Looking more closely at the conflicting motivations within international education has been illuminating, as was learning about the major research approaches. In order to review and synthesize what I’ve learned, I’m going to review each of the research approaches described by Dolby and Rahman and try to reflect on them through the lenses of dichotomies presented by Allan (2008) and Tarc (n.d.) with the hopes of more clearly defining the ultimate goals of each. Of course, the lines will be blurred and every approach exists on a spectrum. The exercise is simply one in reflection that might spur some debate.
Tarc (n.d.) outlines two visions for international education: the ‘instrumental’, involving actual interactions that “cross political borders” (p. 1) and the ‘normative’, which seeks to foster international understanding (p. 2).
Allan (2009) describes discourses within international education. Two macro-discourses are the ‘multinational’, which concerns ‘market-driven globalization’ (p. 154), and the ‘international’, focused on “global citizenship and cultural literacy” (p. 157). Dolby and Rahman (2009) outline six broad research approaches in international education into which much of the research being done in the field can be placed. They are comparative and international education, the internationalization of higher education, international schools, international research on teaching and teacher education, the internationalization of K-12 education, and globalization in education.
Comparative and international education is divided into four trajectories. The first, tries to compare education in different national contexts to promote reform (Dolby & Rahman, 2008, p. 681). The second, traditional international education, focuses on practices in a single national context, avoiding comparisons (p. 682). Both seem to fall more within Tarc’s (n.d.) ‘normative’ vision, since they don’t really involve interactions between states or systems, but rather compare and promote an understanding of the systems involved. The data obtained from such studies would most likely be applied to Allan’s (2009) multi-national discourse as countries try to improve their national education systems based on the data. A third trajectory that Dolby and Rahman provide is based on development in the third-world. While the application of the data would almost certainly be considered ‘multinational’ within Allan’s (2009) framework, within Tarc (n.d.) would likely label it ‘instrumental’ as the actors involved would be sharing resources across national boundaries.
The internationalization of higher education has a complicated history involving both colonialism (Dolby & Rahman, 2008, p. 684) and international efforts to promote peace after war (p. 685). Dolby & Rahman outline three research trajectories sociopolitical, economic, and academic, focusing mostly on the latter two. The economic focus fits well within Tarc’s (n.d.) ‘instrumental’ vision and Allan’s ‘multinational’ discourse as it concerns bringing international students and dollars across borders. The academic research trajectory, on the other hand, focuses more on the experiences of the students and strongly contrasts in it’s alignments. I’d say that it’s focus on understanding the experience of international students would make it more ‘normative’ (Tarc, n.d.) and ‘international’ (Allan, 2009).
Research on international schools focused on defining the boundaries of what is considered and international school would seem to be ‘normative’ (Tarc, n.d.) as the debate is largely philosophical and centered around curricula and school visions, but also contains ‘instrumental’ concerns like the demographic of the student body. Similarly, the presence of both philosophical and socioeconomic concerns would include both ‘international’ and ‘multinational’ discourses (Allan, 2009). Research on ‘Third Culture Kids’ would tend to be more ‘normative’ and ‘international’ as it seeks to foster understanding and focuses less on economic concerns. Finally, research into the effect of changing national and global contexts might involve and analysis of both of Tarc’s (n.d.) and Allan’s (2009) visions and discourses.
International research on teaching and teacher education came out of a very ‘instrumental’ and ‘multinational’ desire to rebuild Europe and improving the quality of education globally (Dolby & Rahman, 2009, p. 695). Research into teacher education leans towards the ‘instrumental’ and ‘multinational’, when it focuses on preparing teachers for a global market, and the ‘normative’ and ‘international’ when it prepares teachers for an international population. Another research trajectory focuses on international policy development. It links to work done in the comparative and international field (Dolby & Rahman, 2009). It would seem ‘instrumental’ and ‘multinational’ as it seeks to improve economic performance in countries through education reform. The final trajectory studies the effects on teacher’s lives of changes in the global context (Dolby & Rahman, 2009, p. 696). The research seems to focus a lot on ‘multinational’ (Allan, 2009) and ‘instrumental’ (Tarc, n.d.) concerns and how they have affected the social status and practice of teachers globally.
Internationalization of K-12 education comprises the four separate trajectories of peace education, multicultural education, human rights education, and environmental education (Dolby & Rahman, 2009, p. 701). All four fields have a focus that seems ‘normative’ and ‘international’, though environmental education and human rights education would likely engage in ‘multinational’ discourse as the issues discusses would often involve interactions between states and global economic concerns.
Finally, globalization in education follows four different trajectories as well. Black education from the Revolutionary Nationalist perspective is class-focused (Dolby & Rahman, 2009, p. 705) and seems more ‘multinational’ and ‘instrumental’ while the Cultural Nationalist approach seems more ‘normative’ and ‘international’. Anthropology and education, the second trajectory, involves the movement of people globally, and ‘instrumental’ (Tarc, n.d.) concerns, and both ‘multinational’ economic and ‘international’ cultural issues. World models, the third trajectory, analyzes national elementary curricula. Two paradigms, the equilibrium and conflict paradigms, seem to approach the study from the ‘international’ and ‘multinational’ perspectives respectively, with the equilibrium focusing on cultural concerns and the conflict focusing on economic ones. Lastly, a trajectory focusing on critical inquiry into the effect of globalization on education takes a ‘multinational’ economic and ‘instrumental’ approach to its studies.
