M13U3A2 – Malin Matus – Reflection on Cross-Cultural Education


In this reflection I will share some thoughts and feelings about my readiness to teach and support a culturally diverse student body, as well as, interact with a culturally diverse set of colleagues. From my clinical practice in Teach-Now and from studying in the global education masters program for the past two months I have certainly gained knowledge and insight into teaching in culturally diverse environments. I will explore my experiences from three perspectives; my own personal growth (or lack thereof), changing views of my colleagues and changing views of my students. To finish this blog I will introduce some resources I found that will help further my understanding and ability to teach in a multicultural environment.

What I have learned (or not)

I can say that while I was doing the Teach-Now clinical I had difficulty incorporating the multiple culture perspectives into my lessons. Part of this was because my students are almost all Japanese and those who are not have adopted an assimilationist stance and for me to recognize that they are different would be harmful to them, socially and psychologically. However, in my readings for the masters program I have discovered that cultural diversity need not be expressed by the diversity of the students population, but rather can be given in lesson materials. I erroneously assumed that since my classes were “culturally homogeneous” that cross-cultural instruction was not of value. I now realize that globalism is driving a need for people of broad vision and cross-cultural competencies to help tackle the world’s economic and environmental problems. Therefore, even in a culturally homogeneous environment, it is important to teach cross-cultural skills, develop cultural awareness and instill an intrinsic value for diversity in all of its forms. One more realization hit me as I went through my course work. When I wrote about my own cultural background I realized how culturally aware my own education had been. This suggested to me that perhaps I had an outlook not shared by my contemporaries and that perhaps I have been operating under a false sense that others thought along the same lines as me. Definitely, after this masters I will be looking to find ways to develop cross-cultural awareness and an appreciation for diversity in my students at every opportunity.

Japanese students have an erroneous belief in their cultural homogeneity.  Most are unaware of the vast influence that China had on the development of feudal Japan and they pointedly ignore the similarities Japanese culture bears with the cultures of countries nearby. Doing this masters has really allowed me to view my students in a different way and see that they do have a big gap in cultural sensitivity and awareness. As my colleague said when I was interviewing her, “To Japanese students, English equals America or Britain”.  This is indicative of a very narrow and biased worldview and if my students are to become successful in the new globalized world a more plural and flexible view point is suggested. Also, learning about equity has shown me the intolerance inherent in my students. Things that are not easily understood or that are different are quickly rejected by them, subjected to the harshest judgment and then thrown away. These students, in my opinion, need a tolerance for ambiguity, learn how to take more that one route to the same destination and to not judging oneself as better than the other. If my students are any indication of Japanese society at large than Japan has a long way to go before they achieve social equity and tolerance for the world.

Lastly, I will discuss my colleagues, the other foreign English speaking teachers I work with. I work with three American ESL teachers, as well as, the other 50 Japanese teachers at our school. However, I am focusing on the ESL teachers because while we share a common language and common experience living and working in Japan, I feel our outlooks are quite different. Learning about Hoffstede and Lewis was instructive for describing this difference, but again it was writing about my cultural background that really showed me the difference between myself and my ESL colleagues. By this I mean all three of my colleagues grew up in the US and went to public education and university in the US. While they obviously chose to come and live and work in Japan, at times I find their inability to see the Japanese perspective shocking. Comments such as “Why do they do that? we’d never to that in America, what a stupid idea.” abound in our shared space, and I want to shout “We are not in America!”. Now, I am not saying I am perfectly adjusted to Japanese culture, nor am I immune to wondering why they do things in a particular way over another. However, it seems I am more capable of not putting myself in opposition to the Japanese way and more able to accommodate or negotiate with our Japanese colleagues. I think my colleagues, and I as well, could benefit from some professional development around how to manage working in another culture, especially one that is so different from the US and Canada as is Japan.

Additional Resources

The first resource is an article titled “The Contradiction Between “Being and Seeming” Reinforces Low Academic Performance” by Tsutsumi Angela Aparecida and Burajiru Fureai Kai (2012). This article was instructive to me as it reminded me of the invisible minorities of Japan. These are the Asian phenotype immigrants to Japan that seem to be Japanese, are often expected to be Japanese, but yet have a different culture. Japan is not well set up to support these students and I am in agreement with the suggestions of this article that multilingual support needs to be provided to the students and parents, as well as, additional Japanese language study support for students who need it.

The next resources is another article titled “Roles of Language in Multicultural Education in the Context of Internationalization” by Miki Sugimura (2015). This article introduced me to the interesting idea, and growing trend in the globalized world, that immigrants have begun to value their mother tongue less. Basically, Sugimura outlines a complex relationship between language use and the perceived value of that language. Playing into the value of a language is how useful it is in becoming economically successful. So, in many cases immigrant mother tongues are being discarded in favor of national languages. This is useful for me as an ESL teacher as it tells me that students will have more motivation to learn a language if they perceive that there is value to it beyond the classroom.

