Global Educators: Effects on attitudes and practice of teachers undertaking voluntary projects overseas
Adrian J Hayes, Chair of the Trustee Board Tom Harrison, Programme Director
Volunteers for Educational Support and Learning (VESL)
About VESL This study was carried out by Volunteers for Educational Support and Learning (VESL), a UK charity that runs educational programmes in rural Asian communities. VESL works in partnership with local education departments to set up worthwhile volunteering opportunities in rural areas of Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Most VESL projects involve volunteers teaching English in schools and other community organisations. Prospective volunteers must apply to be placed on a project, most of which are 4-24 weeks‟ duration. Most volunteers work at one project for the duration of their placement, but some volunteers who have teaching experience have run workshops for local teachers in various locations in the host countries. A sizeable number of VESL applicants are PGCE students or qualified teachers who wish to expand or consolidate their awareness of other countries‟ educational systems, and to work within them.
This study did not exclusively involve VESL projects or volunteers, but aimed to examine the effects of international volunteering projects more widely. Mention by interviewees of the country they visited, or organisation which sent them, has been removed.
Acknowledgements This research was supported by a grant awarded by the Society for Education Studies.
Thanks to the volunteer teachers who gave up more of their time to be interviewed, to Hilary Cremin for useful comments on a draft of this report, and to Abbie Bissett and Austin Pritchard for transcription.
Contents Executive Summary ................................................................................................... 4 Background ......................................................................................................... 4 Methodology ....................................................................................................... 4 Results by Theme ............................................................................................... 5 Conclusion .......................................................................................................... 7 Background ................................................................................................................ 8 Methodology ............................................................................................................. 13 Results ..................................................................................................................... 15 Draw of Project ..................................................................................................... 16 Personal and Professional Benefit ........................................................................ 23 Change to Teaching ............................................................................................. 36 Attitude to Education............................................................................................. 43 Global Citizenship ................................................................................................. 49 Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 57 References ............................................................................................................... 60 Appendix 1: Interview Schedule ............................................................................... 62
Executive Summary Background Schools and teachers are increasingly being asked to use a global outlook in the classroom, and to appreciate the issues of identities and diversity within a culturally cohesive context. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been leading the way on pushing for a greater global focus in citizenship education and argue that young people in the UK should consider themselves world or global citizens. Large and small development NGOs have been keen to push their agendas and have found Citizenship Education a good outlet to do so in schools.
In the last few years there has been a rise in initiatives which enable teachers to learn from visits to schools in other countries. One way in which teachers can learn about different cultures is by personally spending time abroad. A number of organisations offer the chance for volunteers to engage in projects working in countries all over the world, and some projects have a specific educational slant. Many of these projects are run by charities and recruit volunteers to take part in their projects.
There is a small amount of previous research on the benefits of volunteering overseas in the field of education. This shows considerable personal and professional development, with the development of several key skills for working as a teacher. However, these studies have concentrated on long-term projects of over one years‟ duration. The current project aimed to explore the changes in attitudes towards education and practice of teaching amongst qualified teachers who take part in shorter-term volunteering projects overseas.
Methodology Interviews were carried out with eleven people who had undertaken short-term educational volunteer projects overseas during or after the completion of formal teaching qualifications. The interviews took between 30 and 60 minutes and were
semi-structured. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, and thematically analysed using a constant comparative approach.
Results by Theme Draw of Project There was a combination of reasons for volunteers taking up their overseas projects. They had a desire to help others and make a difference in some way. They also wanted their project to be of value to the community in which it took place. In addition, they wanted to use their existing skills in teaching, whilst expanding these in ways which may not be available in this country. Experience of other places and cultures was a significant draw for most volunteers in terms of their personal and professional development, whilst the short-term nature of the project was essential for them to be able to physically complete it.
Personal and Professional Benefits This topic explored the benefits volunteers felt they had gained from completing voluntary projects overseas. The volunteers had a sense of reward from successfully working in difficult conditions outside of their comfort zone, and considered their projects to have been valuable and worthwhile for the local communities. The challenges they experienced had in turn increased their confidence, which they had seen in their professional lives after returning to the UK. Many volunteers reported appreciating their situation more following their project, and particularly the educational system in which they worked, finding they had less to complain about than they previously thought. They learned a lot when working in groups with other teachers of other backgrounds, in terms of approaches to teaching and professional skills. Several mentioned the benefits to their students in the UK who they hoped saw them as role models. Others noted the greater freedom they had when teaching in another country, though this sometimes made it difficult to cope with the constraints of the UK curriculum. Finally, several volunteers felt rejuvenated with a fresh perspective on teaching, and felt strongly about other teachers having a similar experience. The benefits described were similar to those found in studies of longer projects, indicating that short-term projects also have a positive effect on volunteers. 5
Changes to Teaching This topic explored how volunteers‟ teaching practice had changed as a result of their project. Comments revolved around teachers being more flexible in their approach, and adapting their lessons based on circumstances on the day and the students‟ responses. This included making more activities interactive to engage the class and assist their learning. Several volunteers felt more able to teach with limited resources, and saw the technology available in their schools as more of an adjunct to teaching rather than a focus. Volunteers had developed more sensitive attitudes towards students whose first language is not English having experienced a similar situation, and several were also keen to demonstrate to their students how fortunate they were to live in a country without significant hardship.
Attitudes to Education This topic looked at attitudes towards education. The volunteers noticed differences in the perceived value of education cross-culturally, with students in their projects generally being very keen to attend school and to learn. The same was not said about teaching in the UK. Despite this, they noticed similarities in the attitude towards education as the English teachers with whom they worked, which brought them closer together. The experience made them value the availability of continuing professional development in the home institutions, and in several cases to reevaluate their career and make significant changes on their return.
Global Citizenship In this topic, volunteers‟ attitudes towards global citizenship have been explored and a number of ways these were brought back to their UK classrooms have been described. The teachers returned with an intense need to raise the awareness of their students about global issues and cultural similarities and differences. Teachers were able to engage their students‟ interest and bring their teaching to life by showing photographs and telling stories from their personal experiences, and this could also benefit other members of staff within the school. Generally, informal rather than formal links had been made between schools and few whole-school activities 6
had taken place, though volunteers could see the value in setting these up. Finally, volunteers perceived their projects to focus on a cultural exchange, learning from their time abroad as well as teaching there.
Conclusion Volunteers took part in their project overseas for a combination of reasons. These appeared to be mostly personal, but the volunteers were keen to use their teaching expertise and experience in order to best make a difference and be of use within the communities in which they would be placed. Many were excited to be able to use their skills to benefit others, and the convergence of project, timing and location was the initial attraction for most. The fact that projects were short-term and could be completed during the summer break was a big draw for teachers, and all felt they were able to achieve something in these few weeks abroad.
There was a great variety of personal and professional benefits experienced by volunteers as a result of their project. Their confidence had greatly improved as a result of coping with difficult situations under adverse conditions. They obtained experience of management and leadership which may not have been available to them at home. Many of the teachers brought back a practiced flexibility to the needs of the class, the ability to teach with few resources, and a willingness to use interactive activities to engage students without feeling they had lost control of the lesson. The projects re-awakened a love of teaching amongst some volunteers, and spurred many to change their professional circumstances. These benefits were similar to those found amongst teachers completing long-term projects, thus this study has indicated that they can also be applicable to short-term projects completed in the summer break.
Global awareness had in some cases been stimulated within the volunteers, who had a renewed sense of appreciation of their own situation and a keen desire to share this with their students. They also had a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students who had English as an additional language having been in a comparable situation themselves. There is scope for future work in
encouraging volunteers to set up more formal links between international schools in the spirit of true global partnership.
In conclusion, short-term projects can be valuable to teachers, are feasible to be undertaken in the summer holidays, and may „recharge the batteries‟ of those who want to continue teaching for some years.
Background Schools and teachers are increasingly being asked to use a global outlook in the classroom, and to appreciate issues of identities and diversity within a culturally cohesive context. The DfES „Diversity and Citizenship‟ review (DfES, 2007) highlighted the lack of awareness that teachers and students can have of diversity and the notion of „Britishness‟. As a result, the Citizenship Programme of Study (QCA, 2007) required young people to learn more about different national, religious and ethnic identities, and there has been an increased focus on developing cultural cohesion and understanding of others. Both the Agebo (DfES, 2007) and the DfES „Putting the World into World Class Education‟ (DfES, 2004) reports encouraged teachers to bring a greater global focus to their lessons.
The recent policy and rhetoric from the government concerning teachers and schools having a more developed global focus seems to have been largely motivated by a desire to bring about improved cultural cohesion in the UK (DfES, 2007; Goldsmith, 2008). Some commentators, however, have expressed the opinion that when talking about global citizenship it is important to recognise that its concerns should be much broader than the national state. For example, Kerr stated: “Citizenship Education is universal, encompassing local, national and international contexts. It is an ever present challenge for individuals and communities across the globe; for young and old, rural and urban, male and female, schools and the communities to which they link” (p5; Kerr, 2003).
Today, many of the problems faced by our society are global problems requiring global solutions. As we become more aware of those in other countries there seems 8
to be a greater desire to achieve a global social justice and equality for people from all nation states. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been leading the way on pushing for a greater global focus in citizenship education and argue that young people in the UK should consider themselves world or global citizens (Brockerhoff & Wadham-Smith, 2008). Oxfam and Amnesty, for example, work on encouraging young people in the UK to learn about global issues such as poverty and human rights. Large and small development NGOs have been keen to push their agendas and have increasingly used Citizenship Education as an outlet to do so in schools. These agencies argue for a cosmopolitan view of the world; they do not believe it is enough to simply interact with other people in the world, but that we should active contribute to others‟ lives and also understand how our actions affect them. They believe that people from different societies should not be bound by the borders of their nation state but unite to influence a global political agenda (Brockerhoff & Wadham-Smith, 2008).
