Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Collaborating in (Mis)translation: Opportunities Lost and Found during a Multi-Year Exchange Program between Canada and China/Collaborer À (L'erreur De) la Traduction : Opportunités Perdues et Trouvées Durant Un Programme D'échange Pluriannuel Entre le Canada et la Chine

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

Collaborating in (Mis)translation: Opportunities Lost and Found during a Multi-Year Exchange Program between Canada and China/Collaborer À (L'erreur De) la Traduction : Opportunités Perdues et Trouvées Durant Un Programme D'échange Pluriannuel Entre le Canada et la Chine

Article excerpt

Introduction

Reciprocal Learning Program

This paper grew out of the perceptions and experiences of Canadian education faculty who collaborated with Chinese Canadian colleagues in leading trips to China during a multi-year exchange program. The Faculty of Education of the University of Windsor is very fortunate to have a number of faculty members who are Chinese. One of the Chinese faculty members initiated and secured funding for international exchanges with a major university in China. For the past several years, students and faculty from Canada and China have visited each other for extended periods of time, and embedded themselves in each other's programs. Each spring a non-Chinese faculty member and a Chinese faculty member travel to China with 12 to 18 recent Bachelor of Education graduates, and spend several weeks visiting schools in and around a major city in the southwest of China. Each fall a cohort of 20 to 25 Chinese education students come to Canada with a "lead" teacher from their home university, and embed themselves in the Education program for three months. This exchange has had numerous benefits including Chinese students who return to Canada to pursue graduate studies, Canadian students who return to China to pursue teaching positions, and long-term friendships that are forged between Canadian and Chinese students. The exchange program has continued to evolve, and now includes graduate students from Canada who are engaged in research projects in China.

Previous research points to the benefit of international exchange participants developing heightened awareness of the different educational practices and cultural and social values in other countries (Black & Bernardes, 2014; Leng & Pan, 2013; Root & Ngampornchai, 2012; Besley, 2011; Walfish, 2001). Additional benefits for our faculty members have been the opportunity to foster exchanges with colleagues in the partner country; to give lectures in their area of scholarship; and to pursue research projects. The premise of the program was "reciprocal learning." As Boud (1999) defines it,

[reciprocal learning] involves participants learning from and with each other in both formal and informal ways. It includes mutual benefits and a sharing of knowledge, ideas and experience among participants. The emphasis is on learning rather than teaching, and on the support and encouragement learners offer to each other, as much as the learning task (p. 4).

Our experiences have been overwhelmingly positive; but they were not without friction, conflict, and misunderstandings. Individual expectations and assumptions sometimes collided with experiences that resulted in "cultural contestation," as we tried to negotiate our place and role in cultural environments where we had limited understanding of local and historical narratives (Holliday, 2013).

In discussing the experiences of the non-Chinese faculty who travelled to China, we found that each of us went with different sets of expectations. The Reciprocal Learning program objectives are another set of expectations. To set the stage, we will begin by providing the program objectives and what each of our expectations were before we left for China. Our first person narratives will then be organised under the themes familiarity, uncertainty, obstacles, and discovery. Without wanting to in any way diminish the benefits, and while acknowledging the value of the program, we take a critical look at relationships and lines of communication; of the ways in which Canadian faculty and nonCanadian faculty often succeeded but also sometimes failed to work collegially or to communicate effectively. We end by offering some recommendations that may help faculty who are engaged in international projects to work together and achieve deeper and more meaningful levels of reciprocal learning and intercultural competence.

Objectives and Expectations

The reciprocal learning project was established with funding from, in part, a university research initiative fund, through generous partnership with the host university in China, and through students' self-funded travel. …

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