Facilitating Professional Development during International Practicum: Understanding our Work as Teacher Educators through Critical Incidents

Feb. 15, 2016

Source: Studying Teacher Education, VOL. 12, NO . 1, 55–69, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes collaborative self-study details the experiences of two teacher educators, who led teacher candidates on international practicum placements.
The authors reflect on critical incidents that required them to think deeply about their beliefs and practices in these new and different contexts. During and after presenting their respective PD sessions the authors were confronted by tensions and dilemmas that made them question both their roles as teacher educators and the nature of professional learning for themselves, and the pre‐service teachers they were supervising.
The authors undertook this self-study in order to understand and improve their own practices and to enhance the understandings of other teacher educators who lead international practicum placements and work with local hosting teachers in these contexts.

The two participants in this self-study are an Australian teacher educator and a Canadian teacher educator. They each led international practicums placements for teacher candidates for three consecutive years.
Multiple data sources were analyzed. These data sources included written narratives detailing critical incidents encountered by each researcher, based on accounts of their experiences providing PD for local teachers.


This study documents the complexities of two teacher educators’ work in unfamiliar cultural contexts and highlights tensions to be navigated as a teacher educator in an international practicum setting. The analyzes of their experiences make it clear that they as teacher educators were on a learning journey similar to that of their teacher candidates. For example, the authors experienced disorienting dilemmas in their work that were related to perceptions of power, privilege, culture, history, and feeling like an outsider.

Collaborative analysis of the critical incidents conducted during this self-study enabled them to acquire greater understandings of their academic, professional, and personal identities. The authors were forced to confront questions concerning the appropriateness of the content of their sessions, the positioning of themselves in relation to the mentor teachers, and issues of historical and cultural sensitivities. As teacher education programs in many western countries increasingly provide international practicum experiences, it is essential to understand the implications for not only teacher candidates, but also for participating teacher educators.

This study addressed a gap in the literature by documenting the complexities of working in different cultural contexts and highlighting tensions to be navigated when working as a teacher educator in trans-cultural settings.

Implications for Teacher Education

The implications of the findings of this collaborative self-study for teacher educators leading international practicums and working with local teachers in these contexts are twofold.
First, the authors argue that there is a need for teacher educators to maintain awareness of their own learning journey alongside that of the teacher candidates.
Second, the importance of teacher educators adopting a global perspective and a deep consciousness of how they may be perceived by others who are culturally, racially, and/or linguistically different, is fundamental to successfully leading international practicums. Development of a double image during practicum activities, whether supporting teacher candidates in their learning or working with local host teachers, is imperative if such experiences are to be socially and culturally sensitive and beneficial to all. This ability to see the experience from multiple perspectives is one way in which the claim of international practicums as educational tourism might be avoided.

Updated: Feb. 15, 2017