This resource is a website called EdChange (http://www.edchange.org/) and it provides resources for teaching equity and stamping out inequality it schools. In Japan the gender gap is large and I hope to use some of the resources provided on EdChange to help empower my female students and to generate awareness in my male students.

The last resource is another website called Teaching Tolerance (https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources) and is a treasure trove of anti-bias education. I really like their framework for anti-bias education and I hope to incorporate it’s elements into my unit planning as much as possible. Additionally, with some translation I will adapt some of the lesson resources to help build cultural awareness in my students.


Aparecida, T. A., & Kai, B. F. (2012). The Contradiction Between “Being and Seeming” Reinforces Low Academic Performance. US-China Education Review, B(2), 217-223.

Classroom Resources. [website] (2017, December 07). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources

EdChange – Advocating Equity in Schools and Society [website]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://www.edchange.org/

Sugimura, M. (2015). Roles of Language in Multicultural Education in the Context of Internationalisation. Educational Studies in Japan, 9(0), 3-15. doi:10.7571/esjkyoiku.9.3


M13U3A1 – Malin Matus – My Cultural Identity


Identity is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, and as I attempt to explain my cultural identity, and some of the changes to it, I will endeavor to cover as many of those facets as possible. First, I will define my cultural identity as I see it today, including the elements of; nationality, ethnicity, gender and religion. Then, I will explore some of the past events in my life that lead to big shifts in my cultural identity.

My Cultural Identity – Today Explained from my Roots

If I had to describe my cultural identity in one sentence I would do so in the following way. I am a heterosexual, male, spiritualist, expatriate Canadian, and I use the label Canadian to mean both my nationality and ethnicity. While the above description is concise it does not delve the complexity of all the terms I applied to myself, so I will take the discussion deeper. Sexual orientation and gender are far more nuanced than most people give them credit for and how I arrived at my heterosexual male label was no less so. I never had any gender confusion growing up, generally I was comfortable with being male in Canadian society. The only part of Canadian masculinity that I rejected was the “a man has to provide for his family” idea. My father was a hardworking and kind man, but I always felt he worked too hard. He often had to work, rather than be with my brothers and I, so when I was younger I vowed that I would not be so neglectful of my family, just because it is the man’s duty to work. In addition I grew up with an actively feminist mother who I believe instilled in my an appreciation for feminist values and women’s ongoing struggle for equality. I feel I have an open-mind about gender and sexual orientation, I have some gay and lesbian friends, and I believe that people should be able to live their sexual and gender reality in the manner they deem most comfortable for them.

I described my ethnicity and nationality as both Canadian and I think further elaboration on the idea of “Canadian” as a label for ethnicity, is required. My father’s parents were first generation immigrants from Poland (grandfather) and the Ukraine (grandmother). On my mother’s side Slovak, First Nations, Spanish (grandfather) and Irish, Slovak (grandmother). So then, what is my ethnicity? Am I, Polish, Ukrainian, Slovak, First Nations, Spanish, and Irish? Certainly, when I was younger there was a sense of novelty in knowing one’s roots but the fact of the matter was I did not participate in any of these countries’ cultural communities, nor did I speak any of those languages, and while I did enjoy some of the traditional foods during annual celebrations it was not something I felt defined me. So, the consensus I came to was that I was just Canadian, as were all of my friends. I had some friends who were part of the local Ukrainian culture, doing Ukrainian dance and participating in Ukrainian holidays. I had other friends whose parents were first generation Chinese and Vietnamese, and when we went to a Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant they could order in the language of the restaurant. However, despite my friends closer connection to their parents culture, we were still good friends and we understood one another. We went to the same school, lusted after fast cars, played sports and video games, spoke the same language, and viewed ourselves as Canadian. Therefore, for me, my ancestral roots, “the multiple belongings” that Maalouf (Facing History and Ourselves, n.d.) writes about, were just part of being Canadian.

For my religious facet I chose the word, spiritualist, and I have intentionally chosen an ambiguous and fuzzy term because I believe that our religious (i.e. spiritual) lives are intensely personal experiences and journeys. I don’t believe that we have to justify them with labels, or membership in one group or another. I was born into a Catholic family but in my early years my mother’s enthusiasm for attending church waned and by the time I was in grade 3 we had stopped going altogether. I never really subscribed to the Catholic creed and my spiritual underpinnings were built upon a foundation of the world folk tales and mythologies I learned in the Waldorf elementary school I attended. Waldorf schools are based on the humanistic Steiner model of education which emphasizes the role of imagination in learning, and seeks the holistic development of students. Being exposed to so many perspectives I believe led me to eventually form an eclectic spirituality that is completely idiosyncratic. For me religion (spirituality) is an exercise in trying to understand all the inexplicable things that happen in one’s life, and a way of maintaining faith to get through the times when things are not so good.

