Enacting Principled Community Engaged Pedagogy on the Ground

Because the community-engaged pedagogy was the cornerstone of this SA program, another goal was that it also be enacted on the ground through community-engaged instructional approaches in the intensive English summer institute. We believed that promoting this important theme, both at the program and day-to-day levels, could bring all the participants from different classes together and result in an increased sense of community. In what follows, we draw upon additional research data from a larger project published elsewhere (see Tomas et al., 2020) to illustrate the value of extending community-focused principles to day-to-day CESA activities that involve interactions between US teachers and Montenegrin learners. Specifically, we exemplify this through a discussion of one specific project that was implemented during our first CESA, including the voices of teachers and learners from reflections, interviews, and surveys.

The community-oriented project, The Ulcinj Kindness Rock Project, aimed to cultivate positivity and to inspire others through simple acts of kindness, while simultaneously developing confidence and oral language skills in English. Eighth and ninth graders organized and implemented the school-wide system for the project, which involved devising project steps and responsibilities in team-based discussions and providing bilingual presentations to each grade-level that guided students—including some of the parents—to create a Kindness Rock. This extensive project resulted in two formal Kindness Rock Gardens: one at the school, the other in a downtown park. Video clips and photos document their journey, culminating in a student-produced video.

In reflecting on the project, Jill, a US in-service teacher, described the initial difficulties in “getting students to work together.’’Jill’s hypothesis was that “the kids just never worked on any type of group project before” and “had difficulties being good communicators with one another.” This was corroborated by all nine Montenegrin EFL teachers who attended the professional development sessions; experiential learning is not commonly used in Montenegro, reportedly due to curricular constraints. To address students’ reluctance to work together, Jill and her co-teacher Shelby implemented various team building activities such as the Human Knot “to show [the EFL learners] how to work together.” For Mery, a participating Montenegrin EFL teacher, seeing team-building activities in action was impactful; she stated that it was the single most important thing she was going to take away from the program. She explained:

We miss community building in our country, in our educational system. In this program, we worked a lot on that community building, we hadto help each student, and not to work with good ones, successful ones, and put the others apart. We have to help them and make them feel safe and comfortable. And American teachers did that and I’m so grateful to be reminded of that.

The increased trust and commitment that resulted from the team building activities made students more invested in working together and more curious about the project. They were able to focus on tasks at hand, working in specialized committees that reflected their strengths to accomplish self-determined goals. Throughout the process, students considered choices and made decisions in their teams. In the words of one of the Montenegrin students, “it was such a great experience, it was all about teamwork, new ideas, we were not used to that way of learning here. It’s so much more involvement and fun, in this whole project, everybody has a part to do, and that makes you proud”. Both the process and ultimately the final outcomes (two rock gardens) of The Kindness Rock project inspired not only achievement but pride among the eighth and ninth graders, which extended to the entire school community who contributed their own kindness rock. As one of the US teachers commented, “the project helped everyone “to become a community at the school so fast” and how it “helped bring us together”.

Beyond an increased sense of pride and achievement, typical of successful community-focused project-based learning, this and several other projects that were embedded in the Montenegrin CESA program appeared to cultivate the participating youths’ sense of personal agency. After a mini-lesson about “taking the kindness project further into their individual lives”, students returned to the classroom after the weekend reporting making connections with homeless people they had previously ignored, greeting strangers on the street, and expressing gratitude to their family members. One student shared with her teacher photos of a self-designed “kindness sticky notes” project that involved mounting a poster board with twelve affirming messages written on sticky notes in the town center. The student proudly announced that by the end of the day only three of the twelve sticky notes remained on the board! Two students who participated in Year 1 of the program brought the Kindness Rock project to their own high school later that year where they convinced their teachers and administrator to engage the whole school in creating their own rock garden during a schoolwide antidiscrimination event!

In sum, we are hard pressed to imagine our CESA program being as successful without a community-focus at the level of the programmatic principles that guided our partnership as well as the day-to-day activity level, which transcended traditional classroom learning into meaningful, human interactions that simply happened to be in English. It does not mean that important aspects of the English language were not taught or practiced. Rather, aligned with the tenets of project-based learning, the US teachers allowed their Montenegrin students’ interests and strengths to guide language instruction. Instead of designing lessons around pre-planned, discrete language skills

Thinking Locally in a Global Context 223 that would have solely helped learners improve language competence, it was important to both SA partners to engage everyone in community-engaged collaboration, therefore cultivating our sense of mutuality.


