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Global Perspectives on Student Development Theory

Here at Louisiana State University, we take seriously our commitment to issues of globalization and internationalization.  Our faculty attempt to build discussions of international issues into our courses, and we have opportunities as students and professionals to understand issues of globalization or internationalization through other experiential processes. For example, this summer I will be spending the month of June in Chile.  Last year, LSU hosted a Symposium: Internationalization and Education: Breaking Boundaries.  This symposium featured speakers from China, Slovenia, and Argentina.  We have invited international speakers as part of our annual Curriculum Camp conference, most recently in 2013 when Gert Biesta was our featured mentor and speaker.

Last summer, I helped co-organize and participated in a course called “John Dewey and Eastern Wisdom Traditions,” which began by discussing the influence of China and ‘Eastern’ thought on John Dewey’s educational philosophy (Dewey, it turns out, spent several years in China starting in 1919) (Wang, 2007). In the course, we also ended up veering into other educational perspectives beyond the ‘East:’ African Educational Philosophy, for example.  This past autumn, as I co-taught our Curriculum Theory course, we discussed an article by Tero Autio (2013), which stated that within the broad field of education there is a “need for the understanding of broader political, cultural, and educational genealogies” (p. 24).

This all happened amidst planning for this spring’s Student Development Theory course, which I am co-teaching here at Louisiana State University.  We decided that it was important to spend at least some time examining international educational philosophies, discussing international student development, and challenging some of our dominant, Western, American perspectives on Student Development Theory.  This is an ethical obligation as we prepare practitioners for work in the 21st century.

We have only a few resources to work with, so this blog post it meant as the start of a conversation about incorporating global perspectives as part of our student development theory courses.  Here is an overview of some pieces we are using to broach this topic here at LSU.

WorldMap

International Student Socialization

Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood’s (2013) article articulating a social interaction continuum for international students highlights several important issues. First, I personally appreciate the perspective taken by the authors that when discussing international students and their social development, we should not adhere solely to an institutionalist perspective, but rather should embrace an internationalist perspective.  Essentially, international student social capital should not be structured around assimilation or conformity to host institutional norms, but rather by “the degree to which a student acquires social resources by establishing meaningful relationships that broaden the geographical extent of their social network” (p. 416). The institution should only be seen as one aspect in a larger complex of social capital/networking resources, and likely not the most important.

This article raises interesting questions that we will be discussing with our students, such as:

  • How does race, ethnicity, nationalism, or national origin impact international student socialization and social development?
  • How are ‘Americans’ characterized in the article? What do the authors suggest about American student responsibilities and their own internationalist social capital?
  • What practical implications does the article provide for our practice as college student educators?

Ubuntu and Communalism

We are drawing on the work of Venter (2004) and Eze (2011) to discuss the (South) African life and educational philosophy of Ubuntu and communalism.  The concept of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – centers human relationships, ethics, morality, and viewing the human holistically.  Ubuntu both parallels certain Western student development theories, and challenges some of our central assumptions. For example, emphasizing the communal challenges the highly individualistic nature of Western philosophical educational perspectives.  Ubuntu also views, differently, issues such as diversity in ways that might allow us to powerfully re-imagine concepts such as student development, teaching, and learning.

We will be discussing questions with our students such as:

  • What are some of the connections between Ubuntu/Communalism and traditional student development theories?
  • In what ways does the philosophy of Ubuntu/Communalism challenge traditional student development theory?
  • How does Ubuntu view diversity? Relationships?
  • How might the philosophy of Ubuntu/communalism change the way you view student development? teaching? learning? Your work as a college student educator?

Buddhist Perspectives on Identity

Our final piece comes from William S. Waldron (2003), who poses a particularly poignant set of questions – namely, whether ‘identity’ is violent (which he believes it is) – and what Buddhist perspectives might offer to overcome the violence ‘identity’ causes.  This piece is no doubt challenging and dense – but it was selected for very specific reasons.  First, it introduces a different philosophical/religious perspective into the conversation on identity.  Secondly, Waldron actually addresses not only Buddhist perspectives in this piece, but how those perspectives parallel biological and social scientific understandings of identity.  Therefore – this piece is quite holistic in addressing how “Identity” is an innate part of our being, but also how the afflictions it causes can/possibly should be overcome.

We will be discussing questions with our students such as:

  • What would a Buddhist notion of ‘no-self’ mean for student development theory?
  • Is ‘identity’ a violent concept? What does our focus on ‘identity’ in student development theory mean? Does this focus perpetuate violence in the world?
  • If, as Waldron suggests, ‘identity’ has evolved with our species, what does this mean for college student educators?
  • How would Buddhist principles, such as the Eight Noble Truths, impact our work as college student educators?

Conclusion

This blog is meant to invite others into a conversation. How are you internationalizing your curriculum in student development theory? What about across your graduate preparation program for college student educators? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

References

Autio, T. (2013). The internationalization of curriculum research. In W. F. Pinar (Ed.), International handbook of curriculum research (pp. 17-31). New York, NY: Routledge.

Eze, M. O. (2011, October-December). I am because you are. The Unesco Courier.

Rose-Redwood, C. R. & Rose-Redwood, R. S. (2013). Self-segregation or global mixing: Social interactions and the international student experience. Journal of College Student Development54(4), 413-429.

Venter, E. (2004). The notion of Ubuntu and communalism in African educational discourse. Studies in Philosophy and Education23, 149-160.

Waldron, W. S. (2003). Common ground, common cause: Buddhism and science on the afflictions of identity. In B. A. Wallace (Ed.), Buddhism and science: Breaking new ground (pp. 145-191).

Wang, J. C. (2007). John Dewey in China: To teach and to learn. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.


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