Times When My Cultural Identity Changed

In my one sentence description of my cultural identity I used the term expatriate to dilute my Canadian nationality and this is because since I came to live in Japan I don’t feel entirely Canadian anymore. Two events helped define this for me, first was my first visit to Japan as a university student in 2000, and the second was when I returned to Canada for the first time after living in Japan for two years in 2008.

In 2000 I took the opportunity to do a six week, university sponsored intensive Japanese language course in a small town called Okazaki, in Japan. Prior to going to Japan I had studied Japanese for two years, so I thought I would be well prepared. I was not. Japanese people spoke too quickly, used structures and phrases that I had never heard before. Simple things like booking a train ticket into Tokyo, which was one of my textbook lesson in university, was a 30 minute nightmare in reality. My language use struggles in Japan allowed me to discover what it was like to not be linguistically competent in ones life. This really opened my mind to the struggles of French Canadians, as well as, immigrant groups to Canada. Furthermore, while in Okazaki I lived in an international dorm with other students studying Japanese. There were of course English speakers, but about half of the population did not speak English as a first language and some had no English at all. In some situations Japanese became the common language between people who were not Japanese, and this was my first experience of really focused cross-cultural communication. I say focused because as we were both speaking Japanese as a second language we had to rely on many other non-verbal cues to communicate and that necessitated learning that gestures were not uniform across cultures either. My experience in Okazaki was what Heyward (2002) would have called the shock of cross-cultural engagement and a crisis of engagement that led me to learn how to be more interculturally competent. I feel that my experiences in Okazaki really opened my eyes to the diversity of peoples in the world. In school we had always been taught to believe in diversity and multiculturalism, but being in a truly multicultural environment, and interacting with it day in and day out brought the lesson home in a way school had not. I say how my experience opened my eyes to diversity but it also showed me that as humans we are much the same as well. We all needed to eat, get our homework done, communicate with our classmates and teachers. We all wanted to go out an have fun, sing Karaoke, play sports and explore Japan. We all had friends and families back home that we sometimes missed, and foods from home that we wanted. So, while I was experiencing diversity in communication and culture, I was simultaneously experience a shared human experience of living. After coming back to Canada from Okazaki I felt a change in perspective. I felt I understood multiculturalism more, I had more patience for my profs and fellow students who didn’t speak English perfectly, I had shifted to a broader cultural viewpoint.

My second experience that really cemented my distance from a strong Canadian nationality was returning home to visit friends and family after living and working in Japan for two years. Note I say returning home, not starting to live and work in Japan. This is because after my Okazaki experience when I returned to begin working as an English conversation teacher in 2006, I was well prepared to accept the linguistic and cultural challenges I would face making a life here. I felt little stress adjusting to my life in Japan and was happy and comfortable from day one. However, returning to Canada was a shocker for me. After two years in Japan I had become accustomed to a Japanese style of service and a Japanese style of speaking. So, returning to Canada I found store clerks and wait staff, abrupt, abrasive and unhelpful. Had Canadian standards of service dropped I asked myself and then my friends and family? Their answer was no, and they seemed to be perfectly okay with what I thought was a rude and lazy waiter. It took me several days to figure out that it was the contrast between Japan’s efficient and obsequious customer-centric service with that of Canada’s more lose and friendly service, which was bothering me. After that revelation I examined things and I realized that there were other aspects of Canadian culture that I had rejected in favor of Japanese culture. Mainly, I found that I had moved away from the more individualistic stance as described by Hofstede (2011) to a more central position. I was more critical of the “me, me, me” and “I, I, I,” rhetoric of Canada. I found some of the Japanese ideals of looking after the group and thinking of the group first to be appealing. My return to Canada demonstrated how much I had internalized these Japanese cultural ideals. However, I most certainly do not identify myself as culturally Japanese. There are many aspects of Japanese culture that I actively reject and much more that I just don’t understand. So I find myself in the bi-culture position described by Brown (2009), where I remain Canadian, but a Canadian not unaffected by the Japanese culture in which I live. I can cross the Canadian-Japanese cultural boundary. I no longer feel completely Canadian, yet I am fluent in the Canadian cultural milieu. However,  I don’t completely identify with Japanese culture, nor am I always at ease in it.


