Right co-ordinates for global learning

24th August 2007 at 01:00
The LTS wants to embed international education in the curriculum. Elizabeth Buie reports

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION is the latest territory to be annexed to the growing empire administered by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

But its inclusion in the organisation's curricular portfolio makes eminent sense, given the growing evidence of the impact of international education on pupils' confidence, motivation and achievements as learners and global citizens.

Teachers who extend their knowledge through study trips, research and involvement in international education projects are also acknowledged to be benefiting from this experience.

For Kay Livingston, the recently-appointed head of international education at LTS a position she holds alongside her substantive post of Professor of Educational Research, Policy and Practice at Glasgow University the aim is to ensure that the benefits are shared across schools and authorities.

As she embarks on a mission to make the connections between international education and classroom practice more explicit for teachers and pupils, one of her first tasks is to join up what to date has been a somewhat "fragmented landscape" of provision.

To this end, she has launched a new Scottish Continuing Inter-national Professional Develop-ment programme which takes place in October, when two global study visits are being run. One group of 15 teachers and other education professionals will visit the University of Santa Cruz in California, where Ellen Moir, the internationally renowned expert on teacher development, is resident; the second group, also of 15, will visit schools and examine leadership in Ontario.

Professor Livingston says: "When they come back, there is going to be emphasis on: 'What have you learned that you can use in your own context and develop for Scottish education?'"

Three months after members of the groups return, they will be expected to analyse and report on what they did, reflect on how it differs from, or is similar to, their own practice or experience, and demonstrate their understanding of the educational issues. Nine months after their return, they will have to demonstrate what difference the study trip has made to their classroom practice, ideas and knowledge.

The Glasgow-based Developing Effective International Educational Practice initiative involved about half of Scottish local authorities and has been subsumed into the new LTS international education department. While many of the teachers who took part in DEIEP study visits had life-changing experiences, participants did not always have the chance to make a wider impact on Scottish education.

As a means of sharing knowledge, Professor Livingston will be organising a masterclass in November, open to two teachers from every authority in Scotland. She is also helping to develop a chartered teacher module which should be in place next January, specifically to give professional recognition to those teachers working in international education who have not had the opportunity to take part in study visits.

Key to her philosophy is looking at other countries' experiences in context. She points, for instance, to work she witnessed in Denmark on the "pupil voice" in schools which has to be understood in the context of the importance given throughout Danish society to people having a voice and Denmark's relationship with the EU.

In her career, Professor Livingston has had ample opportunity to evaluate and reflect upon practice outside Scotland:

* initially at Craigie College (latterly Paisley University) where she was international co-ordinator;

* on secondment to the European Commission in Brussels to work on the Socrates programme;

* as leader of a transatlantic research project examining how technology could be used to motivate children who had dropped out of education;

* as director of the Quality in Education centre at Strathclyde University, succeeding John Mac-Beath, which specialised in school-based evaluation of national and international initiatives;

* and as director of the Scottish Teachers for a New Era programme at Aberdeen University, which is involved in evaluating many of the Scottish Executive funded Future Learning and Teaching projects.

But she resists attempts to identify a "best ever" example of international education that Scotland should adopt. For her, international education is about "reflecting on what is happening within the country and the context of that country, and then thinking about it in our own context".

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