This study is an examination of the stories four social studies teachers told after participating in one international professional development program. Drawing on theories of postcolonialism, this narrative inquiry uses interviews, observations, and artifacts to investigate if and to what degree travel to and study in China influences the understandings of one group of in-service social studies teachers. Its focus is the extent to which meeting the Other influenced the participants’ conceptualizations of global education and whether or not this experience allowed one group of American teachers to challenge their perceptual lenses with regards to their social studies curricula. An ethnographic understanding of the contexts in which these teachers learn about Chinese history and culture supports the analyses of their narratives.
The participants’ narratives indicate that a variety of elements of the study tour reinforced the notion that they were innocent observers of China. With few exceptions, they failed to locate themselves within the phenomenon of globalization, particularly in their examinations of the impact of Westernization in China. Rather than influencing their interpretations of the content of their curricula, the study tour appeared to enhance the understandings about Chinese history and culture that each participant brought to the experience. The structure of the tour, which the participants referred to as “the bubble,” may account for these limited effects.
The narratives created in this study suggest that traveling to China through this study tour was one life experience among many, though their immediate retellings implied an embellished conceptualization of what it meant to travel abroad. While all four participants spoke with great enthusiasm and passion about the far-reaching effects that their participation has had on them as both teachers and individuals, articulating those effects proved problematic. Rather, the perceptual lens that each participant brought with him or her to this experience was the most significant factor in determining the perceived results of the study tour. The participants also expressed increased enthusiasm for teaching about global topics, with all four participants claiming their participation in the study tour strengthened their desire to develop both the perceptual and substantive dimensions of their students’ global perspectives.
Patterson, Timothy, "Stories of Self and Other: Four In-Service Social Studies Teachers Reflect on Their International Professional Development" (2013). Education Faculty Publications. Paper 112.