leading universities throughout the region. In addition to attending approximately 24 hours per week of small class instruction by host-university faculty, participants form partnerships with Russian students who meet with them weekly to review class materials and speak Russian. Students of non-Russian languages stay with local families or in university dorms, enhancing the "learning through living" experience.

Students of the Russian and Central Asian Language programs report similarly outstanding experiences. Erin Urban, a student at the University of Notre Dame who teaches ESL part time and aspires to become a Russian language and literature professor, spent the fall of 2002 in Moscow participating in the Russian language program. She was able to immerse herself in Russian life through interactions with her host family and a Russian student tutor. Her goals for attending the program were to improve her speaking and reading skills and she found that she met these goals with great success. In addition, the experience of being taught Russian as a second language was useful to her teaching of ESL in the United States. When asked about the program, she commented: "Overall I feel that my experience was wonderful. I established a great relationship with my host family and made friends. I learned much with regard to the language and the culture itself, but I also observed and learned many teaching techniques."

Consortium for the Teaching of Indonesian and Malay (COTIM): An Advanced Intensive Language Institute

Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world, the nation with the largest Islamic population, and a key U.S. market/trading partner and political ally. It is therefore important that Americans develop a stronger understanding of the region, and that America's teachers, in a variety of disciplines, are capable of conveying information about Indonesia to their students. In support of this goal, Fulbright-Hays has funded the Consortium for the Teaching of Indonesian and Malay (COTIM). Led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, COTIM administers a ten-week advanced language program attended by graduate students from diverse institutions and fields. With host family stays and classes at Universitas Sam Ratulangi at Manado in the Northern Sulawesi province, COTIM seeks to facilitate advanced language instruction, an authentic, in-country experience, instructional materials development, and collaboration and cooperation with Indonesian institutions. COTIM is helping to build U.S. capacity in Indonesian and Malay; approximately 30 students have taken and passed the State Department's interpreter's examination since the beginning of the program. In addition, the COTIM program has helped standardize the teaching of Indonesian throughout the United States, has attracted students to the languages, and has tested and implemented language materials. It has served as a model for other language programs, including Thai, Vietnamese and Tagalog. More information about COTIM can be found at http://www.wisc.edu/ctrseasia/cotim.

Central to the COTIM experience is an independent research project, carried out by students under the guidance of Indonesian research mentors. These mini-field projects integrate students into the community, require them to use Indonesian language for specific purposes and equip them with the skills to conduct research in Indonesia. In addition, students work with authentic materials reflecting a variety of genres, enhancing the in-country experience. Classes integrate structured and unstructured student participation, as well as individualized instruction with a research mentor and a language mentor.

Birgit Berg, a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Brown University, participated in COTIM in order to further her research interest in Indonesian Christian hymns. While conducting her language studies and research on comparative liturgical music resources, she became acquainted with Indonesian Arabs and was invited o a wedding party where she became fascinated by not only the lute music, but also the history and culture of the group. Her research expanded to focus on Manado's musical multiculturalism. In the process, Berg has discovered that little research exists on Arab-Indonesian communities providing a gap that she can help fill with her newfound language expertise and connections made during the overseas experience. She describes herself as one of the students who had not had much experience with Indonesian language and now, because of COTIM, knows that she is capable of researching and writing in Indonesian. "For me, COTIM moved Indonesia -- and Indonesians -- beyond the pages of a book and into my personal daily life."

As the participants' insights demonstrate, these Fulbright-Hays-sponsored professional development opportunities bring added value to U.S. teachers and their classrooms. Seminars Abroad and Group Projects Abroad enable educators to expand their knowledge of other countries and people, to develop and share new teaching materials and strategies, and to form lasting partnerships with colleagues in the United States and around the globe. The strategy is sound; by aiding educators in their efforts to strengthen the international components of their teaching, more students can be reached both now and in years to come.

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Last Modified: 01/21/2011