Ultimately, every one of the research approaches in Dolby & Rahman’s paper includes discourses and views of international education that overlap and blur between the definitions provided by Tarc and Allen. That said, their delineation of discourses and visions are a very useful tool for examining the goals of varies fields and placing the research and concerns on a spectrum. They provide not so much a map that clearly defines and outlines the approaches to international education, but more of a compass to provide a sense of direction as questions arise.
Allan, M. (2013). Understanding international education through Discourse Theory: Multinational, international, multicultural or intercultural? In Pearce, R. (ed.) International education and schools: Moving beyond the first 40 years. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. 149-166.
Dolby, N., and Rahman, A. (2008). Research in international education. Review of Educational Research, 78(3), 676-726.
Tarc, P. (n.d). Framing international education in global times. (Draft). Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/30350428/Framing_International_Education_in_Global_Times_DRAFT
Effective school boards and superintendents engage in strategic planning for the future of their district and the schools they serve (Hayes, 2002, pg. 23). These strategic plans create measurable expectations for assessing the performance of the district in meeting public needs and remaining accountable for resource use (Hayes, 2002, pg. 23). Strategic planning recognizes that school districts should be concerned with their role in the community, and the role that various stakeholders within the community play in student learning (Stewart & Bailey, 1992, pg. 6). District level strategic planning promotes strategic thinking and enhances the responsiveness of the district by supporting programming for strategies and formally operationalizing their consequences (Bryson, 1995; Sheppard, Brown, & Dibbon, 2009, pg. 34).
Effective strategic planning applies principles of systems thinking and addresses school, community, district, and government concerns (Shaked & Schechter, 2016, pg. 183). Complex systems involve ambiguity and change and benefit from an iterative, helical planning approach including cycles of assessment, planning, and implementation that consider the multiple influences on, and reasons for, issues, and view the whole of school life as a system and not isolated, smaller parts (Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 71; Shaked & Schechter, 2013, pp. 780-781, 786).
This post outlines how a district superintendent might generate an educational strategic plan with measurable and timely goals that takes into account multiple stakeholder needs, state legislation, and collective agreements, while supporting organizational learning and distributed leadership at the school and district level (Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 34).
Stage 1: Planning to Plan
Before generating the strategic plan, the superintendent should educate stakeholders (board members, faculty, staff, community, parents, and business people) regarding the state of public education globally and locally, inform them of the importance and value of the strategic planning process, and gather feedback to assess what change, if any, is needed (Hambright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 98; Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 51).
Select Planning Team
Assuming that the board has determined that the superintendent should act as facilitator, the most important step is the selection of the planning team (Hambright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 98). It should be a broad-based panel reflecting the makeup of the district and enlisting leaders from multiple sources to represent the values and perspectives needing consideration (Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 129). To promote student achievement through increased stakeholder engagement, the superintendent should act as a “boundary spanner” between parents, community partners, schools, collective bargaining groups, and governments to foster collaborative and distributed leadership and a culture of trust (Gordon & Louis, 2012, pp. 351, 357; Starratt, 2008, pp. 88-89; Sheppard et al., 2009, pp. 51, 102). Diverse planning teams facilitate fluid and connective opportunities that produce workable plans for action, cognitive shifts, and reframing of challenges, and apply democratic, communitarian, and economic theories of stakeholder shared leadership (Grogan & Shakeshaft, 2011, pp. 120, 125; Gordon & Louis, 2012, pg. 349; Starratt, 2008, pg. 89). Parents, teachers, and other stakeholders selected for involvement may lack the language and expertise to be participative, so superintendents should determine training needs and provide instruction on shared governance and other topics (Gordon & Louis, 2012, pp. 350, 366; Hambright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 98). Planning team members should be asked to begin collection of internal and external data to inform later decision-making.
Stage 2: Strategic Planning
After training and data collection concludes, the strategic planning process should begin. To promote critical thinking, problem solving, iterative planning, and to overcome the limitations of hierarchical bureaucracy and promote innovation and collaborative construction of new knowledge, a “studio” model of collaborative planning, involving open physical spaces, fluid group composition, and honest sharing is suggested throughout the strategic planning process (Chance, 2012, pg. 50).
Determine Norms and Guidelines
First, the planning team should author guidelines and norms for desirable and unacceptable practices to foster honest communication and allow for feedback on issues (Hambright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 102; Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 50). Open dialogue between planning team members can aid in understanding and modifying mental models, and bring to light ‘hidden transcripts’ and issues that may be taken for granted (Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 50; Duffy, 2003, pg. 36; Bates, 2013, pg. 46). Also, a model of consensus and decision-making that takes into account the superintendent’s legal, fiduciary, and administrative obligations should be chosen (Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 59).
