International Fulbright educators work and learn in local schools through MLFTC

By

Meghan Ensell

Professional development is critical in every career, particularly education. All educators need to be equipped with best practices based on current research in order to do their job effectively. And because classrooms are increasingly becoming more diverse, educators benefit from observing and interacting with colleagues outside of their districts, especially internationally. 

In August, MLFTC welcomed 18 international primary and secondary teachers through the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program for International Teachers 2021. The project, funded by a U.S. Department of State grant and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board, was spearheaded by Leanna Archambault, associate professor and Alejandra Enriquez Gates, program director. 

The cohort of nine women and nine men included educators from Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Finland, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Morocco, the Philippines, Uganda and the United Kingdom. Over the course of five months, the distinguished educators observed and co-taught in local elementary and secondary schools at Balsz School District and Phoenix Union High School District, and shared their expertise with their U.S. peers and students. They also attended instructional and technology seminars provided by MLFTC, had the option to audit two graduate-level or upper-level-undergraduate ASU courses and participate in additional professional development through seminars and workshops offered by ASU faculty members.

“This year’s cohort brought an enormous amount of talent and passion to ASU. Of note is their tremendous commitment to inclusion, diversity and representation. This was evident throughout their projects, ranging from creating inclusive LGBTQIA+ learning communities to incorporating principles of Universal Design for Learning for special needs students to creating and teaching anti-racist curriculum in the classroom. It’s amazing and inspiring to work with educators from across the globe,” says Archambault. The cohort of nine women and nine men included educators from Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Finland, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Morocco, the Philippines, Uganda and the United Kingdom. Over the course of five months, the distinguished educators observed and co-taught in local elementary and secondary schools, and shared their expertise with their U.S. peers and students. They also attended instructional and technology seminars provided by MLFTC, had the option to audit two graduate-level or upper-level-undergraduate ASU courses and participate in additional professional development through seminars and workshops offered by ASU faculty members.

Fulbright cohort

The 2021 Fulbright cohort.

During their time here, Fulbright distinguished educators complete an inquiry project, in collaboration with their learning community, to develop educational materials, workshops, webinars or other resources to meet the educational needs of their home country. 

Jenni Sipola, a visiting scholar from Finland and classroom teacher, centered her inquiry project around building interconnective lessons in STEAM education to improve students' 21st-century skills.

"Research shows that teaching integrated STEAM-related content areas using different subjects as tools helps develop students' 21st-century skills. These skills also heighten the ability to solve real-world problems, guide students towards sustainable development goals and prepare them for future jobs that don't yet exist. Teaching and implementing STEAM needs teachers' co-operational planning,” says Sipola. 

Upon her return to her primary school in Vantaa, Finland Sipola will organize STEAM workshops. She also secured funding from the Erasmus Student Network to send other teachers abroad to learn more about STEAM. 

“The best part of my experience has been meeting all of the amazing international and U.S. teachers and faculty members. Everyone has been so helpful, friendly and passionate about teaching and making the world a better place,” Sipola says.

Denis Kiprotich, a scholar from Uganda, began his teaching career in 2012. “My inquiry project exposed me to numerous cooperative learning strategies which, because of little or no funding, large class sizes and limited exposure were not feasible in my context. This program gave me the opportunity to focus on culturally relevant pedagogies which opened my mind to the need and possibility of careful selection and customization of particular strategies to meet those needs,” he says. Kiprotich created a unique toolkit with recommended strategies that can be implemented to improve classroom engagement in underfunded schools. 

Visiting scholar Jacqueline Shirley is a media studies teacher at Xaverian College in Manchester, United Kingdom. She focused her project on ways to improve student news and information literacy. “I believe this is an essential skill that we all need to learn and improve,” says Shirley.

When she returns to the United Kingdom, Shirley plans to deliver news and information literacy lessons in tutor groups and an online college magazine. “I hope the magazine will contribute to challenging the lack of diversity in U.K. newsrooms,” she says.

Asis Wahydi, a scholar from Indonesia teaches at a remote middle school bordering the Maluku Sea. “We lack learning facilities, such as books, computers and fast internet access,” he says. The area Wahydi and his students are in has had electricity for less than two years, “so it’s rare for students to study at night,” he says. Some of Wahydi’s students are illiterate so he focused his inquiry project on differentiating the instructions in reading to support the diverse reading skills of students. By measuring students’ reading abilities, Wahydi created three levels with corresponding instructions for each.   

Another program participant, Shiela Nina Rea-Santes is a teacher at a high school in the Philippines. For her inquiry project, Rea-Santes created a systematic review of world practices in the teaching of writing for secondary schools. “Findings are put together in a teacher instructional reference that can be used as a guide to help teachers enhance writing classes to achieve target competencies and societal needs,” she says.

This brief but immersive experience, Rea-Santes says, “Helped me see the world in different shades from the wonderfully blended cultures of 12 different countries.” 

Below, more on the projects of the 2021 cohort.

Shirin Jahan, Bangladesh: Will training new teachers to have the knowledge and skills to teach students with special needs enable those students to continue their studies in regular school? 

Nzwadzi Rabanyu, Botswana: How will the use of technological resources in teaching math increase learning and cover the syllabus backlog due to COVID-19?

Denise Nascimento, Brazil: What can we learn from extracurricular classes, after-school clubs, etc. in the U.S.? 

Ednilson Cordeiro, Brazil: How will building an inclusive LGBTQIA+ environment improve students’ attitude and motivation for learning? 

Jenni Sipola, Finland: How will building interconnective lessons in STEAM education improve students' 21st-century skills?

Illianna Anagnostakou, Greece: How will implementing peer learning methods improve students’ engagement and achievement in language and literature in high school? 

Kshama Kaushik, India: How will implementing Universal Design for Learning strategies in the general classroom improve meaningful involvement of children with special needs? 

Ramesh Badoni, India: How will integrating technology as an instructional tool into high school physics curriculum increase student achievement?

Arfi Syahband, Indonesia: How would using the flipped classroom strategy improve students’ reading comprehension? 

Asis Wahyudi, Indonesia: How will differentiated literacy instruction in social studies increase middle school students’ reading and writing skills, as well as their participation in discussion?

Hagay Shacham, Israel: How can applying active learning instructional methods in math classes increase students’ comprehension and application of the material learned?

Brahim Ait Hsain, Morocco: How can using technology increase student engagement in high school English as a second language instruction?

Rachid Id-Bella, Morocco: Which strategies improve student behavior in the classroom? 

Shiela Nina Rea-Santes, the Philippines: What research-based teaching practices can improve ESL students’ writing performance? 

Cherry Azul, the Philippines: How will using trade books to teach science concepts improve learners’ interest and achievement in science? 

Denis Kiprotich, Uganda: Will implementing cooperative learning strategies improve student participation in order to improve academic achievement in math? 

Jacqueline Shirley, United Kingdom: How will teaching news literacy and introducing a college newspaper improve students’ ability to be critical consumers and active producers of news and information? 

Ciara McCombe, United Kingdom: How will teaching diverse history through the experiences of a Black female, communist individual increase both teacher and student racial literacy?

Learn more about the project.

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