From its inception, our CESA fostered community engagement with a joint ownership over the program. Our approach to a shared power that respected and gave voice to all participants—host school staff, US university faculty and teacher participants, Montenegrin teachers and learners—resulted in a new learning community. The result wasn’t one community coming to another community, but a new community working as one.

It is our hope that our model and experiences outlined in this chapter can help guide teacher educators to engage teacher candidates with thinking locally in global communities. This can be achieved while simultaneously promoting equity and agency through intentional practices that privilege host communities and leverage resources to serve the ultimate goals of the CESA programs. Indeed, as Roberts (2003) contends, a “balance of experiential learning and serious interaction in an international arena is an ideal condition for teachers to develop perspective consciousness about the world” (p. 272). This is well exemplified through one of our pre-service teacher’s reflection:

I recognize a greater responsibility to my community and the global community. I hadn’t quite yet realized the potential impact I can make as a global citizen. I feel that I have grown socially and emotionally because I have opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at life. Although I believed I was already good at putting myself in another’s shoes, I realized I was not as good as I thought. This trip gave me the ability to have more genuine empathy for people of other cultures. I have a greater desire to be a good global citizen.

In order for CESA programs to have an equally positive and transformative impact on the host community, program leaders can lean on the discussed five principles as they develop their own programs that strive for such dual impact. And if the first reiteration of one’s CESA does not produce desired outcomes, program leaders are encouraged to gather community feedback and use the lessons learned as a “primary guidepost for all subsequent work with that same community” (Fisher & Grettenberger, 2015, p. 573). It is, after all, only such prolonged, sustained engagement that can lead to transformative learning at the global scale for all involved.


The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the NPD Grant T365Z160111, awarded by the Office of English Language Acquisition, U.S. Department of Education.


Boyer, E. L. (1994). Creating the New American College. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 40(27), A48. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.emich. edu/docview/214654518?pq-origsite=summon

Douglas, S. R. (2015). Student perspectives on a short-term study abroad experience.

In P. Clements, A. Krause, & H. Brown (Eds.), JALT 2014 Conference Proceedings (pp. 208-216).

Duarte, G. (2016). What to look for in global service-learning: six standards of practice to guide your decisions. OCIC, 7. https://readymag.com/OCIC/iAMvol7/17/

Fisher, C. M., & Grettenberger, S. E. (2015). Community-based participatory study abroad: A proposed model for social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(3), 566-58-2.

Haddix, M. (2015). Preparing community-engaged teachers. Theory Into Practice, 54, 63-70.

Lindahl, K., Hansen-Thomas, H., Baecher, L., & Stewart, M.A. (2020). Study abroad for critical multilingual language awareness development in teacher candidates. TESL-EJ, 23(4).

Roberts, A. (2003). Proposing a broadened view of citizenship: North American teachers’ service in rural Costa Rican schools. Journal of Studies in International Education, 7(3), 253-276. Retrievedfromhttps://journals. sagepub. com/doi/10.1177/1028315303251398.

Sherraden, M., Bopp, A., & Lough, B. (2013). Students serving abroad: A framework for inquiry. Journal of Higher Education Outreach & Engagement, 17(2), 7-42.

Tarrant, M. A., Rubin, D. L., & Stoner L. (2014). The added value of Study Abroad: Fostering a global citizenry. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(2), 141-161. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= rep=repl&type=pdf

Tomas, Z., Van Horn-Gabel, A., & Marnikovic, S. (2020). Examiningthe value ofa TESOL service-learning study abroad for U.S. pre-and in-service teachers and Montenegrin community stakeholders. TESL-EJ, 23(4). Retrieved from http://tesl-ej.org/pdf/ej92/ a6.pdf

Vatalaro, A., Szente.J., & Levin, J. (2015). Transformative learning of pre-service teachers during study abroad in Reggio Emilija, Italy: A case study. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 15(2), 42-55.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >