Planning for Action Research II

Of the three topic options for my Teach-Now Global Education Master’s action research proposal (language and multilingualism, international mindedness, or self-defined), my research question will address international mindedness and how discourses around the need for such a mindset and skill-set in schools drives international education in my local school districts. Through a survey of recent literature, international education and 21st century learning implementation guides, internationally minded standards, and a cross-section of teachers and administrators working in local international schools, I intend to answer the following question:

 

What are the discourses that drive the creation and expansion of international schools and international programs in the greater Seattle area?

 

In pursuing an answer to that question I will use the discourse analysis outlined by Walter C. Parker of the University of Washington in 2008 and 2011, which identified two strong and three weak discourses pushing the international education movement forward in Seattle area schools. I will attempt a less exhaustive update to his analyses, but I will use his identified discourses as a tool to compare and contrast the current international education trends. In so doing, I will attempt to answer the following questions which will help me to answer my broader, primary question:

  1. What are the discourses that drive this particular “international” school or program? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  2. If the strong and weak discourses have changed, has the mission of the local international schools changed? And if so, has this or how has this affected the development of international education, and the curriculum and instruction to go along with it?
  3. Do the current IE discourses reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  4. Is international education seen as the salvation to a current crisis of public education in the area?
  5. Do the WA OSPI 21st century Career and Technical Education (CTE) standards and resources stress the economic and military security discourse, or are Parker’s marginal discourses more prominent in their language?
  6. What discourses do the adopted CTE programs in the area, namely the IB Career Programme and AVID, reflect in their mission, vision and program descriptions?
  7. Does international education in Seattle Public Schools reflect the weak or strong discourses laid out by Parker, or has the power shifted in those terms?

 

The schools systems and districts I will be studying represent an education context that demands 21st century skills and knowledge of the world. The Seattle area is a major player in the global economy with many transnational corporations including Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, which create many well-paid STEM jobs that the education system in the state of Washington cannot come close to filling with its own citizens. The state of Washington is the third largest exporting state in the union and many of the public education systems in the state are clamoring to prepare their students for this dynamic, globalized economy, yet they can’t keep pace with the demand for engineers, computer programmers and business managers prepared for a diverse, cross-cultural workplace. In the meantime, those transnational corporations are importing an affluent, well-educated migrant class to work for them. Mostly coming from China and India, these immigrants are rapidly changing the demographics and economics of the Seattle area in profound ways, creating tensions around housing prices, new school boundaries and more.

Thus, the Seattle area and its international education programs offer a vital measuring stick for the notion that in the 21st century a good education is truly an international education. If that notion is not supported by the discourses used to justify the creation and development of international schools in the area we need to know why. And we need to know what discourses are employed by local educators instead.

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Cross-Cultural Terminology: Competing Forces

Mark Heyward defines Intercultural Literacy as the unconscious, transcultural ability to empathize with another from a different culture, to take on their perspective and embed it into your own thinking, to be the dynamic, multilingual ‘mediating person’ who can navigate between and among many different kinds of people.

For Heyward there are many reasons to aspire to this high level of cultural competency; to make the world more cooperative, safer, and sustainable for all, while also ensuring each person’s economic competitiveness in a globalized world. It is not clear where his emphasis lies, but the economic security of being interculturally literate is not mentioned first and is not mentioned repeatedly in his paper From international to intercultural. In fact, Heyward is setting a very high aspirational goal for a new ‘global species’ of human who still occupies a plurality of identities, but has gone well beyond a nationalist or monolingual culture and identity and has instead become transcultural.

Of course, Heyward argues that international schools are uniquely positioned to provide the environment which shepards young students through their ‘crisis of engagement’ and onto progressively higher levels of mono-, cross- and intercultural literacy. This ‘crisis of engagement’ as Heyward calls it, is essential, for only through experience and encounter with the other can one begin to understand and then move on to integrate the other cultural and social imaginary. This eventual unconscious integration of bicultural and transcultural identity is problematic in a world that is in many regions and nations backlashing against notions of transnational economic cooperation and transnational pluralistic societies. Looking at the white nationalist movements in the US and Eastern Europe as an extreme, one can easily assume the virulent objections concerning the loss of culture, identity, and the dangers of a monocultural or multicultural society that would be raised. There are more legitimate concerns, of course, like those who would see this transcultural process as another form of cultural imperialism from the west, or those developing nations that use a national image and identity to spur growth and energy in its workforce.

 

Intercultural literacy shares an emphasis on experience as a philosophical footing with international mindedness (IM). The term IM is associated with Kurt Hahn and the International Baccalaureate programmes (IB), and the experiences are meant to engender the dispositions and attributes of an IB Learner; risk-takers, caring, principled, open minded and more.

