Scholarly article on topic 'Intercultural Education in the Pre-service and In-service Teacher Training and Development'

Intercultural Education in the Pre-service and In-service Teacher Training and Development Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Maria Niculescu, Dana Percec

Abstract Our study proposes an exchange of good practices about the methodology and conception of interculturalism and cultural diversity in formal, non-formal and informal education in the learning communities of the Timiş county, Romania. Our investigation has a two-fold purpose: to involve teachers in action research activities, on the one hand, and, on the other, to make use of the experience of academics in the West University of Timisoara as well as teachers in bilingual state schools and multilingual language schools in order to promote the enactment of the new strategies and approaches in their professional and every-day lives.

Academic research paper on topic "Intercultural Education in the Pre-service and In-service Teacher Training and Development"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 180 (2015) 892 - 898

The 6th International Conference Edu World 2014 "Education Facing Contemporary World

Issues", 7th - 9th November 2014

Intercultural Education in the Pre-service and In-service Teacher

Training and Development

Maria Niculescua, Dana Percecb*

aWest University of Timisoara, Bd. V. Pârvan 4, Timisoara 300223, Romania bWest University of Timisoara, Bd. V. Pârvan 4, Timisoara 300223, Romania

Abstract

Our study proposes an exchange of good practices about the methodology and conception of interculturalism and cultural diversity in formal, non-formal and informal education in the learning communities of the Timi§ county, Romania. Our investigation has a two-fold purpose: to involve teachers in action research activities, on the one hand, and, on the other, to make use of the experience of academics in the West University of Timisoara as well as teachers in bilingual state schools and multilingual language schools in order to promote the enactment of the new strategies and approaches in their professional and every-day lives.

©2015The Authors.Publishedby ElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of The Association "Education for tomorrow" / [Asociatia "Educatie pentru maine"]. Keywords: pre-service teacher training; in-service teacher training; development; intercultural education; cultural diversity.

1. Introduction

The study proposes an exchange of good practices about the methodology and conception of interculturalism and cultural diversity in formal, non-formal and informal education in the learning communities of the Timi§ county, Romania. The involvement in intercultural education implies an interactive approach to the process, by bringing together, face to face, the representatives of various cultures. The research we carried and the projects we conducted

* Maria Niculescu, Tel.:+40-740-083-683; fax: +40-256-592-164. E-mail address: mariucaniculescu@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of The Association "Education for tomorrow" / [Asociatia "Educatie pentru maine"]. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.02.237

in the intercultural and educational environment of the Timi§ county, in a formal and non-formal framework, namely the West University of Timi^oara, the „Cultural Alternative" Association of Timi^oara, respectively, determines us to share this experience with other specialists in education. Starting from the main objective of intercultural education, which is training people to grasp, accept, respect and experiment with „otherness", the aim of training teachers, students and other educational actors in this spirit is bridging the gap between communicating with the „other" and expressing „otherness". We believe that otherness is the solution for fruitful cooperation, an opportunity to learn how to live well in society, an opportunity to raise people's awareness about themselves, about their own identity. The intercultural approach we propose for pre-service and in-service teacher training and development implies a new, integrative, question and answer methodology, finding solutions drawing on the newly suggested paradigms of trans-disciplinary education with the aim of seeing yourself in the „other". The final aim of the action research is the design of modular courses tutored by experienced teachers, experts in education, who are able to change and adapt their practices with the scope of shaping the personalities of the students and trainee teachers in the area of interculturalism, multiculturalism and cultural diversity in view of an accomplished and adaptable lifestyle.

Our investigation has a two-fold purpose: to involve teachers in action research activities, on the one hand, and, on the other, to make use of the experience of academics in the West University of Timisoara as well as teachers in bilingual state schools and multilingual language schools in order to promote the enactment of the new strategies and approaches in their professional and every-day lives.

In the field of study of intercultural relations, we are experiencing a period of redefining identity, both national and cultural, therefore, stimulating research and collaboration in this respect seems crucial to us. As the aim of our approach is precisely the thorough study and the systematization of research on the relationships between cultural communities in Timis county, it seems to us legitimate to resort to the term intercultural, which enables us to adopt appropriate models, as far as both analysis and practice are concerned.

