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“Think Ahead” - The Internationalization of Teacher Education

“Teachers are agents rather than objects of change,” keynote speaker Professor Arnetha Ball from Stanford University argued at this year’s conference of the University of Cologne’s Centre for Teacher Education (ZfL). “Blickwechsel | Diversity. International Perspectives on Teacher Education” was the title and program of the conference that took place on 17 and 18 September 2015.

A report by Juliane Ungänz

Many disciplines - one goal: the interationalisation of teacher education. Photo: Peter Bösenberg

In intense and engaging workshops, the more than 250 conference participants discussed the challenges and opportunities diversity entails for schools and education. At the outset, the participants discussed their mutual understanding of the global classroom as a space where different people with individual wishes and needs come together. In workshops on inclusion, multilingualism, inter-culturalism, mobility, heterogeneity as a result of migration, new learning, and diversity, academic experts and professionals from schools and educations took part in critical discussions regarding the roles of actors in education. These discussions generated many new impulses. Renowned specialists from the USA, Finland, Burkina Faso, Switzerland and Germany broadened the horizons of their audiences, opening up inter- and transnational viewpoints and approaches. 

“It is impressive to see the changes teachers are capable of accomplishing. I got the feedback from many participants that they got many inspiring ideas during the conference that they will take back home and use in their everyday work,” Dr. Sebastian Barsch, one of the co-organizers of the conference, explains. 

Many participated in the diverse workshops of the conference at the Zentrum für LehrerInnenbildung. Photo: Peter Bösenberg

Questions surrounding heterogeneity and mobility as a result of migration tied in with debates surrounding the influx of refugees and migrants to Germany, demonstrating the tremendous topicality of the issue. “The current refugee situation brings together representatives of theory and practice – that is, university and school,” says Myrle Dziak-Mahler, the managing director of the ZfL. For her, this is one of the most important results of the conference. “It is important to change our perspective: instead of concentrating on the risks of diversity in schools, we should see the opportunities it entails. One conference participant noted that the present situation is creating a unique window of opportunity and a historical chance to begin to understand diversity as the rule rather than the exception in school and society. That has become more than clear at this conference.”

Various new ideas were discussed at the conference, amongst others also the opportunities of migration. Photo: Peter Bösenberg

“Blickwechsel | Diversity” is part of the thematic year “Think Ahead” 2015. Its aim is to show the opportunities created by internationalization on different levels as well as in the different fields and activities of teacher education. “Together, we want to develop visions regarding the role of teachers in our society. This conference was an impressive and important step toward achieving this goal,” the co-organizers Nina Glutsch and Mona Massumi from the ZfL emphasize.

The photo exhibition "reingezOOmt – Einblicke in Auslandspraktika" (zOOmed in – insights into semesters abroad), which opens of 15 October, is another highlight in the thematic year.