Dr. Arathi Sripakash and his colleagues, in their study of six IB schools in Australia, China and India, found a significant association with IM and Hahn’s idealized traditional western education and the IB World Schools acknowledgement that they come from a humanist western tradition. In fact, many students and families enrolled in IB schools in these countries see IM as a form of “western cultural capital” intended to help them navigate the western higher education system. The study found that IM in these schools and cultures was more curriculum and instruction focused and put less emphasis on the constructivist or experiential learning that both Hahn and Heyward find essential to creating a student who can effectively navigate and contribute to a globalized world. Thus, Sripakash describes a very practical version of IM which is limited in its effect on student identities and does deeply engage students in the tensions between the nationalist project of developing China, say, and the international education pursuits of its highest achieving students.

 

In this practical vein, we move on to global competence, as defined by Veronica Boix Mansilla and Anthony Jackson in the Asia Society’s joint publication with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) entitled Educating for Global Competence. In it, Mansilla and Jackson define global competence as “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.” Action to “improve conditions” in the world is emphasized throughout the document, but most especially in the matrices for global competence in multiple subject areas. To build global competence in students all subject area teachers should follow the following learning cycle:

  1. Investigate the world
  2. Recognize perspectives, both their own and others’
  3. Communicate ideas, to diverse audiences
  4. Take action, to improve conditions

The notable verbs repeated in all the subject area matrices are the following: Identify, Analyze, Produce, Recognize, Examine, Explain, Explore, Use, Select, Reflect, Assess, Act

Aside from ‘reflect’, this comes off as a very western-oriented actionable matrix. Even in the global competence matrix for the world languages subject area it is all about the functionality of the second language. For example, “reflect on how proficiency in more than one language contributes to their own capacity to advocate for and contribute to improvement locally, regionally or globally.” This is all about the ability to “improve conditions”, not about the reflecting upon new awarenesses, interconnections made, perspectives newly understood and adopted, not much at the intercultural literacy level advocated by Heyward.

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In fact, there is a whole body of western imperialism criticism of international education, and particularly the international mindedness of the IB programmes, being the most prominent and common model of international schools worldwide. Lodewijck van Oord argues that there are three primary western liberal epistemological assumptions embedded in the IB Diploma Programme:

  1. Marketplace of ideas, wide range of valid opinions
  2. Questioning is central, fallibility is acknowledged
  3. Marketplace of ideas will lead to truth, the best ideas win out

Citing Blooms and Gardner, van Oord makes the case that our traditional western liberal values tell us that mean-making is the ideal end of education, and that conceptual knowledge has primacy over rote learning of quantities of content.

In addition, Barry Drake takes van Oord’s conclusions about the values found in western liberal education and how the IB programme reflects those values, and calls on education policy makers in non-Western, non-Eurocentric nations to deeply consider the implications and potential ‘cultural dissonances’ produced when those Eastern, African or Latin American nations adopt the IB programmes in their national schools. In terms of teaching methodology

the PYP is committed, unapologetically, to “. . . structured, purposeful inquiry, which engages students actively in their own learning, because it is believed that this is the way in which students learn best. The PYP believes that students should be invited to investigate important subject matter by formulating their own questions, looking at the various means available to answer the questions and proceeding with research, experimentation,  observation and other means that will lead them to their own responses to the issues.” This is the IBO basically declaring a constructivist theory of learning. Meaning making through first person experience, which is a western pedagogical approach and yet also problematic in the west with western students in some settings, high poverty and trauma communities. Thus, the adoption of this epistemology and pedagogy must be done intentionally, Drake argues, so that the environment for cross-cultural cultivation is set appropriately.

 

My philosophical beliefs in how children be taught and should learn definitely fall into the western liberal tradition. I believe in meaning making through inquiry and that truth will reveal itself in the marketplace of ideas. But I certainly acknowledge that these assumptions are fraught, or simply ineffectual, for many communities and cultures. Like I said, constructivist learning does not work for all students coming from the western tradition, direct instruction, rote memorization and deep content knowledge are aspects of teaching and learning that are important even in the western education setting and indeed work better for some students, particularly those coming from high poverty or trauma situations where uncertainty in learning is not desirable. The pitfalls for non-western students can be even greater, identity alienation and a lack of relevance and reflection of their own lives in the educational setting. That lack of practical connection between their own lives and traditions and the learning taking place in their school, is the opposite intent of the western tradition of educating, thus it can self-defeating.

That being said, there are value judgments made when deciding upon education policy, and in curriculum and instruction choices, and I would tend to the integration of IM, IL and GC into a school curricula because I see the need for a trained, culturally competent citizenry in a globalized world, I’ve experienced the joy of intercultural experience, and those ‘crisis of engagement’ have been the most important formative experiences of my life and continued education. I agree with Drake, that it is critical for policy makers, school directors and teachers to consider the effect and implications for adopting IM through the IB programmes in a non-western school setting, but that does not mean that the right environment, the appropriate considerations, and the positive, identity affirming experiences cannot be achieved in the name of higher order thinking strategies, meaning making and self-actualizing student imaginaries.

 

Sources:

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education,1, 9-32. Retrieved February 16, 2018

Sriprakash, A. (2014). A comparative study of international mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India(Publication).

Boix Mansilla, V., & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for Global Competence: Preparing our Youth to Engage the World(Rep.). New York, NY: Asia Society.

