Many College of Education students are engaged internationally throughout their time here in the college. On a competitive basis, the college sometimes provides funding for pre-dissertation research trips abroad. The Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding program also allows Ph.D. students to immerse themselves in other cultures and to learn about education systems in diverse settings. The student profiles below represent just a small portion of the activities, research and projects our students are engaged in around the world. One thing these initiatives all have in common is that they are conducted in the spirit of internationalization and fostering global perspectives on the part of our students, all through first-hand experience.
Lynne Watanabe studied young children’s literacy learning and development in Botswana after participating in the College of Education’s Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding trip in 2012. During this trip, she began quietly visiting with a little girl at a kindergarten for orphan children about letters, names, books, and other literacy events. Being an early literacy researcher and former kindergarten teacher, Lynne was enthralled by this little girl’s excitement to show what she knew and the text around her. Upon leaving, Lynne started thinking about what she could do to learn from and contribute to early childhood literacy work in Botswana. Working closely with her advisor Nell Duke and others from the College of Education and African Studies, Lynne’s research involves young children’s reading and writing practices in Southern Africa, particularly in Botswana. She was awarded a Summer Research Fellowship and the Cotterman Family Endowment for Education, enabling her to return to Botswana for a study of young children’s home and school literacy practices. She explains, “Living in Botswana for three months and regularly interacting with young children, their parents, and their teachers emphasized my desire to participate in and be an advocate for a more global view of early childhood education. There have been challenges, but I see my role now as an advocate for young children, to learn from them and share my skills and knowledge to promote early childhood literacy, particularly in Botswana. The College of Education has given me valuable opportunities and support, and I feel so fortunate to be in a place that promotes my thinking, learning, and development as a global scholar and researcher.”
Laura Edwardschose education as a career because she is a passionate teacher and researcher about childhood issues and she places children at the center of her work. She cares about people’s lives and about the context in which they live and grow. Prior to MSU, Laura taught preschool and kindergarten in inner-city Phoenix. At MSU, she taught numerous sections of TE 352: Immigrant, Language, and Culture, the capstone course for the Global Educators Cohort Program; TE 803: Professional Role & Teaching Practice; and TE401/TE402: Teaching Social Studies to Diverse Learners. She also was a Research Assistant in the Tanzania Partnership Program. In Laura’s work, she examines diverse areas of life that pertain to young children in Tanzania. She writes about issues of international donors, national policies, and local leadership in the education of young children in Tanzania. Laura’s study raises questions about what is early childhood education formally and informally (i.e. what is occurring at home and in the communities) for young children in rural Tanzania. She addresses rationales and purposes for educating young children and perceptions about the local contextualization of education in childhood. During her visit in Tanzania, Laura spent time with families in their home and participated in activities such as fetching water. The broader study included visits to schools and individual and focus group interviews with representatives of major foreign ECD donors, NGOs involved in ECD work, the Tanzanian ECD civil society network, ECD scholars in Tanzanian universities, teacher trainers, and teachers. She writes, “Formalized early education can perhaps contribute to the well-being of children and families, particularly in poor rural communities with few resources. However, Western-style preschool models may or may not meet the needs of different contexts. Without unilaterally imposing a particular model of formal early childhood education, services must take into account the ways they operationalize in the context of Tanzania, and must take into consideration traditions, values, culture, and economic constraints.” Laura seeks to bridge the conversation gaps between Western assertions of what is appropriate in early childhood education and ways of understanding the development of young children in rural Tanzania from the perspectives of decision makers and caregivers.