Traditionally, global citizenship education has been brought to schools in the form of teaching materials. More recently, with the development of new technologies and the rise of low cost travel, schools and teachers have been encouraged to take more active roles in seeking out global citizenship opportunities for themselves and the students they teach. In the last few years there has been a rise in initiatives such as the British Councils „Global Schools Partnerships‟ which enables teachers to learn from visits to schools in other countries, and also of school-linking initiatives such as the „Global Gateway‟ and „Plan-ED‟ (www.globalgateway.org.uk; www.plan-ed.org). One way in which teachers can learn about different cultures is by personally spending time abroad. A number of organisations offer the chance for volunteers to engage in projects working in countries all over the world, and some projects have a specific educational slant. Many of these projects are run by charities and recruit volunteers to take part in their projects. These volunteers are seeking to make a positive contribution to a community overseas, and because of this they may be considered „global citizens‟. As Brockerhoff and Wadham-Smith (2008) commented: “Through volunteering, many of them learned that they were bound to other people through their commonalities, rather than set apart by differences. Volunteering for them was a way of participating in another community and 9
seeing how social change is tackled in other parts of the world. This often led to the questioning of their societies, the experience having enlightened them about the problems that people across the world face, but also to those issues that work well at home. Some said that they recognised that all over the planet, people are fighting for the same humanitarian issues. It can help us in becoming what one volunteer called „world wise‟.” (p108; Brockerhoff & Wadham-Smith, 2008)
There has been little published investigation on the domestic consequences of international volunteering projects; for the local communities in which the volunteers work, for the volunteers themselves, and for their students and colleagues back home. One large organisation, VSO, noted the positive feedback from their long-term volunteers on the beneficial impact of volunteering abroad, but the lack of research evidence for this in the literature. They therefore commissioned a number of research projects into the experiences of their volunteers and the skills developed as a result of their long-term projects. A scoping review, completed by the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR, 2008), aimed to bring the results of these reports together. The review explored four main themes of the benefits from international volunteering: development of personal and professional skills; career progression and enhancement of employment prospects; promotion of social cohesion and development awareness; and, increases in volunteering within volunteers‟ local communities.
Three reports, all commissioned by VSO, have looked specifically at benefits of volunteering with respect to the education sector. Unterhalter et al (2002) interviewed 113 teachers returning from international volunteering projects using a survey and qualitative methodology. The results showed that volunteers had spent time reflecting on their own teaching practice which improved their professional skills, and also reported personal benefits of increased confidence, communication skills, flexibility, and initiative. One conclusion of the report was that, although not well understood by employers and managers, volunteering can increase teachers‟ commitment to education, and improve retention in education. The authors
recommended that a system be put in place where such projects could be formally accredited as continuing professional development.
Shulz & Kelly (2007) conducted a further mixed-method study; 87 primary and secondary trained teachers completed an online survey, 21 of whom took part in an in-depth qualitative interview. Over half of the teachers were working in more senior roles than before their project, though this may reflect a natural progression since some were undertaken up to eight years previously. The volunteers felt that they derived benefit in classroom management (including use of resources), as well as personal and professional development (including evaluation and management skills). Forty-one percent said their career prospects had improved as a result of the project. The interviews revealed that teachers‟ experiences had given them a greater global awareness and made them more confident, tolerant and motivated. Many had taken on leadership roles within their projects and felt they had acquired management skills which could be used on their return.
Finally, Hutchings & Smart (IPSE, 2007) evaluated a pilot scheme where eight senior teachers worked in partnership with local school leaders in Rwanda and Namibia over three months. The results showed that volunteers generally took part for personal reasons, for example having a long-standing desire to do voluntary work and make a difference overseas. During the project, the volunteers felt they had reflected on educational issues, though many thought they had not brought specific insights into how their home institution could benefit, possibly because they had limited time to prepare for the project and an unclear idea of what they would be doing overseas. Nevertheless, staff at the returning volunteers‟ schools subsequently noticed greater inclusion of a global dimension, including direct links with international schools, project work within the curriculum, and a focus on global awareness amongst the students. Furthermore, most of the volunteers also returned with firm career plans; for some this represented a fresh approach to their current position, whilst others felt inspired to look for greater challenges elsewhere.
The research to date has suggested a number of personal and professional benefits to teachers undertaking international volunteer placements; however, it would seem that the impact was mainly felt in long-term projects. Few teachers feel able to 11
commit to an extended period overseas, but may be more likely to take part in projects during their summer break. This study aimed to assess the effect of shorter placements on volunteer teachers‟ practice and attitudes towards education, and also to explore how they had brought aspects of global citizenship into their schools on their return.
Methodology We conducted a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with teachers who completed a short-term volunteer teaching project overseas while training or qualified. The main aims of the interview was to explore the benefits of the project for volunteers, the effect on their subsequent teaching practice and attitudes towards education, and their attitudes towards global citizenship. An interview schedule was used (provided in Appendix 1), but interviews were semi-structured, allowing respondents to discuss in greater detail issues they felt were most important, and to include topics which had not been considered at the outset.
All past VESL volunteers were contacted who had begun teacher training, or who had qualified as teachers, before their project. Those who responded were consulted as to any friends or colleagues who had completed similar short-term projects and these were also contacted to take part. Ultimately, 11 volunteers were interviewed. This group were currently working in a mix of primary and secondary schools across the UK, with some working elsewhere in the educational system such as private tuition and as educational psychologists. All were female, and their names have been changed in this report. The teachers had a range of volunteering experience, with some having taken part in multiple projects, both education-focussed and community-focussed. These projects had been run by a variety of charitable and forprofit organisations.
Interviews lasted between 30 and 60 minutes and were conducted either face-toface or by telephone. All were recorded and then transcribed. Transcripts were analysed thematically using a constant comparative method (Glaser, 1965; Merriam, 1998), locating common themes emerging from respondents. Under this method, newly gathered data are compared with all previously gathered data, in order to develop conceptualisations of possible relationships and capturing recurring patterns and themes. Data analysis aims to find patterns and commonalities to explain changes and transitions in social processes and understanding. The categories are developed intuitively, but are systematic, informed by the purpose of the study, the 13
investigator‟s orientation and the knowledge and meanings made explicit by participants themselves. Data collection ceases when no new data is uncovered and, as the process of analysis is done contemporaneously to data collection, the stop point is easily identifiable.
Results The overall content of the interviews can be divided into five topics. Each topic was explored for themes which emerged in the interviews. These are described with representative quotations from the participants below.
Draw of Project The first overarching topic concerned the main reasons for taking part in the international project.
Ideology of Volunteering Many of the volunteers had a strong desire to work directly with an overseas community. For some, this began with a rather vague intention to volunteer abroad in a meaningful and useful project, without an idea of a specific location or group of people. The volunteers spoke of wanting to make a difference with their long school holiday. The ideology of the project appeared to be extremely important, as volunteers wanted to take part in something useful and sustainable. Several had clearly done a fair amount of research into the projects on offer in order to find one that suited their aims.
