Design Principles for International Teacher Study Abroad Programs: The Case of the Instructional Leadership Institute for Pakistani Educators (ILIPE)


I vividly remember the moment, in June 2014, when 20 educators from Pakistan sat jet-lagged in a big circle in the large “70s-era” conference room on the university campus where I work in the northeast region of the United States. They had arrived from Islamabad 24 hours prior and were now attending the opening session of the Instructional Leadership Institute for Pakistan Educators (ILIPE) an intensive study abroad program funded by the United States Department of State. These men and women, all middle or high school educators representing a range of subject areas including reading, mathematics, English, social studies, science, physics, and Islamic studies, had traveled roughly 7000 miles to participate in 5+ intensive weeks of training about learner-centered education (Schwiesfurth, 2013) and learner-centered approaches to curriculum and instruction (Tomlinson, 2014). One by one, as I stood facing them in front of the room, each teacher, strangers to one another, went around and briefly shared about themselves and the school context in which they worked. They taught in government, madrassa, and private schools. They came from across Pakistan, including urban centers like Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore as well as isolated areas such as Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. Some had virtually no access to texts or modern technology, while others used state of the art resources. Class sizes and demographics ranged from 150+ students of multiple ages and linguistic and cultural backgrounds in one class, to classes with a handful of single sex, same age students. Some were required to teach a mandated or scripted curriculum, while others had no written curriculum at all to work with. Many lived in, and were teaching students who also lived in, severe poverty and/or risking their lives to attend school, some taught wealthy students in schools fortified with armed private security forces. I felt dazed. I had been a public school teacher, university director of teacher education, and actively worked in partnership with principals and superintendents to design, deliver, and evaluate teacher professional development programming across the United States. Yet, as I stood in front of this group of weary but excited educators, instead of the normal butterflies, I felt trepidation. What kind of study abroad training had my partners and I envisioned and created? Would the curriculum be of value and work for Pakistani teachers? How could we possibly meet their needs? What skills do they actually want to develop, what do they really need to learn and know how to do? What happens after they leave the United States and return to their own classrooms back in Pakistan? Will the PD we’ve designed do them justice? Will it make any difference in the lives of their students?

There have now been three iterations of the ILIPE program (2014, 2016 and 2018). To date, more than 60 Pakistani teachers and administrators, who serve upwards of 45,000 Pakistani students, have come to the United States to participate in the summer portion of ILIPE. In addition, approximately 30 trainers from the United States have gone to Pakistan to immerse in the culture and to engage in school and classroom visits and workshops. Curriculum facilitators are made up of university-based instructors and public-school teachers and administrators, and ILIPE program staff, who make sure that study abroad participants get safely to and from ILIPE events are university undergraduate students. I serve as ILIPE Academic Director and work closely with the ILIPE Academic Coordinator, a former public-school teacher and current Ph.D. student to design and deliver the ILIPE curriculum. There is an extensive ILIPE recruitment and selection process. In the 2018 iteration of ILIPE, approximately 2,500 educators from across Pakistan applied to participate. Ultimately, twenty individuals (ten men and ten women) are selected to participate in the ILIPE study abroad program. The selected participants travel to the United States in the summer and live on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. The curriculum entails 4—6 hours of daily instruction, about 120 hours in total that focuses on the tenets of learned-centered education, including the principles of constructivist learning theory and the stages of backward curriculum design. Pakistani teachers are matched with a local Usonian middle or high school teacher, and spend several days with this educator in their classroom. Homework and readings are assigned most evenings, and capstone projects consisting of an oral presentation, written unit plan, and a professional poster presentation that is open to the public is required of each study abroad participant. The two foundational texts of the Institute are: Understanding By Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) and In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Brooks & Brooks, 1999) and participants receive copies of each book. Teachers are also provided iPads and electronic access to numerous articles and resources related to the content of the Institute. A primary goal of ILIPE is to increase teachers’ ability to carry out an array of high-leverage instructional methods that support the achievement of a diverse student population. And, as a study abroad program, ILIPE also had the dual aims to build Pakistani teacher understanding and appreciation for their host’s culture, and Usonian trainer understanding and appreciation of Pakistani culture. Hence, in addition to the formal academic component, study abroad participants spend 2 weeks in social activities. They explore the region and experience Usonian culture by visiting museums, shops, restaurants, and government

Principles for Study Abroad Programs 73 buildings, as well having dinners at the homes of local families. Participants, 100% of whom are Muslim, also have the option to visit places of worship, including Catholic Church services, a Jewish synagogue, a Quaker meeting house, and a Buddhist temple.

After the conclusion of the summer program, study abroad participants return home to Pakistan and engage in lx/monthly ILIPE trainer facilitated study groups online. In these collaborative study groups, Pakistani educators stay connected with one another and ILIPE facilitators. They discuss success and challenges related to the implementation of the curricular materials they created in the summer institute, and receive and offer personalized support to each other. Approximately 6 months following the summer institute, ILIPE facilitators (about 10 people) make follow-up trips of 1—2 weeks in length to Pakistan. We reconnect in person with ILIPE participants, visit their schools, classrooms and meet their pupils and administrators. During these visits to Pakistan, ILIPE trainers conduct multiday professional development workshops for ILIPE study abroad participants, and immerse themselves in the culture (i.e., we dine in people’s homes, meet participant family members, go shopping, hiking, visit the mosques, tour museums, etc.)

A primary goal of ILIPE is to increase teachers’ ability to carry out an array of high-leverage instructional methods that support the achievement of a diverse student population. And, as a study abroad program, ILIPE also had the dual aims to build Pakistani teacher understanding and appreciation for their host’s culture, and Usonian trainer understanding and appreciation of Pakistani culture. A summative evaluation of ILIPE 2014 concluded that ILIPE teacher study abroad participants.

“Experienced marked increases in their level of knowledge and skills, notable positive changes in self-efficacy related to their ability to enact new approaches to curriculum and instruction, and demonstrated an ability to apply new knowledge and skills to their own teaching practice.”

(Mazur & Woodland, 2017)

ILIPE participants expressed that they found the principles and practices of learner-centered education, backward design, and differentiated instruction to be culturally relevant. Study abroad participants shared how as a result of participating in ILIPE they acquired a more profound appreciation for their own country, as well as new appreciation for the people and culture of the United States. Graduates of ILIPE have gone on to form nationwide teacher professional development support networks in Pakistan. For example, after completing ILIPE, Umair Quereshi, a physics teacher in Islamabad formed the inaugural chapter of Pakistan ASCD that now includes student chapters at 37 universities. ILIPE graduate Aqdus Aslam, an English teacher from Lahore, went on to found TEACH Education HKD, a professional development network that connects and serves teachers across Pakistan and beyond.

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