Edgar I. Reynoso
The Global Educators Cohort Program (GECP) has opened an infinite number of doors for Edgar Reynoso as an undergraduate student. The program has been providing engaging and eye-opening educational classes with a global focus, which have made him realize who he is and where he stands as a future Mexican/American math educator in this society. GECP has given Edgar a phenomenal opportunity to study abroad and understand aspects of education systems across two countries, which has added multiple tools into his global educator toolbox. There are several global engagements that have become the highlights in his study at MSU:
In the spring semester of freshman year, Edgar participated in the GECP – Dearborn visit. Dearborn (Michigan) has the most concentrated Arab American population in the United States. This experience helps him eliminate the misconception that “immigrants” in the US means Hispanics/Latinos. He had the opportunity to learn and embrace the existent culture of Arab Americans in the United States. Moreover, Edgar had the opportunity to attend a math high school classroom, where most of the kids were Arab Americans and English learners. The experience took him back to his early years of primary school when he was in the students' shoes. The Dearborn visit motivated him to continue and maintain focus on his path to becoming an educator. Edgar states that, “teaching with the concept of social mobility to a group of ‘minority’ students, not only will it minimize the misconceptions of ‘minorities’ groups in America, it creates commonweal citizens, which I believe should be the ultimate goal.”
In the summer between sophomore and junior year, Edgar had two life-changing experiences that provided him with an infinite amount of reasons to be an educator. He got the opportunity to go to China and Costa Rica and work with an outstanding group of students, as well as experienced professionals.
During his two weeks in China with a group of GECP students, he got the opportunity to visit institutions, attend presentations from instructors and individuals that were part of the colleges of education in the host institutions, and a meeting with one of the ministers of education for that region. His group was paired with a college student in Beijing, and other “Chinese buddies” as they went to different cities. These buddies facilitated their comprehension of the Chinese culture and what it meant to be a college student in China. Using Albert Einstein’s quote “The only source of knowledge is experience,” Edgar commented on his trip to China as the best experience that taught him about Chinese education and culture.
During his trip in Costa Rica, Edgar was the only male participant in the group. Edgar states, “I was given the privilege to work with experienced educators from a range of ages and disciplines that enlighten my global educator pathway like the sun lights the earth.” Thanks to this group of great educators and coordinators, Edgar further said that, “I improved my comprehension about the education system, not as an individual system, which was my mentality, but as a system that is integrated to a greater system, the government.” They shared stories about school shutdowns due to schools not meeting the state standards, which was a topic he was unfamiliar with. Edgar got a glimpse of what the “lesson planning life” of an educator consists of. In this trip, he had to create a mathematics lesson plan, integrating the progress of Costa Rica, in regards to the Millennium Development Goals. About this particular experience, Edgar said, “It was something extremely out of my orbit, which I was able to accomplish due to the outstanding help of these educators, the type of educators whom in the near future I would love to be.”
Through the Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding, Lateefah Id-Deen traveled to Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai. Lateefah notes that, “Due to China’s performance on international tests and my interests in mathematics education, I always wanted to learn more about the teaching and learning of mathematics in China. Through observations and conversations, I was able to see the steps China is taking to reform their education. These reform efforts attempt to reduce the importance of testing to increase student engagement and anxieties by using creativity and incorporating the arts in curricula.”
Lateefah believes that she grew as a scholar by learning more about China’s teacher education programs at their universities. The experience provided her with an opportunity to learn more about China’s culture, interact with international colleagues, attend academic seminars presented by Chinese faculty members, plan and present to an audience whose native language is not English, visit world-renowned landmarks, explore museums, taste authentic cuisine, navigate in a city that did not speak her language and more. The Chinese program was just one of three programs that College of Education Ph.D. students had the opportunity to participate in that year.
Lateefah and other fellowship participants note that China seems to be moving towards an approach that, some would argue, is the opposite of the education path the United States is on. The US has increased the use of standardized tests in schools and has eliminated arts from many schools. She says, “Seeing these approaches in China reassured me that it is vital that I continue to teach high-level tasks through student-centered instruction in my mathematics methods courses. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow, personally and professionally. After this trip, I now understand the importance of understanding my responsibilities as a global citizen of the world around me. I want to continue to learn and respect different people, educational systems, and cultures in the world attempting to tackle the injustices and inequalities that citizens of the world face.”