MARQUETTE – Study-abroad programs for all majors have been a longstanding fixture at many colleges and universities. But according to an article in Education Week, a growing number of education schools have recently expanded or developed international training opportunities designed specifically for prospective teachers. NMU is part of this trend, with student teaching sites in England, Ecuador and – most recently – New Zealand.

“The experience allows them to develop new perspectives and new ideas and new ways of doing things that they can share with others when they return to the United States," said Rodney Clarken, a professor in the NMU School of Education.

NMU has negotiated agreements with foreign institutions that have similar academic standards. This makes it easier to effectively monitor student teacher performance.

“We share our expectations with these institutions,” Clarken said. “They send formal evaluation reports to us, which we keep as part of a student’s teaching record.”

The program in New Zealand started this past fall. Janet Swanson, an elementary education major, spent 13 weeks in the country. She taught in Pakuranga, a suburb of Auckland, on the northern island of New Zealand.

“It was the best experience of my life,” Swanson said. “I gained so much more from the experience than I think I could have in an American school. I spent the first half in the new entrants class (5-year-olds) and the second half with 9- to 11-year-olds. I learned how to teach non-English-speaking students. I encourage everyone to try to experience life outside the United States.”

Professor Clarken asserts that injecting a dose of international flavor into teacher training has the potential to expand studentsÂ’ understanding and abilities. Does it also have the potential to enhance their job prospects when they return, or would a prospective employer prefer a candidate whose field experience was in a more comparable system in the United States?

“My general sense is that most people will perceive it as a very positive thing,” Clarken responded. “The experience allows them to bring a unique way of thinking about education to the schools they will teach in. They might be able to add new information to discussions about education that probably wouldn’t surface otherwise. I think employers would value that.”

Eight students begin their teacher training overseas this semester: four in New Zealand, two in England, one in Ecuador and one in France. The latter was arranged through the modern languages department.

Clarken anticipates the number of participants will grow steadily in the future as NMU continues to promote available opportunities and more students become aware of the benefits of student teaching overseas.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director