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November 19, 2021

Going International Virtually: A New Perspective on Teacher Training

In March 2021, I participated in an international project focussed on teacher training. The initiators of the project were language teachers from the University of Valencia’s Faculty of Education. Participants in the project organized by Laura Angelini and Rut Muniz were from Spain of course, but also Romania, Austria, Tunisia (Virtual University and Carthage), USA (Illinois), Norway, Argentina, England (London and Lancaster) as well as yours truly representing the Cégep de Jonquière. The project aimed at using real-world scenarios to simulate educational problems for the teachers in training at several of the collaborating universities.

The official announcement of the international teacher training project.

The official announcement of the international teacher training project.

An Innovative Project

The approach used the virtual exchange model to permit the collaboration of many different universities in order to focus on multicultural, communicative and digital media skill development.

Sixteen teams were created. Team members played the role of a board of directors including representatives from the language departments and pedagogical counsellors to discuss real- world problems and attempt to propose solutions. The scenarios and our roles were shared with each of us prior to our get-togethers. Four synchronous sessions took place on Zoom. Asynchronous communication allowed team members to get to know each other and learn their roles.

I played the role of pedagogical counsellor on the Pedagogical Advisory Board:

Goal

ValPE, the Valtance Pedagogical Advisory Board, must analyse different aspects concerning the teaching of English in light of the several complaints received from the students, students’ parents and some teachers who require more guidance. ValPE, together with the School Committee, must urgently come up with sound solutions.

(Part of the profile of the Valtance Pedagogical Advisory Board for the role of pedagogical counsellor)

These are the topics that were covered:

  • Crises management and COVID and online teaching
  • Literature and drama in English
  • Shared teaching through lesson study
  • Classroom management
  • Multiple modalities in teaching

This simulation activity was very interesting for the university students because it put them into the role of teachers. They got to participate in a decision-making process, to be proactive and to apply what they had learned. While playing the role of pedagogical counsellor, I helped these future teachers arrive at a decision on how to deal with the issue presented in each of the 4 meetings we had.

I found that sharing experiences and best practices with other teachers from around the world was an innovative approach to professional development. It was interesting to talk with pre-service and newly in-service teachers and learn about the teaching contexts in their countries and classrooms. I realised that it is very much a small world, and we are not all that different after all.

Learning from simulations through international virtual exchanges

What I learned

As it turns out, I was also learning from the international participants. I learned about the Lesson Study Approach as a way for teachers to build pedagogical knowledge and improve their teaching.

It’s a cooperative teaching experience first developed in Japan. The Lesson Study Approach provides mutual support and assistance. A small team of instructors works together to design, teach, study, and refine a single class lesson. The innovative aspect of this teaching improvement strategy is that a colleague goes into the classroom to observe the students’ reactions to the teacher’s presentation of the lesson that was developed. The focus is not on the teacher but rather on the students. The observer looks at how students responded to the instruction, and how the instruction might be modified based on the evidence collected.

I believe that it is a fascinating approach to professional development.

Key takeaway: a new form of professional development

Virtual exchange activities for both students and teachers in higher education have been gaining more and more attention around the world. When I involve my students in these global learning experiences, my aim is for them to become global citizens by gaining intercultural communication skills, and by breaking down prejudices and preconceived notions about different cultural groups, countries, and societies.

I also learn from the educators I collaborate remotely with, as together we develop experiential and collaborative learning activities for our students. Virtual exchanges with international peers provide accessibility to those educators, who may not be able to travel to another country for quality international teaching development opportunities. Although virtual exchange experiences can never replace an in-person experience abroad, they have proven to be a valuable internationalization strategy that would benefit any teacher training program.

Note from the editor

If you would like to set up virtual international exchanges for your students and find teachers in other countries to pair up with, you could look into “A Tool for Authentic Speaking Activities with the World: Worldchat.live Education

Unicollaboration provides an extensive collection of tasks that you can use or adapt for use in an online intercultural exchange project with your students.

The Mixxer- language exchange developed by Dickinson College

Facebook also has a page for teachers interested in virtual exchanges.

About the author

Lisa Deguire

She has been teaching at the Cégep de Jonquière for about 20 years. Prior to this, she worked in the private sector in learning environment design for corporate clients. She is a member of the Association Québecoise de Pédagogie Collégiale and SPEAQ, a provincial association of English as a Second Language Teachers. Ms. Deguire is an Education Technology enthusiast and has participated in virtual team teaching projects and contributed multiple stories to Profweb between 2010 and 2014.

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