Determine Core Beliefs and Principles
Next, the superintendent should lead the planning team to determine the district’s guiding beliefs, ethical code, and moral commitments, to create an atmosphere for collaborative leadership and demonstrate teamwork on the basis of shared beliefs (Hambright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 99; Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 49; Hayes, 2002, pg. 25). Outlining core community values develops reference points to ensure the district is accountable to local values and provides the foundation for a vision and mission anchored in guiding principles (Gordon & Louis, 2012, pg. 350; Chance, 2010, pg. 45; Hayes, 2002, pg. 23).
Develop Vision and Mission Statements
Mission and vision statements based on shared values should be collaboratively developed (Harbright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 98; Hayes, 2004, pg. 23; Starratt, 2008, pg. 88; Gordon & Louis, 2012, pg. 365). These statements act as a moral compass for decision-making, address student success, and ensure that high standards are pursued, and their public communication increases stakeholder and community involvement (Sheppard et al., 2009, pp. 71-72; Starratt, 2008, pg. 80; Kaufman & Grise, 1995, pg. 12; Gordon & Louis, 2012, pg. 365).
Conduct Internal & External Environmental Scans
Planning team representatives should carry out objective internal and external environmental scans of influencers and actors (government, unions, professional associations, legal bodies, business groups) for data pertinent to the educational environment, to be used to plan tactics to address issues and identify goals (Harbright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 100; Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 103; Starratt, 2008, pp. 88-89). Internal assessments of vision implementation in schools and the district allow for emphasis on individual professional learning so schools can decide how to meet their professional development needs (Sheppard et al., 2009, pp. 37, 79). External scans promote a multidimensional view allowing for increased understanding and influence in social, legal, political, and cultural contexts, and promoting success through connection to wider environments and understanding of the community’s cultural, social, and intellectual resources (Shaked & Schechter, 2016, pg. 183; Starratt, 2008; pp. 80, 89; Fullan, 1993, pg. 21).
Identify and Prioritize Strategic Issues
Planning teams should produce a statements that assesses district needs in terms of discrepancies between the current state of education in the district and what is required (Harbright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 100). Key to this process is viewing problems as growth opportunities, and defining issues as gaps between current and desired results, and not as insufficient resources, means, or methods (Fullan, 1993, pg. 21-22; Kaufman & Grise, 1995, pp. 8-10). Strategic issues should be prioritized based on the magnitude of their systemic significance, urgency, or financial cost-benefit analysis (Hayes, 2002, pg. 23; Hambright & Diamantes, 2004, pg. 100; Shaked & Schechter, 2013, pg. 781).
Stage 3: Action Planning
Action teams of school and community members should be formed to create plans that address strategic issues, achieve actionable goals, and review policies, programs, and strategies currently in place for effectiveness (Harbright & Dianamtes, 2004, pg. 101). The superintendent should facilitate communication and formal and informal networking between action groups to facilitate collaboration, problem solving, and minimize artificial distinctions between strategy formulation and implementation (Chase, 2010, pg. 50; Grogan & Shakeshaft, 2011, pg. 112)
Action teams should review issues and the shared vision to create goal statements with time frames, measurable qualitative or quantitative success indicators, and multiple levels of results at the individual, district, and community level, to provide for accountability (Hayes, 2002, pg. 45; Kaufman & Grse, 1995, pp. 7-10; Wiggins & McTighe, 2007, pg. 206; Gordon & Louis, 2012, pg. 350). Numbers, specific assessments, and arbitrary quotas should be avoided to prevent future corruption of shared visions resulting from system gaming (Hargreaves & Shirley, Chapter 2, Paragraph 52; Sidorkin, 2016, pg. 322; Wiggins & McTighe, 2007, pg. 215).
Determine Action Steps
Action teams should apply backward design principals to create plans outlining strategies, short- and long-term actions, and individual responsibilities, in an implementation schedule with a year-by-year cost projection that balances system benefits and tradeoffs (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007; pg. 206; Chase, 2010, pg. 47). The action plan and schedule should allow for flexibility in implementation structure to support and empower teachers, principals, and middle leaders to modify plans in nonlinear ways to best meet their local needs and contexts when setting goals and determining professional development (Adams, 2000, pg. 36; Sheppard et al., 2009, pg. 87; Hallinger, 2003, pg. 32; Sergiovanni, 1992, pg. 380). The final action plans should be submitted to the board for approval, compiled, and presented to the public.
Step 4: Implementation, Monitoring, & Evaluation
Continued monitoring and evaluation will help ensure that efforts outline in the strategic plan are succeeding and implementation is being carried out (Sheppard, 2009, pg. 102; Adams, 2000; pg. 36). The superintendent should promote mutually supportive relationships between the district and schools by providing services, facilitating communication across the district to connect teams, and supporting networking and improvisation to creatively integrate social, political, and consensual dimensions into continued iterative planning processes (Feldman et al., 2003; Grogan & Shakeshaft, 2011, pg. 112; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2012; Chance, 2010, pp. 49-51). The implementation of the strategic plan should be validated and evaluated through frequent planning team meetings in which objectives and strategies can be modified and added. Such annual or semi-annual updates serve as documents of accountability and assessments of progress and success (Webster & Luehe, 1994, pg. 24).
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Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.