Educators Across The Globe Collaborate And Exchange Ideas

Usha Rajdev

Abstract


The Center for Global Education at Marymount University offered unparalleled academic, experiential, and cultural exposure to 17 Marymount University graduate students and two professors who participated in a service-learning project in Porbandar, India, on January 1-18, 2010. The program focused on teaching PreK-7 grades through an integrated approach. The purpose was to help students in math and science methodology to further their understanding of how a diverse population with little concept of U.S. teaching methods approaches learning mathematics and science concepts. This project aligns with NCATE’s Professional Standards in that “American society is becoming more diverse, with students in classrooms drawn from many cultures and ethnic groups. Preparing teachers to teach all students to meet society’s demands for high performance has created a new agenda for educators and policymakers.”  A model was developed with the NCATE’s redesign in mind: to transform America’s P-12 education system to support higher levels of student learning and success across the spectrum of diverse learners. The goal of this project was to establish a long-term collaborative program between Marymount University School of Education and Human Resources in Arlington, Virginia, and Dr. Virambhai Rajabhai Godhaniya College, in Porbandar, Gujarat, India. As George Bernard Shaw said and Robert Kennedy famously repeated, “Some look at things and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not.” During a visit to London, England, I was fortunate to meet Dr. Virambhai Godhaniya (for whom the school is named). We seemed to have a common vision of expanding the P-12 education in his Porbandar School to support higher levels of student learning while engaging Marymount University students in learning the value of diversity and education of the whole person.  This need for teachers in a successful global society to be broadly educated culturally and academically was demonstrated by Ed Greene, of Montclair State University, in the Harvard Family Research Project (2010). According to Greene, teacher preparation programs should institute lifelong learning principles that encourage students to examine their values, attitudes, standards of acceptable behavior, and the ways in which these influence their beliefs about teaching and learning. What he described is not a one-semester class or a single lecture on culturally diverse families but instead lifelong work that will increase the number of educators who are socially and culturally conscious, competent, and confident as they serve children and families. This concern is echoed by Sherick Hughes, of the University of Toledo, in the same publication, who argues that “teachers need support, motivation, and experiences related to cultures other than their own in order to engage in effective cross-cultural teaching.”  As an associate professor and a woman of diverse background, I not only value respect for diversity but also model it to my pre-service teachers so that they may implement it in their own classrooms. Marymount University’s mission statement refers to “a student-centered learning community that values diversity and focuses on the education of the whole person.” Working with students and colleagues abroad enhanced my students’ understanding of effectiveness within the multicultural educational system in the United States and fulfilled NCATE’s Professional Standard 4 on diversity: “Experiences provided for candidates include working with diverse populations, including higher education and P–12 school faculty, candidates, and students in P–12 schools.” In Porbandar, the host schools conducted their teaching through a traditional approach. Rote learning reinforced with blackboard and chalk and paper and pencil appeared to be the main focus of teaching. Children remained at their desks while teachers imparted knowledge through a lecture. There were no indications of inclusion of different learning styles. All students were taught the same material at the same pace. Marymount students did not observe adaptations for diverse learners. Yet it was important for them to understand the culture and the circumstances behind the Indian style of teaching.


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