LEARNING ACROSS BORDERS: TEACHING AND LEARNING PRACTICE DEVELOPMENT WITH TRANSNATIONAL TEACHING TEAMS
Transnational education has become a global phenomenon as universities seek to capture the growing international demand for higher education by delivering curricula outside national borders via partnership arrangements with institutions in different countries. The literature suggests that teaching and learning in transnational education programs is complex and challenging (Pyvis, 2011; Waterval, Frambach, Dreissen & Scherpbier, 2014; Dobos, 2011). Some the challenges for faculty teaching in transnational programs include a lack of face-to-face interaction, the tension between equivalence on the one hand and the need for localization on the other, differing cultural expectations, inequalities in power relations and ensuring quality standards across partner institutions. Yet, despite these challenges when asked about their experience of professional development many of the transnational academics in our study responded ‘I haven’t had any’.
The research project reported here addresses a gap in current practice by focusing attention on professional learning and practice development with transnational teaching teams. The study demonstrates that transnational teaching teams can be rich sites for professional learning when they are supported by professional development that
• Is practice-based
• Builds trust and a sense of belonging
• Involves all members of the teaching team
• Addresses the intercultural nature of transnational teaching
• Harnesses the diversity of the teaching team
• Promotes distributed leadership and
• Is flexible and context-sensitive.
This paper builds upon an earlier paper presented at Edulearn 2014 and is grounded empirically in an international collaboration between three Australian, one Malaysian and one Vietnamese university. The research was guided by a practice theoretical frame and employed multi-site participatory action research. The research project used multiple, mixed data-gathering methods including interviews and surveys of staff and students, observations of learning and teaching practices across sites, participatory action learning projects with transnational teaching teams and reflexive discussions with participating teaching teams.
Based on the analysis of both the survey and interviews, with the participating teaching teams we focused on building collegial, relationships between team members and increasing, communications, interaction, and dialogue. Accordingly, the researchers worked with transnational teaching teams using cross-border, work-based, participatory action-learning (PAL) projects. These PAL projects involved members of transnational teaching teams investigating, engaging and learning together in their daily work context and developing curriculum resources and pedagogies to support curriculum renewal, student learning and development of professional practice. To enact the PAL processes we depended on distance-shrinking technologies such as having regular video-conference meetings and workshops and shared cyber-spaces including blogs, ‘dropbox’ and ‘google hangouts’.
The study concluded that realizing the benefits for students from the intercultural engagement and expanded learning afforded by internationalized degrees is only possible if their lecturers and tutors have opportunities to engage in dialogue, work together and develop a sense of belonging to a transnational teaching team.