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Gavin B Sanderson University of South Australia
Themes: global citizenship
Tuesday 2 September 2008, 16.10-17.10 in Penthouse B
This research paper illuminates an area that has received scant attention in the literature on the internationalisation of higher education. Whilst interest has been paid over the past 15 years to internationalisation at the organisational level and, lately, to the international student experience, this paper focuses on the internationalisation of the academic Self and lecturers as global citizens. It reports on a theme that emerged from a doctoral study which examined a profile of an ideal lecturer for teaching international students. The profile is a normative model which promotes certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes for lecturers working with students from diverse cultural, language, and educational backgrounds. The paper draws on findings from the examination of the profile’s theoretical and practical pillars, the latter of which involved a case study on teaching in an allied health department which was peer recognised as an exemplar in teaching international students.
The case study on the department utilised a questionnaire and multiple in-depth interviews to examine the relationship between the profile’s claims and actual teaching practice. Of interest, the curriculum content and curriculum process of the teaching department was largely devoid of international perspectives due to its focus on producing graduates to work in the Australian health system. Whilst the teaching practice that was examined supports many of the profile’s claims, it is evident that the two key foundations of the profile - (1) a requirement for lecturers to understand the cultural ‘Otherness’ of students through culture specific knowledge, and (2) a requirement for lecturers to use a grid multi-reference teaching approach to accommodate the needs of international students - were not pivotal in the teaching approach of the lecturers in the study. Instead, their approach was inclusive, in that their prime focus was to assist all students to meet the learning objectives of their studies, regardless of their cultural, language, and educational backgrounds. Further, the lecturers did this whilst also clearly demonstrating that they recognised, respected, and appreciated the diversity in their students. In fact, the personal and professional characteristics of the lecturers reflected a strong sense of rooted, or grounded, cosmopolitanism.
These findings concur with the work of Biggs and Ramsden which holds that good teaching ultimately relies on the universality of the learning process in which the ethnicity of students is largely irrelevant. In this view, there is nothing inherently negative about international students engaging with host country curricula, even those that do not have strong international perspectives, to achieve rich learning outcomes as long as the curricula are valid and reliable, and the classroom environment is respectful and appreciative of the uniqueness of each individual, both teachers and students, in the educative process. The lecturers in the study, then, can be classified as having cosmopolitan sensibilities even though they do not engage to any extent with internationalised curricula, nor intersect with the foundational elements of the profile. The issue raised by this paper is whether this, in itself, is a sufficient condition for global citizenship.