University-Based International Student Teaching: A Bourdieuian Analysis

Gaps remain in our qualitative understanding of learning to teach abroad in relation to wider social and political implications of such experiences. My paper focuses on the story of four teacher candidates (TCs) and their student teaching experience abroad. The study draws on Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts of cultural capital, habitus, and field to analyze how and in what ways an international teaching context contributed to TCs’ conceptions of teaching. Bourdieu’s concepts help to illuminate TCs’ observations and perspectives of the broader political and ideological international contexts in which they student taught and the extent to which “deeper learning” (Darling-Hammond & Oakes, 2019) was achieved.

The four TCs in my preliminary study— Christine, Natalie, Peyton, and Sabine—were chosen through convenience sampling. The data gathered from interviews and documents was read and manually coded.

A significant finding was that all TCs engaged in level of independent critical analysis and intellectual engagement with complexity that affected TCs’ habitus. At the same time, the study revealed the absence of scaffolded reflection supported by teacher education faculty/supervisors to further engage TC learning in the international field. Although the four TCs cannot be said to be representative of all TCs that student teach abroad, their profile is consistent with the literature on the mainly homogenous study abroad participant applicant pool (Malewski & Phillion, 2009). Further findings suggest that international student teaching helped TCs experience a habitus shift with the possibility to inform future teaching practice.

Recommendations point to the need for more qualitative studies regarding the recruitment process to understand how universities are recruiting participants, who chooses to student teach abroad and why. More research is also needed into the role of teacher education faculty/student teaching supervisors that work with TCs in the international context both in the U.S. and in the host country.

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