An International Graduate Program for Educators: Transformative Professional Development for In-Service Teachers in International Schools


We are living in an era of unprecedented social and educational globalization marked by ever-evolving means of communication, cultural diffusion, and sharing of ideas. Technological advancements continue to have a tremendous impact on how we perceive ourselves, where we go, what we study, and the careers and lifestyles we pursue. As members of a truly global community, the time is now for young people of all backgrounds to develop global competencies including curiosity and openness about other cultures and peaceable resolution to conflict (Participate Global Educators [PGE], 2017). Certainly, teachers must do the same.

Today’s teachers must enter the profession with skills to individualize instruction and assessment, promote inquiry-based learning, and imbue students with sustainable conceptions of equity, equality, and collective humanity (Lovorn et al., 2017). Naturally, such an important and timely focus requires teacher educators to continue global competencies training and development (Deardorff, 2015). Over the past decade, many US teacher education programs have developed short-term travel and other exchange opportunities for their teacher candidates to work toward these goals (Kasun & Saavedra, 2016). This is an advancement of note, as teacher education programs have lagged behind other college majors in presenting their students with study abroad options (Altun, 2017; Wooldridge et al., 2018).

Of course, in-service teachers need professional development in these imperative areas as well, and for this reason, in 1999, Buffalo State College—State University of New York (known regionally as “Buffalo State”) launched the International Graduate Program for Educators (IGPE). Now in its 21st year of operation, IGPE continues to offer timely professional development for in-service teachers in international schools with the overall intent of advancing their teaching practice through enhanced global competency. IGPE courses and workshops are designed to enhance teachers’ analytical and critical thinking skills, promote their openness and respect toward other cultures, and inform and enrich their interactions with their peers, students, and parents. To this end, IGPE instructors seek to deepen

International Graduate Program for Educators 59 teachers’ knowledge and understanding of education in global contexts by engaging them in research on global-mindedness and intercultural understanding, and advancing their development of professional empathy, flexibility, and self-awareness.

This chapter will provide a brief history of IGPE’s important role in graduate studies in international education, orient the reader to IGPE’s professional development design and curriculum, discuss program challenges, propose a list of essential attributes for any university seeking to launch such a program, and elaborate on how IGPE’s facilitation of relationships between PK-12 international schools and the university promotes concepts of global competence.

Recent Graduate Studies in International K-12 Schools and IGPE’s Emergence

International schools are largely privately funded institutions that have historically served the families of American and Canadian diplomats and international businesspersons. For many years, these institutions tended to open anywhere embassies or consulates were found around the world. As such, they have historically offered most, if not all, instruction in English, which has also made their curricula attractive to locals who aspire to send their children to universities in the English-speaking world (it should be noted there are also many French-, German-, Italian-, and Chinese-speaking international schools around the world).

In 1999, there were an estimated 2000 recognized and reputable PK-12 international schools in operation on six continents. Today, there are over 10,000 dotting those six continents. Of course, geographic diversity is only part of this 20-year proliferation. Private international schools have always served families of plutocracy and the ruling elite; however, many have now evolved to accommodate children from across various societal spectra and backgrounds, including those from bi- and tri-lingual households, those who have tested (and yet to be tested) gifted and talented, those with special needs, and those designated high-needs/high-risks. Studies attribute this exponential growth in services to a boom in global business and industry as well as demands for higher quality schools by more parents from more places (ISC Research, 2018).

As more international schools opened in cities and towns around the world during the early 2000s, competition among them increased. This competition for students and families created several positive byproducts, among them, competitive tuition pricing, rigorous curricula, and aggressive teacher hiring practices. One additional byproduct was the need for school administrators to ensure their teaching faculty remains at the forefront of theory and practice in the field. Such organic quality control led many directors to maximize their professional development reserves by adopting school-wide training goals and initiatives.

International education experts at Buffalo State took note of this growing need—and market—and in 1999, launched the International Graduate Program for Educators (IGPE) over the past 20 years, IGPE has offered Middle States-accredited, graduate credit-bearing, advanced education coursework and professional development for teachers and administrators in over 60 international schools in more than 30 countries around the world. To date, IGPE has over 3000 alumni worldwide, many of whom have risen to school directorships themselves, and who, based on their experience, have launched their own partnerships with the program.

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