They have traveled halfway across the world to Grand Forks to learn best teaching practices at the University of North Dakota.
Nineteen educators, all from Turkey, are spending six weeks studying at UND’s Department of Teaching and Learning, after the department received the only grant in the nation for the Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program (TEA) summer program.
The $180,000 TEA grant is one of several programs under the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). The project director is Dr. Donna Pearson, associate professor of social studies education, with professors Dr. Anne Walker, associate professor of literacy and English language learner education and Dr. Kathy Smart, associate professor in secondary education.
“Everyone is gaining insight into the Turkish culture and norms,” said Pearson. “Embracing this opportunity to have Turkish educators on campus for six weeks also results in enlarging our understanding of our global community.”
The 19 teachers (TEA Fellows), a mixture of men and women, are “English as a Foreign Language” teachers in their home schools. Nationally recognized educators, these distinguished teachers are from all regions of Turkey.
“In Turkey, as in many countries around the world,” said Walker, “English has become an international language and is now a mandatory school subject beginning in first grade. There is a huge need for trained English language teachers. However, in Turkey, as in many middle eastern and Asian countries, most English teachers have university degrees in English language and literature, but typically have very little pedagogical training in how to teach English.”
The grant’s purpose is to provide the Turkish educators with opportunities for collaborating with U.S. educators at UND and the Grand Forks School District and developing expertise planning and teaching skills. Additionally, the educators will increase their knowledge about the United States and its educational systems as well as develop productive relationships among the international group and with their American counterparts.
“In addition to studying best practices in teaching English as a Foreign Language, we’ve been focusing on the cross-cultural experience, and what life in the U.S. is really like, versus what they have seen on TV and in the movies.” Walker said.
Some of these experiences include embracing technology, a must for learning in a global community.
“The TEA fellows are very competent in using technology,” Smart said. “All are welcoming the opportunity to learn about new technologies and explore best practices for integrating them into their teaching. This is a truly delightful and bright group of individuals and we will all learn from one another.”
The grant award sustains the professional development program: English language teaching pedagogy, instructional technology and spending time learning from experienced Grand Forks teachers. Additionally, the TEA Fellows will participate in other cultural activities that include visiting the Fargo public school’s English Language Learner (ELL) Summer School program; visiting Concordia Language Camps in Bemidji for a workshop on immersion language education; and touring western North Dakota including Medora, the International Peace Gardens, and several Native American historical sites.
While UND has been awarded IREX grants previously, this is the third time Pearson and Walker have been awarded this type of grant — first in 2006 and then again in 2009.
“As a university embracing cultural diversity,” Pearson said, “we have much to share and much to learn. With administrative support from our Dean and President in addition to faculty engagement, these continued experiences move us from cultural awareness to active community engagement as part of our global society. We do well to remain active in learning more about what makes us different and enjoying more of what makes us alike.”
The UND College of Education and Human Development has more than 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students in five departments, including Counseling Psychology and Community Services; Educational Foundations and Research; Educational Leadership; Physical Education, Exercise Science and Wellness; and Teaching and Learning. Its mission is fostering healthy human development and learning across the lifespan.
Director of Alumni Relations and Development