But what would I teach abroad?

Have you ever heard this question from faculty as you’re discussing the possibility of offering a faculty-led course? Initially, this was a puzzling question for me. I thought–well, what else would you teach but your area of expertise? And then link it to the on-site location.

But, then, I realized the question probably comes from a preconception that there are only certain subject areas suitable for teaching abroad. Art history, for example, or political science or music come to mind. And yet, I believe that nearly any subject can be taught abroad. In the many years I’ve worked with UMAIE, a consortium for faculty-led January term courses, I’ve seen course topics run the gamut from humanities to hard sciences to social sciences to education and pre-professional courses.  See the list of 2016 UMAIE courses for a sample. Whoever imagined you could teach a chemistry lab course or advanced math on a faculty-led program?

So, here is how I respond when I hear faculty question what they might teach abroad:

  • What are the international/global aspects in your discipline?
  • What global skills and knowledge do you believe your students need to have by the time they graduate?
  • What global/international topics are important for your students to learn in your discipline and major?
  • Where and how do students learn them now?  Is that learning effective? Could you move that learning abroad?
  • Do you or your department colleagues include any of that knowledge or skill-building in your on-campus courses currently? Could you?  How? And, then, could you teach it abroad?

I’ve found that if you can discuss with faculty what they want students to learn, especially students in their discipline, their minds  open up more easily to possibilities of how to teach those ideas in a setting abroad.

What successes have you had with answering this question?

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