“I wanted to do something more rather than just passing through the country I actually, you know, did something, gave something back really rather than just being voyeurish and having a look at people” [Laura] “I‟d finished my PGCE, so I applied while I was doing it and I knew that I wanted to do something quite meaningful and productive in the summer, because we had a much longer summer than normal teachers get...and also it was a really valuable project in itself and that it was necessary. And I wanted something that would have an on-going, sustainable sense, so that I was going to be there for a certain amount of time, but then it was going to be built on and carried on” [Kelly]
A number of volunteers took part in a short project conducting training workshops overseas with the local English teachers, and the specific rationale of this project had attracted some to take part. The idea of reaching more children by working with their teachers seemed a particular incentive. These volunteers seemed more focussed on what they wanted to achieve, perhaps because the aims of the project were more defined than many of the school teaching projects. They appeared to be inspired by having a clear task and could see the benefit to the local and wider community. “I think the draw of the workshops is that you are, you can contact a lot more people...if you are actually working with the teachers then you are able to impact in a wider geographical range and hopefully a lot of children are going to benefit from the input...the impact of the program is greater because you hope that of all the eighty teachers that are there at each workshop, if we did four or five workshops that at least a handful of teachers will go back and implement some of the strategies in their class. The impact or the amount of children you‟re reaching is greater, I think that is why it was a great idea” [Estelle] “I really agreed with the idea of this workshop. I just thought it would be a great thing to do, so I sort of wanted to have a go at that” [Helen]
“it is obviously valuable people going into schools and doing work in schools there but then if you think that‟s one person with forty children whereas if you go and you talk to teachers then that‟s, you know, you are reaching more pupils through their teachers” [Carol]
Using Skills Another draw for the volunteers was having the chance to use their teaching experience. This had a variety of benefits. Some felt as though they would be of more use to the local communities because they were using skills developed over a number of years. The majority of comments in this theme, though, were around professional development of the volunteers themselves. They wanted to practise their teaching skills in a new environment with different challenges to their UK schools. This was particularly noticeable amongst those who went abroad immediately after completing their training, as they could use their newly-acquired expertise and teach outside of the normal constraints. These volunteers saw a benefit in bringing these skills back with them to their first teaching position. “A lot of the other projects were looking at gap year students and this was one „em that really had something that a qualified professional could go do. I kind of thought that this one is tailor made for me” [Gwen] “I was doing my PGCE in languages when I applied and I wanted to do a project where I would teach English as a second language, and I knew that with the skills that I had learnt during my PGCE could be transferred. So for me, it was about practising everything I had learned and really starting to feel competent and feeling like I was assimilating everything I had been taught, but also being given much more freedom to do it, to work in different environments, and getting a different perspective. I knew I wanted to teach because I knew that would be really valuable for me...I thought it would give me experience and confidence before I went in for my first job” [Kelly] “And I think it was being with other teachers and training other teachers, those, like a totally different other level. And it did feel like the most 18
comfortable place in the world to be, not necessarily because it's [country], or not necessarily because it was with that particular group, but because it was the process of teaching. And I hoped that that satisfaction and constructive time could then be used back at home in a full-time job teaching here” [Christina]
Desire to Travel A very common theme in the interviews was a desire to travel and to see and experience other cultures. Interestingly, although common, this was presented as a less important or secondary incentive mentioned after other reasons for volunteering, and perhaps apologetically. Volunteers may have been less comfortable discussing what they would personally get out of the projects, thinking this was selfish. “...and of course the chance to go to [country] as well was obviously a big incentive” [Carol] “...as well as from a selfish perspective I wanted to see a different country, a different culture and get that experience for myself...And I think because you can learn so much from different people everybody‟s got something to offer, every culture got something to offer. And it‟s kind of like a part of a learning process for me, trying to take the best bits and see if I can apply that” [Gwen]
For one volunteer, the idea of setting a personal challenge for herself was the main reason for taking part in the project, and she wanted to experience something different from what she knew and was used to. “I like to live outside my comfort zone and sort of challenge myself, I think that was part of the reason I went for it...I think because it‟s such a big world out there and some people are quite happy to just sit wherever they are and quite happy to never move out of say [area], and I‟m not like that. I like to go and try and see different things...I think that was what drove me do that to try something different, see something different and hopefully learn something
from it and bring it back and be able to say actually I can stand on my own two feet, I can take charge of a situation and I can cope with them” [Gwen]
The benefits of the projects were seen as the chance to experience other cultures not just as a tourist, but living and working within them. Volunteers felt this would give them a greater insight into how others lived and what life in the country was really like. The school-based projects were seen as a good way into the local community. “I was just feeling that life was going by and I hadn‟t seen the world yet, and I really wanted to...rather than just randomly going to country and seeing it. I mean, it offered the chance to live with a family and really experience it, and I really did, luckily” [Abbie] “When I worked in a primary school in [country] that was during my university holiday, that was kind of started thinking then „oh I‟d actually like to interact‟, but then it was more the interaction with the community, that‟s the best way into a community...I was consciously wanting to do it” [Fiona] “it‟s an opportunity to go abroad...and be fully immersed in the culture that would otherwise be absolutely impossible to become part of” [Susan]
Linking with the next theme, the experience of travel and other cultures was seen as useful for volunteers‟ professional development. This ranged from specific aspects of the country that volunteers were interested in, to getting a wider view of another education system against which they could consider their own. “Training to be an RE teacher, I was fascinated by the country because it‟s got such a mix of religions and it is so ethnically diverse and it has always interested me” [Laura] “Obviously getting to go as a bit of cultural exchange for me, you know to see how education is done in this country and how it is done over there. That was all very interesting to get a different perspective...Also, it was excellent 20
professional development for me getting to work with other professionals and see what the structure of teaching was like in another country and be involved with that ” [Estelle]
Professional Development Following from the previous theme, volunteers felt the projects would increase their skills as teachers, in additional to through comparing different cultures. For some, this was taking on roles they had not experienced in the UK, whilst for others it was about increasing their experience. Leadership and management skills were highlighted as aspects which attracted volunteers and something for which there may be limited opportunity in this country. Another was teamwork, with additional benefits of being able to learn from others and share skills. “You‟re getting to work in team so that‟s always good experience. You‟re getting to work with people from a range of different backgrounds, you know like I was saying some of them were from a TEFL training and some had spent a lot of time in country. So getting to work in that sort of environment was good...also the practicality of just getting to run the workshops, you know, to deliver that sort of content, probably as a newly qualified teacher I wouldn‟t have had the opportunity to do that in this country” [Estelle] “I personally felt that it would give me a greater insight into what actually happens in a British classroom because I think only by experiencing something different can you then lead on to actually being a bit more objective about your own experience as well” [Susan] “When I found out that I was going to be a team leader of one of the workshop groups – this I knew would be a brilliant opportunity for me as I had just got the role as deputy head in my new school. So leading a team of teachers who were mostly newly qualified was a fantastic opportunity and chance for me to learn...For me I wanted it to be an adventure but also a professional pursuit. I wanted to gain something for myself professionally but I also wanted the
people I worked with to gain something professionally. I liked the idea that it was sharing expertise” [Emily]
Timing The final theme in this section was the timing of the project. The short-term teacher training project was a particular draw for some as it could be completed in the summer holidays with time left over to fulfil other commitments. Volunteers did not have to take time away from their job, and could come back the following academic year with a new experience. One volunteer described the project she took part in as perfect for her current situation, feeling it was the right thing at the right time for her. “The other good thing about [charity] was that it was for teachers, it was a two week thing which sat in brilliantly with family” [Gwen] “And then I thought, I need something that well, I can do in my summer, because I don‟t want to give up work, and something that I‟m going to be good at, and something that‟s far away and really different. And I remember, we were in the house that dad sold now, but I was upstairs and doing this internet search, and I found the [charity] website and said, this is perfect, and I was shrieking and running around the house and telling everybody. And everyone agreed, it was perfect, and I applied straightaway. And I really did check all the boxes and I‟d been looking for something like that for a long time” [Abbie]
Summary There was a combination of reasons for volunteers taking up their overseas projects. They had a desire to help others and make a difference in some way. They also wanted their project to be of value to the community in which it took place. In addition, they wanted to use their existing skills in teaching, as well as expanding these in ways which may not be available in this country. Experience of other places and cultures was a significant draw for most volunteers in terms of their personal and professional development, whilst the short-term nature of the project was essential for them to be able to physically complete it.
Personal and Professional Benefit The second overarching topic concerned the benefits volunteers had experienced as a result of completing their project overseas. This topic evoked the largest number of themes from the interviewees.
Meeting Challenge All the volunteers commented on the challenges of the project and described a number of adverse situations and conditions they had experienced. They described being „thrown in at the deep end‟ both in terms of the environment and also the teaching. The weather was very much hotter than the UK, making it difficult to work and sapping their energy. There was also a language barrier with at most a handful of people in the community who spoke English, and they were being asked to teach subjects and age groups outside of their previous experience. However, the 23
volunteers all stressed that it was getting through these challenges that made their project rewarding, and in some ways exhilarating. “I thought it would be absolutely fine and a breeze. And it was so amazing but it was really hard. I can‟t pretend it wasn‟t because I‟m obviously not as brave and tough as I thought I was because it was really different to home. And I know it was only for four weeks but initially it felt quite strange, and the heat and the language barrier. And there was one of the teachers at school was gorgeous and really helpful, and one was perhaps not quite so receptive, and so we had all of that politics flying around. So when something was difficult, afterwards, after you finish it, it feels even more rewarding, doesn‟t it, because it wasn‟t easy and you still managed to do it...It was wonderful and at the end, it‟s like a rollercoaster, actually. Like you‟re on the rollercoaster and it‟s really scary and it‟s really intense, and then the ride finishes, and you just want to go on again” [Abbie] “Ultimately actually probably brought us closer together in the end, some of the difficulties we faced...it was all very different and with that came all these different little mini challenges which made all the whole experience a bit more, exciting I suppose” [Susan] “really taxing and obviously days are draining because you are just on the go constantly, as soon you are awake you are with people and it was challenging, it was fantastic” [Laura]
The rewards of experiencing and meeting the challenges of the project appeared to be the main reason volunteers enjoyed their time overseas. They felt enriched, that they had learned a lot about themselves, and that they had fulfilled the demands of the project against adversity. Several mentioned that they did not believe they were the „type of person‟ who could do a project like this, but having completed it, they had realised the only thing stopping them from being this type was actually having had the experience, and they were able to cope after all. This made life seem at lot easier back in the UK.
