Linking Research and Training in Internationalization of Teacher Education with the PEERS Program: Issues, Case Studies and Perspectives
Edited By Jean-Luc Gilles
The PEERS program proposes international exchanges adapted to the context of teacher training institutions wishing to take advantage of internationalization in order to link training, research, and practice. PEERS is based on the completion of Research and Innovation (R&I) projects during the academic year, during which international groups of professors and students from teacher training partner institutions collaborate remotely as well as during two placements of one week. For the students, the PEERS program aims to develop competencies in distance collaboration with the help of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the management of intercultural groups, and the continuous improvement of their activities through reflective thinking and the spirit of research. For the professors the PEERS program aims to better link research and training, to reinforce their skills in the management of international research projects and to foster opportunities for international publications.
The aim of this collective book is to give an overview of the Issues, case studies and perspectives of the PEERS program. The first section entitled "Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges for the Internationalization of Teacher Training in a Globalized, Multicultural, and Connected World", focuses on the foundations and general features of PEERS projects, as well as the context of globalization in the intercultural and connected world in which it is situated.
The second section, "Case Studies and Lessons Learned from the PEERS Project in Southern Countries" constitutes a series of chapters presenting case studies on PEERS projects focused on innovation and cooperation in the developing world. The third section, "Results of Research-Oriented PEERS Projects," considers the results from PEERS projects that have enabled the implementation of theoretical and practical educational research, generally taking the form of small-case research studies or innovations in the design of teaching units. Finally, in the conclusion we propose to present the key points of the three sections that make up this book "Linking Research and Training in Internationalization of Teacher Education with the PEERS Program: Issues, Case Studies and Perspectives".
For teacher training universities, as for all university institutions, the internationalization of higher education is an issue of great strategic importance. It covers a wide variety of aspects, including in particular student and staff mobility, cooperation in research and knowledge transfer, virtual mobility, and collaborative online learning. Promoting the adaptability of individuals, organizations, and curricula in diverse and changing conditions of human activity represents a major challenge for these institutions, now more than ever. It takes on a particular character, however, in the case of university institutions providing professional training. At first sight, the need to promote increased student mobility may seem less important for individuals who are training to practice a professional activity, such as teaching, in a pre-determined environment. In other words, the adaptation required for this defined context might suggest that the adaptability pursued by internationalization takes on secondary importance. This is not the case, however, since adaptation and adaptability are not opposing characteristics: quite the contrary, in fact, for experience shows that the ability to understand how a system works, in order to fit into it, largely rests on meeting and being confronted by other systems.
Nevertheless, the internationalization of professional teacher training poses a particular challenge due to the central place accorded within the curriculum to external practical placements. Although it is relatively easy to facilitate exchanges between university faculties due to their comparative equivalence, it becomes much trickier when other institutions outside the world of higher education are also involved. European research and education programs, primarily the ERASMUS+ program, provide a form of exchange that is only marginally relevant to teacher training universities. Imagination and the creation of new exchange methods are therefore required. Under the initiative of Jean-Luc Gilles, the University of Teacher Education of State of Vaud (HEP Vaud) has←11 | 12→ contributed to such efforts since 2011, with its implementation of the PEERS (Projet d’Étudiants et d’Enseignants-chercheurs en Réseaux Sociaux or Student and Teacher-Researchers Social Networks Project) program, to which this book is dedicated.
PEERS projects have several interesting characteristics that contribute to their relevance and effectiveness in the context of teacher training programs. Firstly, the length of engagement required from the participants. Each project is designed to take place over the course of a whole academic year, which requires considerable commitment from those involved, but also permits a division of labor that is compatible with the other demands of the curriculum. Secondly, the small size of the project teams, which favors collaborative learning in an environment conducive to personal engagement and accountability. Thirdly, each project is linked to an innovative research approach, led by a teacher-researcher who is directly involved, which requires students to be analytical, critical, and reflect upon their own journey. Considered as a whole, these features demonstrate the profoundly experiential nature of the PEERS approach, which makes it a prominent choice in the real-life student curriculum.
The integration of PEERS into a perspective of research and innovation presents other advantages for HEP Vaud, contributing to its institutional development. The direct participation of students in research activities involves methodological objectives that are key to their training, such as critical thinking and the process of objectivation. Building external links and implementing interinstitutional collaborations contributes to the visibility of HEP Vaud in the eyes of its foreign partners, in communication, and in knowledge transfer, and enables participants to encounter a large variety of economic, social, and cultural contexts. Finally, the use of social networking during the project introduces participants to the focused use of information and communication technologies in a context linked to their training and with the goal of facilitating collaborative working.
It remains only for me to note that the PEERS program constitutes, for HEP Vaud, an approach of potential benefit for the whole research community, including teacher-researchers and students. This form of←12 | 13→ mobility is in itself a subject of interest and research, and is helping the HEP Vaud to contribute toward provision, creation, and invention in the context of what a recent European Parliament report defines as an “open dialogue about rationales, benefits, means, opportunities, and obstacles in this ongoing process of change” (European Parliament, 2015, p. 31).
Such is the subject of the present book, and I would like to congratulate and thank all its contributors. I sincerely hope that their work will receive the attention that it deserves.
Prof. Dr Guillaume VANHULST
Rector of the University of Teacher Education of State of Vaud