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Each year, the M.Ed. in International Education staff at Endicott College conducts a program review of one of our several degree specializations. During the 2020-21 program review cycle, we surveyed international school staff from our databases and asked each to suggest the top skills and dispositions needed among professionals working in K-12 international schools. The broad intention was to better connect “the industry” with the university, with a view of addressing any perceived disconnect in the post covid-19 era between emphasized skills and real-world educational needs.
This brief article presents an informal narrative discussion of the nonempirical survey results, in hopes that the identified areas may have meaning for the broader international school community. Others (Conderman & Walker, 2015; Cummins & Asempapa, 2013) have written about similar topics; here, we are simply presenting the results of our own information gathering. The response rate was limited, so this discussion should be cautiously regarded as not necessarily representative.
We sought to distinguish skills and dispositions in order to guide our course learning goals. The top-identified skill sets were cultural awareness, assessment, and collaboration. International school staff also offered additional original suggestions, including emotional intelligence and understanding of issues of race and privilege in the contemporary international education context. These results prompted us to think about how to operationalize such important ideas and at how they might be shared and taught within the combination of online and (hopefully) face-to-face contact hours.
We also aimed to focus on dispositions. What dispositions or traits—as distinct from skills and knowledge—do educators need in order to thrive while teaching abroad? The top three dispositions were open-mindedness, flexibility, and adaptability.
Interestingly, these dispositions corresponded with the top-three traits identified in the book Success internationally: The important dispositions you’ll need for thriving abroad, written by two of our faculty members. School staff from around the world offered additional suggestions beyond those previously listed, including the disposition of compassion.
Our program review discussions included very interesting considerations of how educators could model or teach dispositions and to what extent it is believed that dispositions can in fact be nurtured in a largely online format.
The M.Ed. programs have traditionally been a hybrid of face-to-face summers plus online elements during the school year, and the program moved fully online during the global pandemic. How indeed would teachers instruct, model, or assess dispositions such as flexibility or open-mindedness online, and to what extent should a university program endeavor to express dispositions as learning goals? Such questions provide rich material for discussion and program review, though are beyond the scope of this brief summative article.
The survey included a small number of open-ended questions, especially pertaining to technology needs in the post covid-19 era. One theme that came through was a view that training should focus on the pedagogy of online and hybrid teaching, rather than on specific software tools such as Zoom or Seesaw. This view was not shared by everyone, however, as a few educators did suggest a need for training in specific online tools, with fairly frequent mention of Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Zoom, Seesaw, and ManageBac.
Additionally, some of the individual responses offered insight into other current needs, such as the comment that teachers need to better understand interpersonal, well-being, and cultural aspects of learners attending classes at home. Other valuable comments included that this survey was an important instance of linking the industry of international education with the university/college providing training to those schools’ educators and administrators.
Our information gathering was an all-too-rare opportunity for an internationally focused teacher and administrator training program to collate input from leaders in the field. Future work might focus on expanding the base of input to include a broadening range of diverse stakeholders and on the development of an instrument screened for reliability and validity beyond simple face validity. The international educational landscape is ever changing, and the college curriculum is not a static set of documents or practices.
For more information on the various Endicott M.Ed. in International Education degrees, including the revised and improved M.Ed. in International Education specialization, please see www.endicott.edu/internationalmasters.
Carber, S., & Tran, T. (2016). Success internationally: The important dispositions you’ll need for thriving abroad. Woodbridge, UK: John Catt International.
Conderman, G., & Walker, D.A. (2015). Assessing dispositions in teacher preparation programs: Are candidates and faculty seeing the same thing? The Teacher Educator, 50(3), 215-231.
Cummins, L., & Asempapa, B. (2013). Fostering teacher candidate dispositions in teacher education programs. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(3), 99-119.
Dr. Steven Carber teaches full-time for Endicott College’s Master of Education in International Education specializations offered at Leysin American School in Switzerland, at the College of International Studies in Madrid, and 100% online. He has authored/edited Taking the PYP Forward, Internationalizing Schools, and Success Internationally, all published by John Catt.