“I always say if you can manage things out there then over here it is easy isn‟t it” [Laura] “Being in a different culture and in such a different environment and there being no westerners around, I felt like I grew...I think it‟s one of those things until you‟ve done it, you just think you never can do it. And then you do it and you think, actually that wasn‟t so horrendous” [Kelly] “First of all I think you feel quite privileged to do it, it‟s such an unusual thing, how many people can say they‟ve gone and done that...I think it was most definitely on a very selfish level very rewarding because you do feel very pleased and proud of yourself that you‟ve managed to go there and pull it off and deliver something that was worthwhile for those people” [Estelle]
Feeling Valued The interviewees generally felt as though their projects had been worthwhile and valuable to the communities where they were based. The feeling that the work they had done was appreciated is perhaps what gave the volunteers confidence to develop in their role and take on more challenges. As in the previous topic, this was one of the main reasons for volunteers wanting to take part in this sort of project, and the perception that they had indeed made a difference to a community was very important to them. “As soon as you arrive it‟s just this appreciation and this feeling that everything you do is just massively valued...everyone is hugely appreciative of you being there. But that has a knock-on effect, because then you feel appreciated and you want to do more and more and more, and that creates a really positive environment, so you just go from strength to strength...there was an expectation obviously to fulfil my role as a volunteer and to represent an organisation, but there was also this sense that I had the freedom to really develop it as I wanted. And that in itself is a confidence booster and also gives an amazing sense of creativity and of a semi-blank canvass, although you‟ve got a huge amount of responsibility in terms of the organisation you‟re 25
representing and the schools that you‟re working for and that kind of thing. But the expectation is already that you‟re going to do a good job. So you have to rise to it, I guess” [Kelly] “We were the first people who had ever been into the village and the school so I think in that respect we made a massive difference...I think the kind of people we were that we put so much into it in terms of relationships with people that we got so much out” [Laura]
Confidence Related to the previous theme of overcoming challenges was an increase in confidence which all the volunteers mentioned without prompting. Confidence was seen as being an important personal attribute, but more often it was related to the volunteers‟ teaching practice. This theme therefore also relates to two future topics „Change to Teaching‟ and „Attitude towards Education‟. There were many comments concerning the benefit to being more confident in the classroom, particularly with unfamiliar students and topics. Again, having survived teaching in difficult circumstances, the volunteers felt more able to cope with demanding situations in the UK which suddenly seemed less daunting, even after being away only a few weeks. “I think doing something that you're not used to...makes you more confident because you're thinking, well, if I can do this then in my everyday life where I know the people; I'm being paid; I've got my network; I've got my safety nets, means you can survive any of that, because you've been able to do it without that safety net. So I think it definitely, definitely boosts confidence...it's made teaching a breeze. It's meant that I'm not in any way fazed in the classroom” [Christina] “I was quite nervous about doing it so it gave me greater confidence in delivering material to a different audience. I think it helped me a lot...I suppose if you are a confident teacher I think you are probably, I think you are more
confident in yourself so your lessons are probably delivered slightly better, you are maybe more confident in being more creative in your lessons” [Helen]
A greater confidence was seen not only as beneficial in the classroom with students, but also with colleagues and more senior staff. Some discussed feeling more able to take part in discussions with other teachers, and to question their managers if they disagreed with a decision. Again, leadership skills were developed, which enabled volunteers to be more confident delivering training to their peers. “I think I learned that I do have the confidence to speak in large groups like that because it can be quite intimidating in front of eighty professional peers and try and deliver content...I think it was definitely a confidence boost, definitely a self-esteem boost” [Estelle] “I also developed some more confidence. For example when we first got there I had to present to the Minister of Education and he wanted to ask lots of questions about why we were there what was our role, how we would make a difference I was the nominated person to stand up, unprepared, and answer these questions. That was a real challenge – I felt the success of the [charity] programme was on my shoulders. It was the most challenging thing I have ever done – standing in front of a really important person in front of my colleagues and having to deliver this speech that would be make or break I just had to go for it. It was really daunting – but one of the other girls afterwards said she just wanted to stand up and clap. It felt great. Now back here I have to deliver a lot of speeches to teachers and they have never been as challenging as that. That experience alone gave me heaps of confidence” [Emily]
Appreciative of Situation Most of the projects undertaken by volunteers took place in rural settings within developing countries. Seeing and experiencing the lives of people with little material wealth or possessions gave volunteers a deeper perspective on their own lives in the UK. Many had not seen such poverty or basic conditions before and this was a 27
powerful experience, leading them to reassess their priorities. For some volunteers, there was a particular insight in speaking to women living in societies with less freedom than their own. As will be seen in a later topic, this gave many a desire to instil a sense of appreciation in others on their return. “I was so passionate about what I‟d seen, how fortunate we were in this country and western society and how different things were. And that lasted for a really long time, and still does” [Abbie] “I think people sometimes take for granted the standard of living...it makes you appreciate more what you‟ve got than before” [Carol] “the teacher in the school where I taught they also had to work as farmers and they also had to walk miles to school...It‟s easy to think yeah we‟ve got it tough in this country whereas actually we haven‟t. I think it‟s made me much more of a happier teacher having worked abroad” [Laura]
Working in schools and with local teachers led many volunteers to compare their work environments to those of the country they were visiting. As illustrated by the quote above, some talked about how they and other teachers complained about aspects of work. A few described specific aspects of UK teaching for which they had a new appreciation. These included the opportunity for professional development, support from a variety of agencies, and the availability of high-tech teaching resources. This also links with the future topic „Attitude to Education‟. “You have a lot more resources at your fingertips, from ICT to just sort of basic resources so I think that makes your job a lot easier. It‟s not so hot in this country, that must be hell trying to teach in those conditions day in day out...I think you don‟t get a lot of government support in [country] as you do in the UK” [Helen] “I think one of the things I learned was how lucky I was really for all that I complain about staff meetings and planning. They are working in much more difficult circumstances. So for one it made me appreciate what I had a little bit 28
more. Also another thing that I realised I was lucky to have was the support from a huge multi disciplinary team, we have Ed. Psych. on hand, we have the speech and language therapist. We have all these different professions working in our schools all the time and they have to be everything to the children so they don‟t have that support. So I think the main thing I came home with was just a message of how lucky we are, for all that I complain about the education system from time to time. We do have it good in a lot of ways” [Estelle]
Learning from Others Projects where several teachers were working together enabled volunteers to swap ideas and discuss teaching methods. Several volunteers who took part in these projects commented on the benefits of discussing issues of teaching practice with others who had different qualifications and experience. This included differences between TEFL and school-based teacher approaches, and differences between primary and secondary education; groups who would not normally mix at UK training events. In addition, the volunteers had varying experience of different cultures and could sometimes point out misunderstandings. “you get other people‟s ideas from different people‟s backgrounds. So the person who had done a lot of TEFL had a lot of interesting ideas that had come from a TEFL background that I‟d never heard coming from teaching. Then somebody who had spent a lot of time in country would be able to say „Oh no maybe we don‟t do that because it‟s not culturally sensitive‟” [Estelle] “I think because obviously we were doing a lot of discussing about teaching styles and lesson plans and ideas and I think you learn from other teachers all the time, that‟s really really important actually, just even watching other teachers explain their activities or the ideas they came up with, yeah you are constantly learning and you get some good ideas that you can take home and use in your own lessons” [Helen]
Further, these projects included a mix of recently qualified, experience, and more senior teachers. This enabled volunteers to work closely who in a normal teaching environment may not have the opportunity to do so. It was clearly a two-way process, since those with less teaching but more travelling experience could offer advice to professionally more senior colleagues, and vice versa. “Plus the people that I was with, especially the second time, the other teachers, we all learned tons off each other and that really made a massive difference...and from the other teachers as well; we'd all recognise each other's strengths and so that was brilliant to hear it from them as well - some of them had been deputy heads, or further along the line than I am, so it was brilliant to hear that from them” [Christina] “Leading a team of teachers who were mostly newly qualified was a fantastic opportunity and chance for me to learn. It was one that I took very seriously and work out how to lead them, manage them, but also be a part of the team and live in their company in intense situations for two weeks. I was really pleased that it all worked brilliantly. It was great to have this practice in a challenging situation to use my leadership skills. Personally I think it went really well and the other girls although they knew I was team leader – I encouraged them to direct me from time to time as well. It was a brilliant way to use some of the skills I had been developing in this country in a completely new setting” [Emily]
Role Model There were several comments around how the UK students of returning volunteers seemed to be impressed with what their teachers had achieved. These students had a greater respect for the volunteers having been abroad and a different perception of them not just as teachers but „real people‟. Conversely, the volunteers hoped that having these experiences and sharing them with the students might inspire some to travel or take part in voluntary work in the future. Many of those who discussed this theme worked in rural schools where the local families had not been abroad or had much contact with people from other countries. This links with a later theme in 30
„Global Citizenship‟ on the importance of expanding students‟ awareness of other cultures, but feeling like a role model was another beneficial aspect to volunteers of having completed the projects. Since projects took place over the summer holidays, the teacher had some continuity with students, and could discuss their experiences both before and after going abroad. Some felt that this gave a sense that volunteer work was achievable to anybody. “I‟ve been told I‟m a cool teacher, so I was very pleased with that...I went away and came back to the kids. Hopefully it has given them inspiration for when they get older to do something” [Gwen] “The students want to know that you, as a teacher, have a life. They understand that you're part of their life, but they want to know that, actually, you're doing real things...I think the role of the teacher is to be a role model. Whatever you say, however you move, however you dress, whatever you do, they're just going to copy, because they're just sponges. So if they see you're full of life and have done something in a real world situation and you're generous enough to share it with them and tell them about it and make them feel like they're part of your life, then they're just going to be massively, much more a step forward” [Christina] “Kids don‟t want you just to be their teacher that‟s just teaching them maths or science, they want you to be a human being. That‟s what you aspire to when you‟re young...that is a really, really important experience that they need to hear about and they need to think, maybe that‟s something I‟d like to do, or, maybe that‟s something I could do, and also that there‟s life beyond the schools” [Kelly] “A lot of the older kids I‟ve taught I know now, I mean they are in their twenties and the amount of times I‟ve passed on information and said „oh look at this website and go and look at projects‟ or „look at this‟ and „look at that‟ because they want to go and do it as well. Because you give them that, almost like someone from [area] can actually go and do that, you know it isn‟t just rich kids who go out and do this kind of thing but it is actually normal people who 31
are out there and can do stuff. I know at least five kids who have gone on to do stuff, gap years or whatever but have gone on to do stuff. I‟m not saying they‟ve done it just because of me, but being able to talk to them and kind of enthuse them with that is fantastic” [Laura]
Liberated in Teaching A number of volunteers commented on the amount of freedom they had whilst teaching on their project. They described making their own decisions on which topics to teach and how to teach them, and felt able to change their approach as they were going. The rationale for many of the projects was to increase students‟ levels of spoken English, and volunteers often used games and interactive activities to do this. The difference felt stark between this approach and that expected in the UK role, which was perceived as relatively restrictive for some. “There was no sense of them saying, this is what you have to do. They gave me massive freedom, and said, we‟ll provide classes, in a way, and, you do with them what you will. That was hugely liberating...I can now compare it to experiences in England, where there's so much red tape you can, actually get lost in that and can't deliver – or vary – the lesson that you'd like” [Kelly] “we had a greater freedom and we were able to do more sort of fun activities. When we got back to England obviously you‟re restricted with their curriculum, it‟s a lot more formal way of learning and people are assessing you and it is a lot more stressful in that way” [Helen]
For one volunteer, this had been a particularly salient aspect to the project since she had returned. Entering the UK education system as a newly-qualified teacher had highlighted the differences between the two countries and what she hoped to get out of the profession. She found it very difficult to work within tight constraints having had the freedom of being an international volunteer where she was able to put her own stamp and personality on the topics and methods of teaching. She also felt that many of her colleagues had become jaded, discussed further in the following theme.