As our field is training young students and pupils on the intercultural component as well, we believe that the dissemination of the experience that we gained both from formal training activities in classes and from non-formal ones at the ''Cultural Alternative'' Association is important. Our research falls within the requirements of lifelong learning as stated in the UNESCO Report of the International Commission for Education in the 21st, prepared by Jacques Delors and his colleagues (1996). These specialists emphasized that the four pillars of lifelong learning translate into four types of learning education in today's society of knowledge is based on, namely: learning to know (knowledge acquisition tools); learning to do (the person in relationship with their environment); learning to live together (working together with other people in developing activities); learning to be (personality development and autonomy acquisition in daily life). Through our study we propose an exchange of good practices at a methodological level of the conception on interculturality and of the manifestation of cultural diversity in the area of formal, non-formal and informal education in the learning communities in Timis County.

2. Intercultural education, in a local and global context

Teaching intercultural education implies that the learning process itself takes place in an interactive environment, by bringing together, face to face, people who belong to different cultures. In the modern world, cultural and linguistic diversity depends mainly on two factors: increased migration and the use of new information and communication technologies. Due to the democratization of economic, social and political life, which has become increasingly evident in recent years, we can notice an increased mobility of people all over the world, including a growth in the number of migrants of different faiths and origins, who live and work in Europe. In recent years, Europe has been witnessing a numerical growth of some communities from a multicultural point of view. These communities need the recognition of intercultural competences in order to participate in the development of the social and political life. As a result of globalization, but also in the light of dramatic world events like 9/11 and all that came after this date, intercultural education has become a priority. This type of education consists of social skills which are necessary to all citizens and essential for an authentic dialogue and mutual understanding. We

believe this skill to be vital, in a world which, on the other hand, is not free from racism, anti-Semitism, or xenophobia, also present in the social and political life of the communities. These negative phenomena pushed the concepts of intercultural learning and intercultural education to the forefront, together with the concept of learning change. Both are to be considered essential aspects of lifelong learning. Moreover, as observed by Kuehnen et al. (2011), border-crossing communication and border-crossing reputation have recently become terms that are often equated with the quality of education. Such phrases as multicultural education, an intercultural approach, intercultural communication, intercultural society, multi-/intercultural diversity, intercultural cooperation, positive attitude, or self-management add new meanings to the above-mentioned concepts and values. It can, thus, be argued that the major goal of multicultural education is that of preparing young people for life in a multicultural society which becomes more and more intercultural.

Diversity means putting one's own values in a relative perspective, which is achievable in a continuously and reciprocally interactive environment, one where judgment values are not present, differences are not stigmatizing, and the accent falls on what individuals have in common. Intercultural education is thus not only for minorities, but for also the members of the majority. Intercultural education thus promotes a constant dialogue of equals, what Batelaan (2003) sums up as the desideratum of respect and equity. These two pillars make up the basis of the pedagogical aspects of intercultural communication. Pedagogical practice for those aspiring to become teachers necessarily needs to include valuing "different" points of view as equally legitimate. This is no news, and is based on an awareness that is expected from a young aspiring teacher of intolerance and discrimination practices that are not in line with human rights principles. In order for students to apply these principles, it is necessary that they are applied and modelled by their teachers and other social actors the education system interacts with. Thus, equity in access to resources, participation in education, but also equity in terms of expectations of performance are all crucial to modelling intercultural competence in youngsters.

We believe that cultural diversity brings richness and value to communities, nations, and states, as well as to a Europe united in the contemporary society of knowledge. In the 21st century Europe, cultural diversity should be preserved and made known, disseminated, in order to lead to a well-functioning civic life within a coherent European civilization, enhanced and supported by solidarity and cooperation among its members. Perhaps this type of civic multiculturalism could provide Europe with the stability it needs, giving all citizens and each and every human being the opportunity to live in one civilization and within a few thousand cultures at the same time.

It can be argued that the main objective of intercultural education is the training of young people for living in a multicultural society that tends to become increasingly intercultural. This view corresponds to the motto adopted by the Council of Europe and the UNESCO International Commission for the 21st Century Education, which considered in 1996 that one of the major goals of education should be "learning to live together, learning to live with the others."

In our view, the specific objectives of intercultural education refer to the following aspects:

• acquiring general knowledge that will have a significant impact on individual and group behavior;

• acquiring knowledge and information on their own culture(s) and on other cultures ;

• forming skills and abilities necessary for living in a multicultural/intercultural society (awareness of one's own cultural determinations, stereotypes and prejudices, their identification in others, the ability to relativize views, communication and relational skills);

• forming attitudes of respect for cultural diversity, for one's own cultural identity and that of others;

• fostering participation and action in order to promote the principles of an intercultural society and of the fight against discrimination and intolerance.

From the practical experience we have had with the projects undertaken by us in recent years, both the

educational activities at the university and those at the ''Cultural Alternative" Association, we can assert that the need for intercultural dialogue which should result in achieving these goals can be easily noticed.

