Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

"Organic Learning": Teaching Abroad as a Figured World for Preservice Teachers' Identity Development

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

"Organic Learning": Teaching Abroad as a Figured World for Preservice Teachers' Identity Development

Article excerpt


A research agenda around teacher education geared toward developing global perspectives has shifted clinical work from traditional settings such as schools and communities toward an alternative--student teaching abroad. Over the last 30 years in countries like the United States and Australia, student teaching abroad has expanded from a focus on language and cultural acquisition to an analysis of how teaching abroad assists preservice teachers' professional growth.

Given this shift in research agendas, researchers have utilized a multitude of approaches to examine individual interpretations and how "natural" contexts shape preservice teachers' professional development through teaching abroad. Some scholars use hermeneutic, sociocultural, and phenomenological approaches to investigate preservice teachers' increased cultural awareness, self-efficacy, and development of global mindedness in and through teaching abroad (Malewski, Sharma, & Phillion, 2012; Sahin, 2008). Other scholars use globalization and multicultural approaches to theorize preservice teachers' professional and personal development (Cushner, 2007; Wilson, 1993). Via a broad range of approaches both at the micro-analytical level and at the macro-analytical level, scholars illustrate the intricacy of student teaching abroad in teacher education.

Teaching is contextually informed through social practice, which is shaped by "naturally" situated power relations and resources. Scholars advocate for a critical approach to challenge power relations when teaching (Cohen, 2011; Giroux, 1994). A critical approach promotes research dialogues to reveal how such "naturalness" arises through the lived experiences of individuals. A critical approach thus has the potential to illustrate the ways in which power, based on categories like race and language, circulates and constructs preservice teacher identity and pedagogy in and through teaching abroad. Therefore our ethnographic study aims to address three questions: (a) How do preservice teachers perceive themselves as teachers in and through teaching abroad? (b) In what ways do the preservice teachers' perceptions influence their pedagogical practices? and (c) To what extent does teaching abroad develop preservice teachers' critical awareness of learners and learning in regard to sociocultural differences?

Our study aims to expand on research literature by using a critical approach to examine how teaching abroad shapes teacher identity, pedagogy, and critical awareness. This study informs and extends the field of student teaching. In the subsequent section, we employ poststructuralism as an interpretive framework to understand preservice teacher identity, critical awareness, and pedagogical development in and through teaching abroad.

Poststructuralist Theories of Identity, Pedagogy, and Figured Worlds

The poststructuralist theories of identity, pedagogy, and figured worlds are used to frame our study; specifically, we use the work of Norton (2000), Morgan (2004), and Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain (1998). Our research questions motivated us to clarify what is involved in an individual's "sense of self." Poststructuralism conceptualizes identity through the intersections of micro- and macro-considerations. Thus identity is viewed as constructed and negotiated not only by individual interactions at the micro-social level but also by symbolic interactions stemming from sociocultural structures, power relations, and imagined communities at the macro-social level (Foucault, 1980; Holland et al., 1998; Weedon, 1987). Norton (2000) defined identity as "how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future" (p. 5). Like Norton, poststructuralists view identity as multiple, dynamic, contradictory in nature, and constructed across space and time (Gee, 2000; Weedon, 1987). …

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