Following this interview, Christina decided to leave mainstream education and move into private tutoring. “That puts aside any differences in background, experience, position in the hierarchy, etc, etc, all of which is so rigid within the education system and prevents people from being themselves within the workplace...I know that experiences of teaching during volunteering experiences has been incredibly liberating, and it's been the opposite, I'm afraid, in terms of teaching in a mainstream school. It's been really restrictive, and I feel they're only getting, kind of, 30% of [Christina], which is just not good enough because it's not enough of a two-way street...I think being able to compare it with those times abroad volunteering, has made it even more stark, the kind of restrictions that we are working within” [Christina]
Recharging Batteries Several teachers described the effect of doing an overseas project as rejuvenating them, and allowing them to rediscover their love of teaching and reasons for taking up the profession. Interestingly, this was not only volunteers who had been teaching for a number of years before taking on the project, but also those who had recently qualified. These people had returned to work revived, motivated, and with a fresh perspective on education. This change had been noted in other research involving long-term projects and it was interesting that these volunteers also felt rejuvenated after a shorter period abroad. The effect appeared to be due to several themes already discussed, such as being liberated in their teaching and learning from others. It also related to later themes in „Attitude to Education‟ such as being around children who were very keen to learn, and seeing cultures where education was highly valued. “It reaffirmed that I love this job and the need to learn from the children. It made me realise how much I do love teaching...My experience with [charity] was a great breather a great chance for me to reflect on myself as a teacher...in fact it could be one of the best forms of professional development” [Emily] 33
“I think sometimes you become jaded as a teacher in Britain and I think it‟s all very easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut...I think going out to a foreign country and doing that and it can really enthuse you for your job, it can really give you a passion for what you do again, and why you do it, it reminds you of the joy of actually teaching - but teaching kids who want to learn, who are dying to learn and would give anything for you to be there...it energizes you almost in a way” [Laura]
As mentioned earlier, Christina had spent some time reflecting on her experiences abroad and her subsequent disillusionment with teaching in the UK. One of her main concerns was a perception that her colleagues had stagnated in their jobs and that their attitudes were no longer conducive to teaching; she worried that the same thing would happen to her after a number of years. She described at length what she considered would be the benefits of volunteering for such teachers, and the support they should be given by senior management to enable this. Christina felt teachers would be rejuvenated, and that this would have a positive impact on their students as well as allowing them to continue teaching effectively for many years to come. She is quoted here at some length. “I think it's really important that senior management encourages staff to do volunteering projects like this, because not only will it recharge their batteries, so when they come back they'll have a whole host of new ideas, they'll be more enthusiastic about their job generally and they'll feel like they can give again, but, okay, back in the system. So they'll get more mileage out of their teachers; they won't be as unwell mentally or physically because they'll feel like they're doing some real good, as well as the good that they're being paid for...And especially teachers, the majority of whom have gone straight from uni into teaching, so they can't imagine another world, another workplace, another environment. So it would really refresh them if they went to another world through an organisation that would steer them there in a safe and constructive way, and then they would really flourish when they're out there and come back feeling human and jolly...
“Whatever the attitude is of the teacher, is totally rubbed off on the children. So when you're exhausted in the classroom and you can certainly see the teacher that's exhausted and is really at the end of her tether, the children will totally mirror that. So if she comes back vivacious and rejuvenated, and with tons of ideas and photographs and create a link with the class that she's taught, out in Thailand or Sri Lanka, the kids can imagine that world and how, eventually, some real kind of correspondence going on, they'll just be pumped by it, the teacher will be pumped by it, and it will really make a massive difference... volunteering is the answer, totally. And the women that I can think of from my staffroom, who are coming to that crossroad, and needed a year or six months, or even a month, just one over the summer, they would get their batteries recharged and they'd be ready to rock for another two or three years” [Christina]
Summary This topic has explored the benefits volunteers felt they had gained from completing voluntary projects overseas. The volunteers had a sense of reward from successfully working in difficult conditions outside of their comfort zone, and considered their projects to have been valuable and worthwhile for the local communities. The challenges they experienced had in turn increased their confidence, which they had seen in their professional lives after returning to the UK. Many volunteers reported appreciating their situation more following their project, and particularly the educational system in which they worked, finding they had less to complain about than they previously thought. They learned a lot when working in groups with other teachers of other backgrounds, in terms of approaches to teaching and professional skills. Several mentioned the benefits to their students in the UK who they hoped saw them as role models. Others noted the greater freedom they had when teaching in another country, though this sometimes made it difficult to cope with the constraints of the UK curriculum. Finally, several volunteers felt rejuvenated with a fresh perspective on teaching, and felt strongly about other teachers having a similar experience. The benefits described were similar to those found in studies of longer projects, indicating that short-term projects also have a positive effect on volunteers.
Change to Teaching This topic explored changes the volunteers had made to their teaching practice since returning from their project. Increase in confidence, important here, has been discussed in the previous topic.
Flexibility A number of volunteers described having to be very flexible whilst teaching in their projects. Most spent time both before and during the project planning lessons according to which groups they were expecting to teach, but this was often changed at the last minute. Thus, they found they may arrive in a classroom without knowing what age group they were going to teach, or how many students would be present. They then had to adapt their lesson plan or come up with an entirely new lesson on the spot. In addition, their plans may sometimes have under or overestimated the level of English of certain groups and they would have to act quickly to make lessons
more appropriate. This had given them a great deal of experience in making quick decision and alterations to their teaching. “There really wasn't much of a curriculum, or much of a timetable, or much of an anything in terms of structure, but the lessons seemed to work really, really well, because we were flexible” [Kelly] “I think certainly my best day was one when it was absolutely spontaneous. There literally hadn't been any chance of planning; a class was thrown on me and eventually parents came and the word got round that an English lesson was occurring” [Christina] “Being abroad you definitely learned to wing it” [Fiona]
When they returned home, volunteers retained this skill and used it to modify lessons as they were progressing based on the situation and the students‟ reaction. They felt this kept the students interested, and enabled them to follow natural lines of enquiry rather than sticking to a rigid plan which may not have been working with a particular group. By staying on the students‟ „wavelength‟, they hoped to make their lessons more enjoyable, and retain their natural curiosity. Teaching became more studentcentred and the volunteers were more comfortable with quickly changing tack. The volunteers could see the benefit to this approach, and directly linked it to their experience on the projects. ”Now, if I‟m teaching a lesson, I‟m much more flexible. I have a vague lesson plan, but I don‟t necessarily stick to it rigidly and I‟m much more receptive to the kids. So I see that it‟s a certain time of day and they‟re not responding well to this, and that has given me a huge amount of flexibility and also just resourcefulness...I definitely, for better or for worse, have gone off at tangents and wanted to learn stuff about them and in many ways that is actually how you build up relationships more than anything. And I think teachers should make more time to do that, because often, it‟s like get through this work and then move on” [Kelly]
“I don‟t stick to the book and when I‟ve got a class of kids in front of me, just literally I‟ve then had to go with it. And if we‟d gone off on a tangent and it‟s exciting and we‟ll just follow that, just like it was out there...So if a lesson‟s going on right now, and it‟s not following the planning, and we‟ve gone off on a different angle, then I just go with it” [Abbie]
Interactive As a result of the project, volunteers became more aware of the benefits of using interactive activities in the classroom to engage the students. Since this was a focus of the teacher training workshops, many of these volunteers went to their project with a keen understanding of this approach, and how it could be used without the class descending into chaos. This was based on experience of teaching, and often teaching languages where students seemed to learn more quickly if they took part in games and activities. However, spending time training others to use these types of activities made them more likely to use them in their own classroom, volunteers feeling as though they should „practice what they preached‟. “If the kids are interactive and they‟re doing something then they are less likely to get bored and start messing about” [Gwen] “if I teach French through games and activities and songs and a variety of different methods then the children just learn faster, so I can only go by my own experience in that it works, it enthuses the children...the most effective learning and teaching takes place if the children are actively engaged in what they are doing...you could play this game, you can do it this with all the children in one go and it‟s not going to cause chaos” [Estelle]
For some teachers, their attitude of the benefits of interactive activities was something that developed during the project. Several volunteers commented on how they had brought this back to their UK classroom, and how they noticed a difference when this approach was used. Teachers did note that it was not possible to have interactive activities all the time, but appreciating the reaction when they were used.