3. Cultural diversity at work

In the project conducted by the "Cultural Alternative" Association as partner in the Grundtvig Project 20112013, LLP, PAR, "Apprendre une langue étrangère", in partnership with the West University of Timisoara and with four other countries: France, Italy, Spain, Greece, we had the opportunity to conduct action research, with the participation of teachers from the West University of Timisoara, young students, MAs/PhDs, and colleagues from various institutions: schools, libraries, youngsters and adults brought together by the desire to cultivate interculturalism and cultural diversity. The activities of the project were connected to our research on cultural diversity and the contribution of multicultural education to the evolution of society and its citizens. Starting from the assumption that any skill is formed by field practice and can develop in the way it gains material relevance in various contexts, we argue here that inter-/multicultural communication skills can be strengthened through direct cooperation and the direct manifestation of a positive attitude towards the others. This hypothesis is translated in the understanding and tolerance one should have in various circumstances, guided by the motto of otherness, „the other one beside me".

Education sociologists insist on the importance of all social actors in the process of community school development: teachers, parents, students, local officials, etc. They must all feel part of this process and contribute to the development of a consciousness of responsibility. This is actually what we call „empowerment", following a pioneering observation made by Christine E. Sleeter as early as 1991, that multicultural education and empowerment are interwoven, facilitating, together, one of the most powerful educational reforms. It is important, more concretely, that various social actors should have the opportunity to take measures leading to positive results, each in the field of activity they are skilled for, in work teams, in projects they coordinate and carry. This was our major goal in the research we carried during the application of the Grundtvig Project, which was mirrored in another project, which we described in detail in a previous article on multicultural education (Percec & Niculescu, 2012), part of a Youth in Action general project, in 2012. That project took place in a summer camp in Greece, with participants from Greece, Romania, and France. The target public was made up of young people with ages between 14 and 30, accompanied by three adult leaders from each country (39 people all in all). Here, diversity was apparent in terms of age and gender, level of education and training (the participants were high-school students, university students, MA and PhD students, youngsters who had been newly employed, etc.)

In the Grundtvig Project, while experiencing the focus-group method, we were able to listen to the experiences and opinions of others, to reflect and see what our reality is like compared to the reality of others. Within the focus groups we organized, we considered the following topics: learning through direct interaction of adults, presenting the cultural specificities of each country, learning a minimal vocabulary in each language by the participants in the project - Romanian, French, English, Italian, Spanish - introducing a cultural element by each participating country - customs, traditions, learning models, painting, integration models etc. These aspects have made us appreciate cooperation, collaboration and realize how much can be gained by both parties, which will result in improving our quality of life. These elements will continue to enhance the quality of the training of future teachers, but also of the teachers participating in the project and of other communities, by presenting us with good practices and experiences. If these experiences reach the family and the formal and non-formal learning communities every young person/adult is part of, the quality of our life will be improved by the cultural diversity and interculturalism that each of us is exposed to. The informal context of our meetings was essential in order to secure a leveling of interest, between representatives of institutions which, technically, may have seemed to have little in common: two universities (from Romania and France), a school for children with special needs and the parents' committee (from Greece), and two schools for adults wishing to develop secondary professional skills (from Italy and Spain).

The functions of the focus-group were also to suggest ideas on the topics under debate, to clarify the available options, to respond to certain ideas, to recommend a course of action, to learn how to make a particular decision, to

plan or assess a situation. Focus-group moderators launched ideas on the following aspects:

• shaping an attitude of learning and accepting diversity;

• showing respect for cultural partners;

• developing the habit of listening carefully to another person - understanding the concept of active listening;

• eliminating discrimination and prejudice;

• forming and developing language skills so that we can communicate in other languages as well (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Romanian);

• adapting to new situations, learning to cope with change;

• getting involved through intercultural education and taking advantage of new experiences.

The groups were composed of 10-12 participants, an average of 2 participants from each country, depending on the number of mobilities in the project, and the sessions were moderated by one or two people trained in the field of interculturalism and cultural diversity. We organized five focus-groups which were conducted according to the issues raised. The interrogative approach had a pre-determined order, and we took into account both the objectives of the project and the needs of the decision makers, particularly the need to understand the benefits of cultural diversity and interculturalism. We pursued a formative approach as well as a formative assessment/self-assessment, to generate feedback and to be further employed in conducting other projects.

Therefore, the final goal of our action research was to propose the development of training modules that employ teachers with experience in the field, educational experts in a process of change and of adaptation of daily practices to approaches that could accompany the shaping of students and teachers' personalities in the field of interculturalism, multiculturalism and cultural diversity as a harmonious and fulfilling lifestyle. Our investigative approach had the following objectives: engaging teachers in activities specific to action research, using the experience of our university teachers and bilingual or multilingual schools in Timis county to promote the implementation of these approaches in educational activities and daily life.

