Developing Global-Mindedness in Teacher Education through Virtual and International Intercultural Experiences


Teacher education programs across the United States have struggled to systematically implement principles and practices to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to support teacher candidates in working with culturally and linguistically diverse learners (Lucas et al., 2008). One way we have attempted to foster culturally and linguistically-responsive practices in our teacher education program is through designing international collaboration and experiences. Research findings from studies on the impact of study abroad experiences have revealed the development of more cultur-ally-responsive, self-aware, and reflective educators (Colon-Muniz et al., 2010; Cushner & Mahon, 2009; Freed et al., 2019; Lindahl et al., 2020; Nero, 2009). We have also emphasized the role of intercultural dialogue and study abroad experiences as a pivotal practice in providing authentic spaces for teacher candidates to reflect on how to scaffold teaching and learning for linguistically and culturally diverse learners.

However, similar to many other teacher education programs, we have faced challenges in situating global experiences as a central tenet of our educational goals and practices. Part of the challenge lies in the structural limitations of study abroad programs which have traditionally been implemented within the boundaries of single courses or a specific disciplinary field (Smolcic & Katunich, 2017). Furthermore, study abroad programs tend to be of a short nature as the costs associated with traveling to a foreign country might be considerably high for many teacher candidates (Sachau et al., 2010). Unfortunately, restrictions on traveling imposed by health, economic, and social crises, such as the current global pandemic, have also become a tangible characteristic of our times. These barriers are real and pose significant obstacles to program-wide implementation (Walters et al., 2009).

In this chapter, we provide an alternative framework for developing global-minded teachers that taps into both virtual and international resources in a more cost-effective and sustainable way. We share and describe teacher candidate engagement in international exchange and dialogue through both more traditional study abroad experiences as well as classroom-based, virtual collaborative opportunities, without requiring participants to physically travel abroad. Teacher candidates actively participated in cultural events, interacted with people from different cultures, reflected on issues encountered, and developed an understanding that “we are all connected”, beginning to move away from the mindset of “we and the other” to the direction of “we” (Wang & Bernas, 2014). Supported by an analysis of program implementation through pictures, student work, and student comments, we reflect on the possibility of using virtual and international experiences as a promise for a program-wide proposal for preparing global-minded teachers to work with linguistically and culturally diverse learners.

Toward a Framework for Global-Mindedness in Teacher Education

Our practices are grounded within the medial framework developed by Phillipe Eberhard and Xiao-lei Wang (Eberhard, 1999; Eberhard & Wang, 2010; Eberhard 2014). The medial framework derives from a grammatical notion of the middle voice found in Ancient Greek. Most modern languages have lost the middle voice, having only kept the active and the passive voices, as in “I educated Susan about Italy” (active voice) and “Susan was educated by me about Italy” (passive voice). In contrast, the middle voice indicates that the action is performed with special reference to the subject and the verb. For example, the Ancient Greek verb dialegomai (to engage in dialogue) conjugated in middle voice conveys that in a dialogue, where something happens to language, no single person is in charge or responsible for what happened. The conversation brings us to a different place, we are neither active nor passive but truly medial or middle-voiced.

The medial framework can be used as a lens to think about the process of helping teacher candidates develop a “global mindset”. There are four crucial principles involved when applying the media framework in the context of educating global minded teachers: (1) creating guided experience, (2) encouraging constant reflection, (3) developing the “we” concept, and (4) broadening the horizon. These principles interact with each other and form a continuous and systematic process. Each principle is elaborated below.


The first step in becoming global-minded begins with experiences in a different cultural setting, whether in-person or virtual. However, the crucial aspect of the experience cannot be superficial and must be guided to avoid bias. The guided experience cannot happen in isolation, but occurs in dialogue with peers, teacher educators, and, above all, people from different cultural backgrounds than their own. Participants need guidance as each iteration will be an opportunity to examine pre-conceived values, beliefs, and misconceptions. The action of comparing and contrasting is fundamental for the experience to be meaningful, that is, to debunk one-sided notions that can be detrimental to the development of global mindedness.


Experience in itself is not enough. The advantage of medial thinking is that it fosters self-understanding by looking at our role in the global society and our place in it, despite what our current understanding is. Self-understanding requires us to first self-reflect and negotiate with “others” who hold different views. A crucial part of the process of educating global minded-teacher candidates is that our actions are not ours alone; although we carry them out, we are also encompassed by them. The medial framework involves teacher candidates in critically engaging themselves in differences, constantly to question their own beliefs and positioning. This process leads them to cultivate openness habitually. It is a process that just like learning is never fully achieved. It is always in the making and always at its beginning (Andreotti et al., 2012).


Through experience and reflection, the medial framework helps teacher candidates move toward a more inclusive both-and-more way of thinking of the new culture that they encounter. In other words, teacher candidates begin to form a mindset that tends to avoid thinking of the new culture as “the other”. Instead, teacher candidates begin to develop the ability to articulate a plural subject in the concept of “we” (i.e., the “other” and teacher candidates themselves together) in the processes of interaction.


As teacher candidates are in interactions with people, processes, and practices of diverse cultures, they have the opportunity to broaden their horizons, progressively seeing more than before. To put medial thinking visually, the image of the horizon is apt because being able to see the horizon does not mean that we are determined by it; instead, we can change it and change ourselves in the process. The fascinating aspect of the horizon metaphor is that it moves as we move and that it changes us as we change it. Cultivating our horizon also involves cultivating our understanding and ultimately our self-understanding. The medial framework reminds us that we are part of the horizon. We are not in charge of it, yet not at its mercy either. Hence, we are able to impact and change our reality directly and actively. For teacher educators, that means having direct influence on actions, interactions, and relationships with students and communities.

The medial framework helps guide all types of intercultural experiences, be they international or virtual. It encourages teacher candidates to cultivate their horizon in the ongoing process of being and becoming a global citizen. These are important values, knowledge, and skills to work with, across and within cultural and linguistic diversity. In the remaining part of the chapter, we will elaborate on our pedagogical practices to integrate global-mindedness in various stages of our teacher education program. We have attempted to create a pathway to expose teacher candidates to linguistic and cultural diversity via the four basic principles derived from the medial framework.

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