Linking with the previous theme, the volunteers sometimes changed their lesson plan to include an interactive activity if the students seemed disengaged. “It was very much about just encouraging them to constantly feedback and be really active in activities and games and speaking and that kind of thing...that is definitely the bit, even here, where they become that much more sparky and they‟re enjoying it and it feels real rather than just writing all the time” [Kelly] “It reminded me how important it is for students to participate. It is something people think they know but in [country] I saw its importance first hand. Carpet session in England can get longer and longer with teachers giving more and more information leaving less time for the students to get up and be active, so this is something I really push back here in the UK...I also realised how boring UK lessons can be, that we must have opportunities in lessons for students be active” [Emily]
Fewer Resources The next theme discussed by volunteers was a feeling that, on their return, they were able to teach with fewer resources. Many had quite advanced technology in their classrooms which they had been using frequently before their project. Faced with teaching without these resources whilst abroad, the teachers had to find other ways of making their lessons interesting and dynamic. This back-to-basics approach enabled the volunteers to focus on the aims of the lesson, then use their own initiative and ideas to form a lesson towards that aim. Having been successful at this, they had brought the approach back to the UK and felt they used the technology to assist their lessons, rather than as the entire focus. The teachers also felt that some of their colleagues had become reliant on the technology, using it as a crutch for teaching.. “I‟ve got a really jazzy classroom right now with computers that come up through the desk. It‟s crazy, it‟s like space age...and I just think about when I was over there, and I had a stick and some sand, or a chalk...my magic 39
whiteboard, with all of the latest technologies, had gone funny, and it‟s something we all take for granted. And I think, actually, this would be just as good with nothing” [Abbie] “I realised that I needed very little to be a good teacher if I do it properly. It forced me to look at my lesson plans and do things in different ways – to think about how I could get the key messages across” [Emily] “I think you do switch your mindset to, okay, what can we do without even paper...moving away from this high reliance on technology, over here you know the smart boards have appeared in every classroom, teachers can‟t teach without something up on the board that you press a button with, whereas these teachers are thinking on their feet all the time...looking at what teaching really is and what the important elements are and how you meet the learners‟ needs without having to rely on lots of additional resources that you would over here” [Susan]
EAL Students The volunteer teachers all had experiences of going to an unfamiliar country where they did not speak the language, and had to then teach others. This provided a considerable challenge, in the teaching but also in day-to-day life during the project. The experience gave many volunteers a greater understanding of what life is like for students in the UK whose first language is not English. One teacher talked about how her perceptions changed and she was able to put herself in these children‟s position. “I visited a country where I didn‟t understand what was going on and it‟s not because I‟m stupid but it‟s just because I didn‟t understand the language, and I do now have a bit of a soft spot for the kids who have other countries and they‟re not stupid and a lot of the time they‟re put in the bottom set and they‟re actually talked to like they‟re stupid when in reality some of them give them a year and they‟ll be in the top set, you know, they just need to catch up with the
language acquisition...they don‟t know what you‟re talking about but that‟s your problem in a way not just theirs” [Laura]
Volunteers came home with a clearer understanding of the difficulties of being in such a situation, and developed a number of techniques to make their lives in the classroom easier. They had used these techniques while abroad to make themselves understood to the foreign students, and found they could be equally applied to the UK classroom. Again, this came from their own experiences on not being able to speak the language and made them more sensitive to the students‟ difficulties. “you can be a bit more sensitive and sort of change and adapt things slight to accommodate them a little bit better” [Gwen] “I had to speak a lot slower, I had to explain myself a lot clearer and I was able to take that back to dealing with EAL children in my class in the UK...you definitely need to break things down a lot more, sort of talk a lot slower and think about your delivery a lot more...I was able to realise what their capabilities were I suppose, only to give them so much information and just be a lot slower and work at their pace really rather than sort of rushing it through” [Helen]
Appreciative Students Finally, several volunteers talked passionately about their desire to make their students understand how lucky they were compared with some of the children they had taught whilst abroad. They recognised that most of the UK students had not seen real hardship and did not have a clear understanding of how other children lived, and made it a priority to get this across to them. The teachers would not tolerate what they perceived as ungrateful behaviour and used this as an opportunity to discuss differences between countries. The perceived importance of raising global awareness is also discussed in detail in the final topic, „Global Citizenship‟.
“I think it is really important to teach children to be grateful, to value what they have and to think about those who haven‟t got that. I think that is something that is definitely strong in me as a result of my experience in countries where they don‟t have as much...for example during snack time you give out their fruit and they are like „I don‟t like this, I don‟t want that‟, we have a big talk about how it is very important as some countries don‟t have the choice like we have” [Helen] “I constantly compared my class to my [country] class, and I must have bored them stupid, telling how them how lucky they were and how fortunate they were. And when they were complaining about having a Peperami snack, I would get angry and tell them and show them pictures. And I had my magic whiteboard, and I would literally flash up these huge shots of these kids who had nothing, yet still had so much enthusiasm and put so much effort into everything. And these children, who really can‟t be expected to appreciate what they have, because it‟s all they‟ve known” [Abbie]
Summary This topic explored how volunteers‟ teaching practice had changed as a result of their project. Comments revolved around teachers being more flexible in their approach, and adapting their lessons based on circumstances on the day and the students‟ responses. This included making more activities interactive to engage the class and assist their learning. Several volunteers felt more able to teach with limited resources, and saw the technology available in their schools as more of an adjunct to teaching rather than a focus. Volunteers had developed more sensitive attitudes towards students whose first language is not English having experienced a similar situation, and several were also keen to demonstrate to their students how fortunate they were to live in a country without significant hardship.
Attitude to Education
The next topic included themes from discussions about how volunteers thought their attitudes towards education changed as a result of their project. A number of themes from other topics also linked to this theme, for example a desire for students to be appreciative and the importance of flexible, interactive teaching from the previous topic, In addition, themes from the next topic „Global Citizenship‟ are also relevant, including a need for awareness by students and fellow teachers of the similarities and differences of other cultures.
Keenness to Learn The predominant theme in this topic was a sense of the value of education. In the countries where volunteers were based, a difference in the attitude of the students towards learning was noticed. These students were generally extremely enthusiastic, energetic, and pleased to be in lessons. When given the opportunity for further teaching, for example at after-school clubs, there was no shortage of students and 43
parents all wanted their children to attend. Partly this may have been due to the novelty of having a westerner in these mostly rural schools, but it also seemed a cultural difference in attitude towards schooling. Education was often seen as a route out of poverty, and something to be prized. This related to a sense of rejuvenation in some volunteers‟ attitude towards teaching, discussed in an earlier topic. “I felt the sense that education is massively valued there by schools and kids as well...I ran a drama club after school and, for me, it was quite amazing the amount of time and energy that students had put in out of hours. I thought, I‟ll do this and we‟ll get this going, and, will they or will they not turn up, thinking that probably one might come, and it was just this amazing feeling that they wanted to learn and they wanted to be there...They had been so focussed and enthusiastic and put in so much time and energy, and that was amazing to see them perform” [Kelly] “they are very much about benefiting the children and children are very keen to learn. Sometimes, our children here can, can be not always, you do get good classes, but they can be switched off sometimes” [Gwen] “In [country] when you meet a parent the first thing they talk to you about is the children‟s education, it‟s obviously massively important because it is a way out for a lot of the rural kids, you know it‟s a way out so I think coming back into England then going for a teaching job in quite a rough school and seeing the kind of the attitude of some of the kids and a lot of the parents towards education, seeing it all as a joke and that, the amount of times I‟ve gone back and said „in some countries...‟” [Laura]
Since most volunteers were teaching English in these schools, they also noted the differences in attitude towards learning a foreign language. The interviewees discovered that, in many countries, learning English was very important to the students as it was required for higher education, and may also have increased the chances of being able to make a good living. Conversely, in the UK, language learning was not perceived as an important or appreciated part of the curriculum by
many students. This also linked to having an awareness of global issues and cultural differences, discussed further in the final topic „Global Citizenship‟. “They are very keen to learn English, probably because that benefits them as they go through life. Whereas our kids aren‟t very keen to learn another language and it‟s time to get across to them that we are part of a global community now. Even if it‟s just one other language, you really can‟t rely on other people speaking English. It is really unfair to think „oh everyone else is going to learn that language, I don‟t need to bother‟” [Gwen] “In terms of teaching a foreign language, that‟s interesting because the truth is English is massively valued. When you‟re teaching in rural communities, English is the passage out, whereas Spanish and French in South London does not have the same impact and it‟s just much more of a struggle because you‟re constantly up against the „why do we need to learn a foreign language, we‟ve got English?‟. But then you turn that around in many different ways, because you bring in a lot of other cultural things and make the kids realise that‟s not all about them” [Christina]
Similarities The teachers noted a similarity of attitudes towards education which they had in common with the teachers of English on their projects. Several mentioned being surprised by this, and had expected to find a more different outlook due to differences in teaching styles. For example, the teacher training projects were designed to encourage the use of spoken English in the classroom using games and activities because the teaching style in this country was mostly through silent reading and writing tasks. Some volunteers had preconceptions that this meant they would be less interested in new methods of teaching, or indeed education itself. However, instead the volunteers found a group of people who were very interested and alert to the practice of teaching and keen to improve their teaching, and who also had many similar pressures to them in their professional life. The teachers‟ desire and enthusiasm for the training increased the sense of value some volunteers had about their project. 45
“I think one thing that surprised me was in some ways a lot of the, like, similarities in attitude. You expect to go to the other side of the world and there to be huge differences but actually there was the same sense of humour in the staff room there was the same complaints about planning and marking. In some ways that was quite nice, quite reassuring that you can go all that way but still find out things that are the same” [Estelle] “What I thought was really interesting was there were actually a lot of similarities which actually I hadn‟t really expected. I thought what was lovely was, I don‟t know why I thought differently really, but they were just as passionate about teaching children as we were and I suppose I kind of thought because their teaching styles or methods were kind of, in my opinion, slightly narrow, I thought that meant they didn‟t care as much but that was completely wrong. What was lovely was that they did but they almost just didn‟t have the resources or the knowledge to expand their teaching anymore and I think that‟s why the teaching workshops were so lovely” [Helen]
Professional Development Relating to the previous theme, a number of volunteers felt a greater appreciation for the opportunities they had to take part in continuing professional development. They saw people who in many cases had received no training since qualifying and were working on their own. For some volunteers, training had sometimes seemed a nuisance and a common complaint in the staff room, but this had changed on their return. One interviewee described how teachers in the country where she had worked were highly respected in their local communities, without being required to attend further training. She compared this with teachers in the UK who she felt constantly had to prove themselves and always felt under the microscope “It has made me more keen than before to take advantage of CPD, professional development activities and get involved in that” [Estelle]
“A teacher there has an immense amount of respect and there is an awful lot there. The actual skills you know they don‟t necessarily really really have to work or refine them maybe because just being a teacher could be really significant anyway, whereas here I think we‟re tried and tested an awful lot and I think there is an awful lot of your teacher training out there that is making you continually reflect on your own practice” [Susan]
Career Path As has previously been described, the international projects gave most volunteers cause (and opportunity) to reflect on their own teaching practice. For some, it also provided an impetus to make a professional change. Several interviewees had completed a previous volunteer project immediately before or after attending university and described this experience as the catalyst for applying to teacher training. Others working elsewhere in the field of education found a renewed interest in direct contact with students and subsequently returned to classroom teaching. There were also volunteers who discovered they wanted new professional challenges and applied for new jobs on their return, most often more specialised or senior. It seemed that a short period away had far-reaching effects on the volunteer‟s career pathway.
