Delegates from Weber State University visited Hong Kong recently to participate in the 33rd annual conference hosted by the International Society for Teacher Education. The conference allows teacher educators to present papers in small groups to promote dialogue and allow participants to receive feedback.
Forrest Crawford, an education professor with WSU, serves as the secretary general for the ISTE. Crawford said he’s been involved with the society for nearly 15 years and has served in a variety of leadership roles, including as the organization’s secretary general over the past five years.
“We get together on an annual basis and exchange ideals: research ideals, innovations, pedagogies and so forth as a way to gain some kind of an understanding of the global trends in teacher education and teacher development — as a way to kind of keep us abreast of what’s going on,” said Crawford of the organization.
The ISTE is a nonprofit, independent organization of more than 700 individuals from all over the world. Crawford said that typically when the society convenes, 25-30 countries are represented. A different country hosts the conference each year. For example, within the past five years, the conference has been held in Brazil, Scotland, Bhutan and Norway, and will be held in Turkey in 2014. WSU hosted the conference in 2008.
“We come together for the purposes of saying that we value teacher education as a legitimate way in which to elevate global learning and understanding,” Crawford said.
The conference took place the last week in May, and faculty and staff from WSU were in attendance. Crawford said the conferences are unique because of their structure. Attendants bring papers of their research and are assigned a paper group — a group participants stay with throughout the conference as a working collaborative to receive feedback. Crawford said this is particularly helpful because it lends richness, depth and breadth of thought on various subject matters.
“You’re building a sense of connection and a sense of community with each other through the feedback process,” Crawford said. “There are great partnerships that grow out of that sense of community, that sense of connection. I mean, I’ve been invited to speak at a university in Taiwan. I’ve spent a semester at a university in Pamplona, Spain.”
Crawford said the impact on attendants is significant. He said that, through the organization and the conference, he has access to a variety of tools and resources he can integrate into his own teaching.
“What ISTE has done is given me a global context for how to incorporate these kinds of issues in my pedagogy,” Crawford said. “In a lot of ways, ISTE really serves as a validation for me. It’s a convening for the purposes of validating particular ideals and notions that I have about humanity.”
Penne Stewart, an education professor at WSU, has been involved with ISTE since 2008, since the conference took place at WSU. Stewart attended a previous ISTE conference in Norway and this year’s conference in Hong Kong.
“I just think it’s incredible, because you meet with people from all over the world,” Stewart said. “There are educators from every continent, everywhere, and they have such different perspectives and insights. As a professor and teacher educator, you realize that some of their concerns are the same that we have, and some are very different. It really provides a broader perspective on education that you simply can’t get by just staying here and only talking to people who are similar.”
Stewart said her paper group included people from various countries, including Bhutan, Turkey and Denmark.
“Obviously I benefited from it, but it gives you an opportunity to rub shoulders, in a sense, with a lot of scholars from countries where they don’t have the opportunities that we have here,” Stewart said. “It provides opportunity for help and service that way. It kind of raises your awareness level that people see the world differently.”
Stewart said she plans on continuing with the society. She met a scholar from Bhutan who submitted a paper for the ISTE journal, and Stewart is helping the scholar, specifically going through the paper to help fine-tune the English and fix footnotes. Stewart said she also hopes to attend an ISTE conference again and that she thinks they’re “extremely valuable.”
Kristin Hadley, an associate professor at WSU with the department of teacher education, also attended the conference.
“It’s wonderful to see how different people across the world are trying to do the same thing that we are here at Weber State with our students — similar types of activities,” Hadley said. “How they deal with some of the challenges that they have in their countries is very enlightening as far as what we have to deal with here in the U.S., and how many of the things are the same, and how many of the things are different and unique to our culture.”
Crawford said that, in addition to assisting professors and teacher educators, the conference is good for WSU as an institution.
“Weber State has always had a pretty solid representation of individuals,” he said, adding that the society has given WSU faculty opportunities to publish in an international journal and work with educators from around the world.
“We get publications out of it. We get collaborative exchanges. We’re invited as lecturers different places. It’s a very wonderful and accessible organization that I think Weber State seriously benefits from in terms of its global image. These people know about Weber State by now, pretty much.”