Collaboration Toward Unique Student Teaching Experiences

For more than 17 years, this international student teaching program is open to undergraduate and graduate candidates in all disciplines who are eligible to student teach. Student teachers from other universities are welcome to join Ball State student teachers, as well. While overseas, student teachers have access to resources and materials in the school that promote learning opportunities for international collaboration, twenty-first century school initiatives, and workforce development within the school setting while serving military children. For example, DoDEA schools offer host nation classes and programs that are taught by certified teachers familiar with German language, culture, customs, and geographic areas. Student teachers may collaborate with these teachers to plan lessons, create activities, or go on study trips that support their students’ learning of DoDEA standards-based content while also understanding the communities in which they live. This guidance from the host nation teacher is in addition to the support and advice student teachers receive from their mentor teachers.

Additionally, student teachers collaborate with military personnel, German nationals, mentor teachers, fellow student teachers, university personnel, and administrators to enhance school and community partnerships between the university and DoDEA. During their student teaching experience, student teachers live on a military base or close to the base in a nearby German community. Student teachers collaborate with others and support the military and German community as they partake in festivals, attend local events, join common-interest groups, and participate in school activities which take place outside of the regular school hours.

As an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary program, this international student teaching program contributes to the internationalization of the campus by providing elementary and secondary student teachers the opportunity to complete their student teaching experience while living, working, and traveling in Europe. University supervisors meet with prospective student teachers regularly during the semester before student teaching to build relationships, answer questions, and better prepare the student teachers for their overseas experiences. These meetings are especially important for the majority of student teachers who have never traveled outside of the United States or worked within a military community before participating in this program.

Each semester, those university supervisors accompany student teachers to Germany and work with them throughout their student teaching experience. This type of “hands-on” support is distinct to this student teaching program and provides a model for other institutions interested in providing a study abroad experience combined with a student teaching experience. The long-standing relationship between the university and DoDEA is based upon mutual efforts from both entities to provide student teachers with meaningful and high-quality experiences in Department of Defense Dependent Schools. While overseas, university supervisors provide support to student teachers, while they also mentor full-time teachers and offer counsel to school and district administrators, and other community partners that contribute to this partnership.

To assess the impact, strengths, and areas for improvement related to the program, we conducted a qualitative study exploring the perspectives of university supervisors. In 2019, 18 current and past university supervisors each participated in an hour-long one-on-one interview, addressing a wide range of topics. For this chapter, the most relevant topics include: university supervisors’ definition of success and keys to success for student teachers and for themselves; university supervisor responsibilities; advantages and challenges unique to the program; and opportunities to improve the program. After transcribing the interviews, we analyzed the interviews through one round of open-coding, then narrowed the list into a manageable number of defined axial codes, then analyzed the interviews again to identify exemplary excerpts for each code. Relevant findings are shared later in the chapter.

Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Schools

Through the university’s established partnership with the DoDEA schools, student teachers have exposure to new opportunities for international careers, professional organizations, travel, and education while working closely with DoDEA teachers, administrators, leaders, and staff. DoDEA schools are on military bases throughout the world, including Bahrain, Belgium, Cuba, England, Germany, Guam, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Okinawa, Spain, South Korea, and Turkey. The schools have high academic standings throughout the nation, and fourth- and eighth-grade students take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading and Mathematics Assessments. In 2019, fourth- and eighth-grade students ranked first in the nation in reading, fourth-grade students ranked first in the nation in mathematics, and eighthgrade students ranked second in the nation in mathematics.

DoDEA teachers and administrators share educational best practices to support and develop progressive and competent student teachers. DoDEA administrators often hire teachers with an international mindset and twenty-first century teaching, leading, and learning skill set, who understand the unique needs of military children and families. In this program, student teachers are able to teach in an international setting at the secondary and elementary school level, work with military communities, and live overseas during experience.

Children or dependents of United States military service members and civilians are a unique population of students to serve in schools, and DoDEA teachers and student teachers need to understand, guide, and address their needs. These students may encounter family member deployments, transfers, injuries, deaths, and separations. Additionally, teachers need exposure and experiences in different cultures to support positive international relationships.

United States military bases and DoDEA schools are placed in host countries and United States civilians and military personnel are guests in those nations. Through teaching and living overseas experiences, teachers and student teachers may develop more acceptance and understanding of others’ cultures and opinions. DoDEA students, teachers, and administrators may benefit from student teachers in schools as they learn about new instructional practices, share resources, and exchange backgrounds from different areas of the United States and world. Additionally, these experiences provide student teachers opportunities for future teaching and education-related positions within DoDEA and international schools upon degree completion and licensure.

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