Lodewijk van Oord (2007) To westernize the nations? An analysis of thevInternational Baccalaureate’s philosophy of education, Cambridge Journal of Education, 37:3, 375-390, DOI: 10.1080/03057640701546680

Drake, B. (2015). International education and IB programmes. Journal of Research in International Education,3, 189-205. Retrieved February 16, 2018.

Planning for Action Research

Action Research

Action Research is conducted by a reflective practitioner in a given field. A professional who is determined to improve his or her practice, knowledge or skill base through “planned and systematic inquiry.” According to Nancy and Gary Padak, there are four stages of the action research process for an educator. These four stages encompass the seven step cycle that Richard Sagor defines as the inquiry cycle for action research. Below is a synthesis of both frameworks for education research:

  1. Identify the question – this should include three major characteristics:
    1. Importance, needs-based (clarifying theories)
    2. Relevance, addressing a problem (selecting a focus)
    3. Answerable, the criterion should be appropriately limited in scope (identifying research questions)
  2. Collection of information – student assessment data, record of observations, surveys, interviews, daily notes, demographic data, tallies, official documents, conversations with groups or individuals:
    1. Develop a clear set of questions in advance
    2. Acquire multiple independent sources of data
    3. Be effective and efficient in your collection of data, uses sources close to you because “data can come from almost anywhere.”
  3. Analyze the information and data – “You will know that you have gathered enough information when new data bring no surprises”
    1. “Data saturation” or redundancy
    2. “Triangulation” of multiple independent sources
    3. Follow these four steps once data is collected:
      • Reach data saturation, ie no surprises
      • Thorough review of all data collected
      • Categorization, ie sift, sort, rank and examine to FIND THE STORY!
      • Identify the answers in the data (answers to the question or problem)
  4. Reports results – Research can lead to more research
    1. Write and publish for documentation
    2. The writing process allows one to refine, deepen, and reveal insights from the research
    3. Sharing with fellow educators allows them to leverage your work and reduces teacher isolation
    4. Will allow for informed action to be taken in the future

 

Potential Questions for my Action Research

I recently read Walter C. Parker’s piece in the journal Globalization, Societies and Education entitled, ‘International education’ in US public schools (2009), and found his analysis of discourses used to justify the creation of international schools very intriguing. Specifically, the classification of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ discourses interested me. Along with the crisis and salvation education reform history to which the current IE wave is connected. This is relevant to me, as I will be assessing the mission and vision of international schools over the next few years in search of an excellent school community abroad for which my wife and I will teach. A school’s mission and vision are essential to its effectiveness, so the stated justification for an international curriculum or 21st Century Skills integration, will speak volumes about the school. Plus, I would like to be a school leader one day and lead an effort to infuse daily instruction with international mindedness, therefore I must be able to communicate our reasons for this effort to my staff. Below is a list of potential questions:

  • What are the discourses that drive this “international” school? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  • If not, what are they, and do they reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  • If the strong and weak discourses have changed, has the mission of the local international schools changed? And if so, has this or how has this affected the curriculum and instruction?

 

Educatore Action Research Requirements

For our Action Research project in Module 14, we must follow the above mentioned steps of a quality and effective research project. We must produce a report of at least 20 to 30 pages with the following sections:

  1. Statement of Question or Problem – The scope must focused and it must draw on prior knowledge to achieve proficient on the evaluation rubric.
  2. Literature Review – References must current and pertinent to the topic or question. Must make clear connections between the literature gathered and the action research question.
  3. Proposed Methodology – “planned and systematic research” with consideration for privacy, safety and ethical concerns
  4. Analysis of Results – “The results were directly related to the research question…and followed a logical sequence.”
  5. Summary and Conclusion – “The conclusions/summary were based on outcomes and included some appropriate recommendations.” Tie to related literature and also question results against related literature.
  6. References – Academic level sources, ideally peer-reviewed
  7. Writing Mechanics – Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  8. APA Format – Bibliography is all in APA Format!

 

Challenges and Opportunities

I definitely feel comfortable putting together a research paper that ties the data collected to the action research question, compares and contrasts the data against the relevant academic literature in the field of inquiry, and draws logical conclusions and recommendations. I also feel confident in conducting a sufficient literature review, finding the relevant source material and gleaning the appropriate lessons tied to my action research question. However, the trick is going to be focusing the scope of my action research project in such a way that I am able to gather the data that I need. I know that I am going to have to leverage my professional connections in the the schools and districts in my area in order to interview the right people in the field of international education. I am not teaching at an international school, so my challenge will be access to data. Thus, I am going to need to think ahead, plan ahead and prepare my questions ahead of time in order to give myself the time necessary to access the data I need that is not readily at hand. I am thinking that I need to develop a survey, in short order, for international school administrators and teachers with the focused questions I desire answer. This way, I can give busy educators the time they need to respond to my inquiries, while not pressing me up against the wire of our early April deadline.

 

Sources

Sagor, R. (n.d.). Chapter 1. What Is Action Research? Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

Padak, N., & Padak, G. (17, September 28). Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects. Retrieved February 7, 2018, from http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Pubs/0200-08.htm