4. Intercultural education: instruction manual

Aspects of intercultural education and cultural diversity learned from this project and related to constructivist pedagogy - learning through cooperation, project-based pedagogy, the integrated, cross-curricular approach and the school -community partnership - will be implemented through elective courses, both in the initial training of students and in the continuous professional development of teachers, so that the quality of our life together improves and we add value to our professional activities.

We believe that the experience we acquired and its further development as stated above will lead to achieving the main goal of intercultural education, that is preparing people to perceive, accept, respect and experience otherness. The purpose of this type of training of teachers together with pupils/students, and other educational stakeholders is to pave the way in meeting and communicating with/relating to the other - the manifestation of otherness. We believe that otherness must become a way of harmonious cooperation, a cause for celebration and an opportunity for the manifestation of the feeling of harmonious coexistence in society, as well as an opportunity for discovering and becoming aware of the real identity of every individual and every nation, every society.

French authors Serge Desgagne and Hélène Larouche (2010) state that practical experience in the professional field is not legitimate unless it can be integrated into a space where prescribed knowledge is applied. First of all, you need to know how to teach (and to make others learn) in order to act in a trainer's capacity. The intercultural approach that we proposed in the initial and continuing training of teachers puts forward a new integrating methodology based on interrogations and solutions built on the new principles towards the trans-disciplinary evolution of education: recognizing yourself mirrored in the other. It leads, among others, to forming communication and interpersonal skills, essential for the field of cultural diversity we are interested in for

understanding and practicing interculturalism. Our investigative approach applied to the five mixed focus-groups, with participants coming from different countries, different communities in terms of age, education and culture, prompted several conclusions on intercultural communication, which lead us to the subsequent requirements in the initial and continuing training of teachers:

• building and adopting an attitude of learning and accepting diversity;

• showing respect for cultural/educational partners;

• careful and active listening of another person;

• eliminating discrimination and prejudice;

• forming and developing language and intercultural skills that improve the quality of life;

• learning and adapting to new situations.

Sociologists believe that a certain period of time is necessary to accommodate to and discover the values of the new culture in order to establish a hierarchy of values which shape the new spiritual space. The person entering another cultural horizon will be confronted with a different system of perception of reality, with a set of cultural perspectives and a different way of relating to the other. In this situation, one must exploit the shared symbols and cultural elements, which can facilitate the transition from a world with its own rigid values to a richer one, more open to heterogeneous values. Common elements can support the catalyzing of the whole integration process.

In the spirit of D. Schon's work, about the reflective practitioner (1993), and going back to teacher training, we corroborate the renowned author's views, as he makes the following statements regarding learning and sharing experiences: due to this type of training, prospective teachers will understand that learning theories of education, undoubtedly necessary, must be accompanied by another type of learning, but it is something that cannot be taught: the experience in the classroom and at school, which develops reflective analysis skills. The training of university level mentors is rooted in the experience of teaching. It is based on these assets and it will grow through them. This is the most precious discovery made by those who become educators

5. Conclusions

Intercultural education thus represents an ideological option in democratic societies and aims to prepare young people as future citizens, so that they make the best choices and guide themselves in various contexts, with different sets of values. The young generation must be educated so as to cope with change and cultural diversity, both if they are part of a minority or a majority. The intercultural approach in this project generated a series of reflections on diversity, democratic citizenship and acquiring an attitude of manifestation of spiritual autonomy based on education and self-education. Therefore, we believe that intercultural diversity and communication among people of different cultures is very important to our lives and they manifest themselves and grow in places where people work together in interdisciplinary teams, cooperate, collaborate and eventually the gain is on both sides.

Stephen R. Covey (2002) reminds us that the foundation of our personality is based on a complex set of skills and refers to the following proverb: "Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny." Through the approach that we share here, we wish for the words of this famous author to come true.

Following the assertion of the authors Richard A. Krueger and Marie Anne Casey (2005), we had in mind the fact that focus-group interviews are aimed at listening and paying attention to others. We also focused on "an open attitude towards what others have to say. The things they say are not to be judged. A pleasant atmosphere is created, which the people involved can enjoy together. Participants must be careful and methodical about what others say. When used properly, this process leads to improved capacity for listening and the results can be used to the benefit of those who have shared the information. And people go home feeling good, because they were listened to." This is what we hope to achieve by disseminating the results of our research at Edu World Conference 2014, which we share in a collegial, intercultural and formative manner.

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