Teacher Candidates’ Perceived Learning in an International Exchange Program: An ICT Course Example

August, 2019

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 25:6, 730-742

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived learning of the visiting students from China in The Reciprocal Learning in Teacher Education and School Education between Canada and China in the Learning Technologies course during their stay in Canada.

Methods and data sources

The course
Learning Technologies is a methods course designed to develop teacher candidates’ Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Windsor, a mid-sized public university in Ontario, Canada.
The methods course is a blended one with online and face-to-face components.
It contains not only technology workshops for the development of students’ hands-on skills, but also required readings on relevant theories that are influential in the fields of teaching, learning, and implementation of ICT in education in general, or teacher education in particular. In addition to this mandatory course, instructors of all subject areas within the pre-service programme are expected to integrate ICT into their courses while modelling different uses of technologies.

The visiting students from Southwest University in China are placed in different sections of the Learning Technologies course based on their subject area specialty and availability. In response to the invitation for a one-on-one interview, one-third of the visiting Chinese students to the Canadian university typically volunteer to participate.

Data sources
Two types of data were collected for this investigation into Chinese students’ perceived learning from an ICT course in a Canadian teacher education programme:
1) all students in the class were required to write reflection notes of their perceived learning as an assignment, and the notes of 18 visiting students from the group of last year who agreed to participate were used for analysis;
2) seven visiting students who volunteered to participate were interviewed using semi-structured interview questions.

Findings and discussion
The study intended to examine visiting Chinese students’ perceived learning in an ICT course in Canada, but learning is not confined to the explicit curriculum in study abroad context but occurs in many unexpected ways through both the informal and hidden curricula (Jackson, 1968; Sovic, 2013; Tran, 2013).
By observing and interacting with local students in the class, and visiting local schools, the visiting students were exposed to a number of topics related to ICT, such as the ethical issues of freedom of expression, privacy and surveillance, misuse of intellectual property, bridging the digital divide, etc. (Grant & Grant, 2010).
Many aspects of the perceived learning of the participants in this study are shared by local students in the course, to various degrees, but because of different educational and cultural backgrounds, the perspectives of the visiting students are quite different.
For instance, like the visiting students, some local students may not have a clear idea why theories are important for the ‘tech’ course, but the relationship between ICT and social issues is not really new to them, while for the visiting students, the similar course offered at their home university mainly focuses on the introduction of ICT itself, and, hence, the required readings in the course seem to be irrelevant to them at beginning.
Through the learning experience, the visiting students gain a broader understanding of ICT for teaching and learning, which can be helpful for their professional growth, because with the continuous advancement of ICT and their availability, teachers need to not only know how to use existing hardware and software, but more importantly, have the attitude and ability to learn immerging ICT and effectively integrate them across the curriculum.
As stated in the course syllabus, the Learning Technologies course was designed as an ICT literacy course rather than a ‘tech skills’ course, so a number of issues related to ICT use in education are discussed. Like the local students, the visiting students came with a variety of subject area backgrounds, and previous knowledge and skills of ICT, and their gains from the course differs.
For example, discussions related to the relationship between ICT education and topics such as social justice, ethics, and special education are relatively new to the visiting students, so the findings of this study indicate that these are very important elements of their perceived learning.
Proper use of intellectual property and bridging the digital divide (Grant & Grant, 2010) are important topics for teacher candidates regarding the use of ICT, and the learning of such topics may benefit the visiting students in their future learning and teaching.
For example, visiting students who learned how to legally access and obtain free software programmes are empowered to make good use of ICT in their career, especially those who will work in remote and less developed areas after they graduate from the teacher education programme.
In the visiting students’ programme of study at their home university, Western pedagogy is introduced as a concept, but how to really make use of it in the teaching and learning process may still be something unfamiliar to them.
The student-centred teaching approach employed for this course is familiar to local students, but for the visiting students, allowing students to choose their own technology workshop topics rather than dictating prescribed ones was something new, and they believe it is a useful method because students will be better engaged.
Richardson (2003) argues that teacher education programmes should expose teacher candidates to various types of ICT, but also involve them deeply in constructivist learning design so they can be reasonably prepared with ICT competence and proficiencies before starting their teaching careers.
Through the process of modelling of ICT education and integration, the participants felt more confident teaching and using ICT in their own classrooms in the future.
The ability to locate and access ICT resources is a component of ICT literacy, and for the visiting students from China who are accustomed to using textbooks as the major or only curriculum resource tools for coursework found it very useful to know how to take advantage of free resources available online.
From the course assignments, including the required readings and technology workshops, the visiting students learned the pedagogical values of social media, and by participating in online discussions, they gained a more solid understanding of collaborative learning in a learning community.
In face-to-face class meetings, the visiting students participated in class discussions and technology workshops, which created opportunities for visiting and local students to learn from each other.
By interacting with local students, the visiting students were exposed to how local students perceive social and ethical issues of ICT.
Some local students posted in the online discussion forum that by interacting with the visiting students, they did not only learn perspectives of people with a different culture, but also highly appreciated the visiting students’ hard-working attitude.

Grant, C., & Grant, T. (2010). Experiences in teaching ethics to ICT students. Proceedings of Informing Science & IT Education Conference (InSITE), 587–595.Cassino, Italy: Informing Science Institute
Jackson, P. W. (1968). Life in classrooms. New York: Holt Reinhart & Winston.
Richardson, V. (2003). Preservice teachers’ beliefs. Advances in Teacher Education, 6(1), 22
Sovic, S. (2013). Classroom encounters: International students’ perceptions of tutors in the creative arts. In S. Sovic & M. Blythman (Eds.), International students negotiating higher education: Critical perspectives (pp. 87–103). London, England: Routledge.
Tran, L. T. (2013). Transformative learning and international students negotiating higher education. In S. Sovic & M. Blythman (Eds.), International students negotiating higher education: Critical perspectives (pp. 124–141). London, England: Routledge. 

Updated: Aug. 24, 2020