“I think that in many ways, because I had done projects abroad and I‟d seen a really positive impact, I thought, actually do I always have to be going so far away? Surely it starts at home, so that‟s what made me think I‟ve just got to make this much more central to my life rather than always doing extra things...And in fact, one of the main things was when I was tutoring in [country] to kids who were difficult kids that were sent out of school and had to get extra help, and it was really small organisation that brought people in. And I realised that they were actually brilliant kids, it was just that in many ways, the system was failing them a little bit. It was giving them confidence and I didn‟t realise the impact of that was so massive and that‟s when I thought, actually I want to be doing this on a more daily basis” [Kelly]
“The main feeling when I got back was that I was really to develop and change. I had been working in an affluent school in [area] and I wanted to change. I realised that the school was not touching me any more – it had been good to me but it was time to move on and find a new challenge...I was really thinking that I did not want to go back, that I wanted to stay in [country], I wanted to set up a school out there, do something more worthwhile...I had to find another challenge and direction – and although my new school is not the other side of the world it is the first step on the way to something new” [Emily] Summary This topic looked at attitudes towards education. The volunteers noticed differences in the perceived value of education cross-culturally, with students in their projects generally being very keen to attend school and to learn. The same was not said about teaching in the UK. Despite this, they noticed similarities in the attitude towards education as the English teachers with whom they worked, which brought them closer together. The experience made them value the availability of continuing professional development in the home institutions, and in several cases to reevaluate their career and make significant changes on their return.
Global Citizenship The final topic dealt with volunteers‟ attitude towards global citizenship, how this altered as a result of their project, and how they had brought this back to their UK classrooms. Several themes in previous topics have related to these ideas.
Need for Awareness This theme was an important one for volunteers and links with the need to show children how fortunate they are from the previous topic. The comments focussed on the importance of making students aware of other cultures and how others live who they may not come across in their everyday life. Volunteers felt this was increasingly significant as they perceived the world was becoming smaller, and there were more opportunities to experience and interact with other cultures. Teachers worked hard to give their students a more global outlook.
“in our village where the school is, you know, it‟s fairly rural and everything but it is still important for the children to learn about other places and other religions and things like that because they are going to experience it” [Carol] “I mean the world is really so small now there are no excuse for your students not to understand other people‟s cultures and ways of life – it is vital they know these things. To make comparisons with the way that other children are taught, live their ways of life is crucial I think” [Emily] “I would hope – I mean, God, I don't know – but I would hope I'm more open minded. I would hope that having been abroad and I've seen different situations, I've definitely brought some of it back. And I always make them try and think outside the box a bit about things” [Christina]
Some volunteers felt that their students had a very poor understanding of other cultures, and felt strongly that it was their place to work on this. They wanted to discuss differences in beliefs, attitudes and lifestyle around the world in order to help their students become more tolerant and understanding of others. “Well we live in a global world don‟t we...I think a lot of kids just don‟t have that empathy with someone from a foreign country” [Laura] I‟m sometimes flabbergasted at how little students know, and it‟s not their fault actually, it‟s the teachers‟, and adults‟ generally, fault how little they know about the world outside their doorstep...It‟s made me acutely aware of how much kids need their eyes opened and how little interest they take in things unless they‟re really made to think about it” [Kelly]
A number of volunteers were shocked about the perceived ignorance of other teachers regarding global and cultural issues, and that this was not acceptable. There was a sense that these teachers did not have the understanding to be sensitive to the needs of certain groups, and that some also seemed content with their ignorance. This attitude was then seen to be transferring to the students. The interviewees described in detail how having an experience such as volunteering 50
overseas could open teachers‟ eyes to cultural differences, and then get this across to their classes. “Well I think it‟s this kind of „Oh, I don‟t know, is that a festival?‟, „Oh, I don‟t know, what are they called?‟, there‟s this kind of ignorance about. You think no it‟s not alright to say you don‟t know and mispronounce things, you know actually, just like when you have to deliver something of mathematical content or you have to deliver historical content, you need to go and learn about it, you need to be well read on the subject. If you have this kind of „Oh, I‟m not sure, it might be something like this‟ attitude then it comes across to the children and they feel like it‟s not important. If you‟re not quite sure then what is the point in them knowing about it, you know what I mean? So I think that annoys me, the kind of “Oh I don‟t know, there are too many things to learn about other cultures”” [Estelle] “I wanted to broaden the children‟s minds because I think that is quite a big motivation, because I‟ve got a broad mind I know how to broaden theirs... there is such latent ignorance with people in general about other cultures or other people and because of the way the UK is now there are very few schools that are pure race - and to go and live, or just to go and see a Muslim culture, I think it should be compulsory for half the teachers, I genuinely do because there is no basic understanding of anything. Then like I‟ve got a kid who is Muslim and the TA put the sausages on the same plate as everyone else and the mum didn‟t even complain she just said „Would you mind putting it on a different plate?‟ and they were like „Ohhh wanting to be special‟...if you had the slightest bit of understanding, or had lived there or seen it you would realize that it is a tiny thing for us to do but it is a really important thing for them to do and if you can do that with one culture then it is easy to do it with others” [Fiona]
Bringing Culture to Life Many volunteers found that items they brought back from their projects made it easier to teach their classes about cultural differences. Photographs, particularly, 51
showed the students that their teachers had been somewhere unusual, and made these other places seem somehow more real. This seemed to allow the volunteers to capture the attention of the students and talk with confidence about other countries, bringing to life the differences and similarities between them. Other teachers had also used the volunteers‟ photographs to the same effect. “The children are always fascinated to see pictures and things like that...I think it‟s a bit more exciting, rather than looking at a book and just saying „This is [country]‟ you know and just reading the facts about it. You can say „Well, look at this photograph and look at this‟ and you know you can say „Well this book says this and yes it‟s right‟ or „This book says this but when I went there it was different‟ and it‟s more first hand...so I can pass that on to the children and it‟s just more exciting than looking at it on the internet” [Carol] “The children are fascinated when you come back and are able to put photographs of you up on the board, talk about what‟s different and make them see the realities of what life can be like for children in other parts of the world...they really enjoy learning about what‟s going on in different countries. They are fascinated by it whether it‟s from the food or looking at the clothes or listening the music. They love anything that is different to what they are used to” [Estelle]
The volunteers found that they could talk from their own experience rather than using books and other media, and that this made their students more interested and engaged with these lessons. Descriptions came from the heart, rather than what was perceived to be a dry textbook. There were several comments that the students started thinking more realistically about the cultural differences because they could imagine about their own teacher having been in these surroundings. “If you can talk passionately the kids automatically listen to you because they can tell that you are worth listening to rather than reciting something you‟ve read to them. That comes across in your delivery and everything. Bringing stuff back, like first-hand stuff” [Fiona]
“My students in [area] were from quite affluent backgrounds so it was great for them to see pictures and my first hand stories – it made things much more real...and that‟s helped them, I think, especially if they‟ve made a link, and they can see their letter being read by a kid underneath a tree” [Emily]
Similarities and Differences As discussed previously, the teachers were able to use items like photographs to talk to their students about other cultures. They used this to draw contrasts between their school and the schools in which the projects took place, and used this as a springboard to discuss differences between the cultures and countries more widely. This was one of the key ways the volunteers went about raising awareness of global citizenship in their schools, and felt an important message for them to get across. “The school I‟m working in at the moment is a tiny rural school with basically white kids and they‟ve no concept of schools in other parts of the world, or even how schools are run in cities and to be able to bring my experience back from [country] and teach them about that I think is really valuable because they‟ve never seen this sort of thing and none of the other teachers really have, so I‟m able to talk about that and use my links with [charity] and the teachers and the schools out there to bring that contrast which I think is really important” [Emily] “I think it is really important to disseminate the understanding that people‟s lives are very very different, to extreme levels and you can‟t make assumptions about somebody‟s background or past, even within the UK but more importantly beyond, it‟s not, you know, I think it is part of learning about different cultures which makes you a bit more objective about your own” [Susan]
However, some teachers felt strongly about the approach of discussing differences between cultures. For them, the important lesson was actually that they explored the similarities between their students and the students abroad. They wanted the children to understand that the differences between them were not so great and that 53
they had more in common than they may have thought. A common project after volunteers returned was to set up a penpal project so students could explore these similarities between each other. “I think for the children it‟s very important for them actually not to see the differences but to see similarities and I think that is very very important. I think that we need to shift away from this contrasting cultures all the time and we need to look for what‟s the same. Ultimately, you know, if you are only seeing the differences between you and other people you are not going to get on...Some of the older children in the school wrote letters to the [country] children the first time. So yeah, I think what is nice for them is to see they share a lot things with these children, whether it is a like to play football or whether it is a like to watch a bit of television or a like to go dancing. I think that all promotes this kind of cultural harmony” [Estelle] “A lot of kids just don‟t have that empathy with someone from a foreign country. They see them as being different, a different colour, a different language and that they have got nothing in common. When you can try and explain to them about the similarities between them and talk about the kids that I used to, you know, little stories about kids and things that you‟ve taught in different countries and the differences but like I say the similarities as well” [Laura]
Whole School Approach Several volunteers discussed how their experiences had been (or could be) of use to the whole school. One teacher found that the other staff were very interested in her project, and used her photographs to show their own classes for the same reasons as described above. However, it did not seem as though many volunteers had set up formal projects in their schools, but had instead worked their experiences into their teaching of their own classes. Some described the difficulties of forming international links between schools because of time and workload. However, they recognised the importance of doing so, and advised other teachers going to do similar projects to think about this before and during their time abroad. 54
