International Leaders in Education Program

Principal investigator

Kyle Messner

Direct sponsor

US Department Of State – Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs

Award start date


Award end date


Originating sponsor

International Research and Exchanges Board

The challenge

Teachers need a common language to learn from each other in our rapidly growing global economy. How do we effectively share best practices in a culturally appropriate manner with fellow educators in developing countries, and what can we learn from them? 

The approach

The research team partnered with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and International Research & Exchanges Board to host 16 secondary teachers in an educational exchange fellowship program. Chosen by the DOS after a rigorous review process, these educators represented seven countries: Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. The teachers spent a semester in Phoenix, took part in multiple seminars and attended various graduate classes related to their fields of study at ASU. They visited schools in the Phoenix Union High School system weekly and actively immersed themselves in classrooms. They made collaborative connections with U.S. teachers and students. To help with cultural adjustment and learning, each fellow was matched with a family in the community, and multiple group excursions occurred 

Findings and impact

During group discussions, the teachers realized that they share many of the same challenges and triumphs in their individual classrooms, schools and communities. For example, classroom management and time management were common themes and concerns. Gender and inclusion issues were very prevalent and often discussed among the African and Asian participants. 

Visiting fellows lived in four-bedroom apartments, and each person in an apartment was from a different culture. English was the common language and the basis for cross-cultural conversations. These teachers learned about American educational practices and shared what they believed could work for them and gathered feedback from multiple perspectives. 

The American teachers invited the visiting teachers to professional development workshops, student activities and the senior prom as chaperones. ILEP fellows were actively involved in multiple community service projects, such as Breast Cancer Awareness, Sandfest at the Children’s Museum, Stamp Out Child Abuse and One Indonesian woman even donated hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths Program, which provides donated hair to the American Cancer Society for use in wigs for cancer patients.

All of the U.S. partner-teachers are applying to partner with the next group of ILEP fellows when they visit again. Several of them will be participating in exchange programs abroad that are sponsored by IREX.

Since returning to their native communities, fellows in Indonesia, Brazil, Bangladesh, India and Tanzania have conducted professional development sessions. Teachers in Bangladesh and India are already implementing literature circles in their English classes. In southern Brazil, Jean Paulo, an ILEP fellow is introducing new techniques to encourage his students to speak English, rather than only learning to read and write it. In Egypt, new strategies using technology are being introduced.  An ILEP fellow in Tanzania contacted the ASU ILEP Director to ask for advice on improving attendance at professional development seminars and asked for more resources.  They are now collaborating together to investigate the causes of the lack of participations and possible interventions to increase active participation.