“I know even other staff are enthused because when I came back from [country], [colleague] was showing my snaps to other members of staff as well. Quite a few of them asked if they could borrow the set and use them with their classes to show their children as well... so it‟s definitely influenced the whole culture of the school and not just my class... I think some people would see you as having an area of expertise in global citizenship because people come and ask questions” [Estelle] “And I think the schools that I've been in have really been total islands, they haven't necessarily got any links with any other schools, even in the local area. They haven't necessarily, because people don't have time, they're totally head-down” [Christina] “Go with the idea of building a project to take back as well as to take out, so the links between their current work and what they are going to do out there and how it is going to be carried on after, so setting up pen pals or something like that so they have to get something out of it professionally. Sharing their experiences when they get back through the wider school and not just having for themselves, so something that could cascade across the school, not just benefit the teaching staff in general” [Fiona]
Cultural Exchange Finally, there were several comments around the idea of the project being a cultural exchange. The volunteers had done abroad to teach English, and to encourage the use of spoken English, often through interactive activities. However, they felt strongly that they were not there to tell the local teachers that their way was the best and only way of teaching, nor to hold up the UK as a utopia of education. They were careful to be sensitive to the needs of the curriculum and wider educational system, as well as the cultural differences which made such approaches more difficult. At the same time, they talked about being aware of learning just as much as they shared, if not more, from their experiences on the project. The experiences with which they returned are what gave them an insight into global citizenship and a zeal to increase 55
their students‟ awareness as described above. They were very grateful to have been allowed this opportunity by the local communities, as well as providing support and some new ideas for the students and teachers in those countries. “I think you have to be very very careful, what we don‟t want is to go there and promote being British. So it is a cultural exchange but it is a very sensitive cultural exchange in that it‟s on a kind of personal or one-to-one level. I don‟t think we should be going there to promote all that is good about Britain and get the Union Jack out. You‟re going there to learn about the life in that community, in that school and you‟re hoping to teach them a little bit about your life” [Estelle] “I think that is a brilliant thing that we‟re offering this and we‟re being able to see, not just for us taking our experiences to them but to learn from them and bring them back” [Gwen] “It was really a case of working with them – seeing it as a cultural exchange and all of us being open to learning...It was a sharing experience” [Emily]
Summary In this topic, volunteers‟ attitudes towards global citizenship have been explored and a number of ways these were brought back to their UK classrooms have been described. The teachers returned with an intense need to raise the awareness of their students about global issues and cultural similarities and differences. Teachers were able to engage their students‟ interest and bring their teaching to life by showing photographs and telling stories from their personal experiences, and this could also benefit other members of staff within the school. Generally, informal rather than formal links had been made between schools and few whole-school activities had taken place, though volunteers could see the value in setting these up. Finally, volunteers perceived their projects to focus on a cultural exchange, learning from their time abroad as well as teaching there.
Conclusion This study aimed to explore the effect of short-term educational volunteer programmes overseas on the practice of teaching, and attitudes towards education amongst qualified teachers. Using a qualitative interview approach, the views and experiences of past volunteers were explored in depth. Comments were analysed thematically and reported here in five topics.
Before discussing the results, it is important to make clear the limitations of this project. It was limited in scope, with a relatively small number of interviewees. The use of qualitative methodology makes it less important for substantial numbers as there is no attempt to generalise to a larger population, nor any claim that the sample are representative of all volunteer teachers. Rather, the group interviewed provided a large amount of very rich data, which can be unpicked and interpreted within the context in which the interviews took place. An additional benefit over quantitative data is that topics can be explored which were not thought to be relevant by the investigators at the outset, but are meaningful to the respondents. Here, analysis was completed at the same time as interviews took place, allowing data to be compared in vivo, and routes of enquiry to develop as the project progressed.
There may have been some inherent biases in the execution of the study. The investigators both assist with the charity which organised projects for many of the interviewees. Thus, volunteers may have felt obliged to report more positive experiences and attitudes to the interviewers. Indeed, the sample may have been self-selecting, if only those teachers took part who felt they had changed their practice or attitudes. VESL has a culture of requiring its volunteers to provide comprehensive, candid feedback on the good and bad points of selection, training and the projects themselves so it is hoped the positive bias was limited. However, the report must still be read with a conservative eye. One way of overcoming these biases would be to commission another agency to carry out the research project, as VSO has done. This was outside the scope of the current project but should be considered in future.
Volunteers took part in their project overseas for a combination of reasons. These appeared to be mostly personal, but the volunteers were keen to use their teaching expertise and experience in order to best make a difference and be of use within the communities in which they would be placed. Many were excited to be able to use their skills to benefit others, and the convergence of project, timing and location was the initial attraction for most. The fact that projects were short-term and could be completed during the summer break was a big draw for teachers, and all felt they were able to achieve something in these few weeks abroad.
There was a great variety of personal and professional benefits experienced by volunteers as a result of their project. Their confidence had greatly improved as a result of coping with difficult situations under adverse conditions. They obtained experience of management and leadership which may not have been available to them at home. They also experienced having almost a free rein as a teacher, and were able to try methods and assess their success outside of the constraints of the UK educational system. For many, the teachers brought back a practiced flexibility to the needs of the class, the ability to teach with few resources, and a willingness to use interactive activities to engage students without feeling they had lost control of the lesson.
Global awareness had in some cases been stimulated within the volunteers, who had a renewed sense of appreciation of their own situation and a keen desire to share this with their students. They were also eager to open their students‟ minds to other cultures, both in terms of differences, but also importantly the similarities between how different people live. They also had a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students who had English as an additional language having been in a comparable situation themselves.
The projects re-awakened a love of teaching amongst some volunteers as they experienced cultures who respected teachers and prized education. This spurred many to change their professional circumstances, to get back into classroom teaching, to seek promotion, or to remove themselves from the formal education system. Volunteers emphasised the rejuvenation that these projects could provide, and recommended them to others who were perhaps feeling the stresses of being a 58
teacher in the UK. This should be of interest to senior managers who could spot good teachers suffering from burnout and suggest they complete an overseas project. Schools should consider funding their teachers to volunteer as they will be reaping the benefits on their return.
One slightly disappointing aspect to the interviews was the lack of formal links made between schools following completion of the project. Whilst most teachers had used their experience in their teaching, there was little in the way of whole-school activity based on the projects outside of fundraising and penpal schemes. This may be an area for the charity to develop in future, and to encourage volunteers to consider before and during their projects. It would be difficult for those who are newly or recently qualified to set up such links, but it would be valuable to attempt this in order to enact true global partnership. Unterhalter et al (2002) recommended a formal debrief to employers in order that they can make use of the developed skills and insights of volunteers on their return.
The volunteers interviewed here felt able only to take part in short-term projects during the summer holidays and would not have taken up a project of one or two years‟ duration. However, they still gleaned substantial personal and professional benefit from these projects. These benefits are comparable to those found in previous research commissioned by VSO involving long-term projects (eg Schulz & Kelly, 2007; Unterhalter et al, 2002). Therefore, it would appear that shorter projects can be valuable to teachers in similar types of ways. These projects are more feasible for newly qualified and working teacher to take part as they will not disrupt their career progression, and as explored in one theme, may „recharge the batteries‟ of those who want to continue teaching for some years.
References Brockerhoff A & Wadham-Smith N (2008) Volunteering: Global Citizenship in Action. London: Counterpoint
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Goldsmith (2008) Citizenship; Our Common Bond. London: Ministry of Justice
Hutchings M & Smart S (2007) Evaluation of the impact on UK schools of the VSO/NAHT pilot scheme: „International Extended Placements for School Leaders‟. London: IPSE
IVR (2008) The Impact of Returned International Volunteers a scoping review. London: Institute for Volunteering Research
Kerr D (2003) Citizenship: Local, National and International, in L Gearon (Editor) Learning to Teach Citizenship in Secondary Schools. Abingdon: Routledge Falmer
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Schulz J & Kelly A (2007) Enriching education: an exploration of the benefits and outcomes of a VSO placement for teachers and schools in the UK. London: VSO
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Appendix 1: Interview Schedule
Effects on attitudes and practice of education among teachers undertaking voluntary projects overseas Interview Questions Background: Tell me a bit about your experience of teaching before you volunteered overseas. Prompts: Role before volunteering/now Subject / year group Teaching qualifications Dates and locations of training What did you feel about teaching before you volunteered? Prompts: Value of education Inspirations Discipline Teaching styles Thought on young people in the UK
The project: Tell me about the project you worked on overseas: Prompts: Dates and locations Expectations Description of activities Achievements Rewards Relationship with other teachers / students/ hosts Reasons for volunteering overseas What did you learn from doing the project about yourself?
Effects on Teaching What effects do you think the project had on your teaching? Prompts: Confidence Teaching ideas and activities Relationship with students Teaching style Subject Knowledge – any particular subjects Projects on return Use of experience in lessons
Effects on Attributes: How did you experience overseas effect your outlook on being a teacher? Prompts: Relationship with other teachers / the pupils / head teacher Do young people need to know about other cultures? Attitudes to other cultures Concepts of nationality / britishness / identity Importance of volunteering / charitable work Global citizenship Values Future plans / aspirations
Continued Links: Have you kept in touch with anyone from your project? Prompts: Organisation International school / teachers / pupils Other volunteers Other ongoing projects?
VESL i. www.vesl.org r. 0845 0943727 e. [email protected]
VESL is an incorporated charity (Reg. in England and Wales - charity no. 1117908) and a company limited by guarantee (Reg. in England and Wales - company no. 5917983). Reg. office address: 17 Silk Hill, Buxworth, High Peak, SK23 7TA