Brown, L. (2009). International education: a force for peace and cross‐cultural understanding? Journal of Peace Education, 6(2), 209-224. doi:10.1080/17400200903086672

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education, 1(1), 9-32. doi:10.1177/1475240902001001266

Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). doi:10.9707/2307-0919.1014


M13U2A3 – Malin Matus – Research Question


The idea for my research question came from two sources. The first was my intrigue with Heyward’s (2002) idea of intercultural literacy and how it is learned from supported cross-cultural contact. I agree with Heyward’s position that people do not automatically gain cross-cultural modes of thinking from just exposure to other cultures. It is quite possible that even after multiple exposures people maintain their mono-cultural mindset. Therefore, as an educator two questions arose. One, can students gain intercultural literacy from cross-cultural experiences provided in the classroom? Two, if it is possible, what kind of instructional models and/or methods would be able to support intercultural learning? The second source was a conversation I had with an IB teacher colleague during an interview assignment, where she said that our students (Japanese middle school students) generally equated English with white people from the U.S.A. or England. Furthermore my colleague mentioned that this mindset persisted in spite of many of her efforts to show the students videos and materials featuring non-white English speakers from countries across the globe, in some casese English wasn’t even the speaker or writers first language. My colleague’s experience echos what Heyward wrote, that exposure is not enough, some sort of cross-cultural engagement is needed to bring the point home.  So, I have begun to wonder, in the fierce monoculture of Japan–where those of mixed Japanese decent tend to deny their non-Japanese roots–is it possible to teach my students intercultural literacy? Is it possible to simulate cross-culture engagement in the classroom to the extent that intercultural literacy is increased? I think as an English teacher this is a valuable line of inquiry, for the long-term goal of language education is to allow my students to communicate with a greater range of people, in a greater range of cultural settings. Thus, instilling in them a sense of intercultural literacy (or at the very least sensitivity) would be advantageous to supporting their future communication efforts.

The Research Question

How does my cross-cultural engagement instructional model affect intercultural literacy in Japanese 6th grade students?


Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education, 1(1), 9-32. doi:10.1177/1475240902001001266

M12U4A3 – Malin Matus – Planning for the Final Project


In this blog I will outline my understanding of the requirements for the final Teach-Now masters project, summarize action research, identify some ideas I have for an action research proposal and look at the requirements for the project to see which I think are the most challenging and which I am the most comfortable with.

Understanding the Requirements and Timeline

I understand that the final part of the Teach-Now masters in education course is the completion of a action research project. The project will require me to demonstrate:

  • Deeper knowledge of a specific educational topic
  • The ability to plan and use appropriate methods to conduct research and to analyze the results of this work
  • The ability to clearly present and discuss conclusions as well as the knowledge and arguments that form the basis for findings
  • Ability to complete a well-written and properly organized report
  • Knowledge and motivation to complete the project
    (Teach-Now, n.d.)

The action research project will focus on a specific issue in my school or classroom under an umbrella theme of international education. The project must include all of the following criteria:

  • It must be original work that requires critical analysis
  • It must include an analysis of previous research done in the field
  • It must require some application that involves the collection and/or analysis of data
  • It must include an analysis of findings
  • It must focus on some aspect of globalization or international mindedness (i.e., modules 12 and 13) relevant to education in general or your specific situation
  • A written report/action plan (in Word format) must be submitted.
    (Teach-Now, n.d.)

The final written report will likely be 20-30 pages in length, double-spaced, but it should be of a length to sufficiently meet all of the criteria listed above.

The report must contain all of the following sections:

  1. Introduction and Statement of Problem or Question: describe the topic, discuss the importance of the issue, describe my purpose, state the research question and discuss any limitations expected or imposed.
  2. Literature Review: an organized account of research relevant to the project’s topic, with an explanation of why it relates.
  3. Proposed Methodology: A complete outline of how the project was done, where it was done, with who was it done. The project should be repeatable.
  4. Analysis of Results: discussion of data and/or results tied back to the research questions. Were the results as expected, or unexpected.
  5. Summary and Consideration of Next Steps (Action Plan): Explain how the results relate back to previous work done on the topic. Reflect on how things could have been done differently. Suggest future action on the research question. Reflect on how the results will inform future teaching practice.
  6. References: APA style citation of all references used.
  7. Appendices, if Needed: Additional information that might need to be included such as data collection tools.
    (Teach-Now, n.d.)

How will I complete this project in the time allotted, is a question I have already been asking myself. I have two plans of action. One, is to not be overly ambitions with my action research project. I am a person who gets excited by the big questions and problems in my sphere of life and I could easily see myself getting carried away trying to explore an issue too complex to be investigated in the short time frame I have. Two, will be to keep my nose to the grindstone, slowly and steadily completing assignments, reading and collecting notes, building up the proposal and then executing it.

What is Action Research

Richard Sagor’s (2000), definition of action research is:

Action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.

What he means by the “actor” in my case is the educator undertaking the research. Action research is designed to be used by an educator who has a problem and then investigates it, takes some action to resolve the problem, analyzing the results of action and then reflecting on the results to see if they were satisfactory. Rigsby (2005) presents a useful conception of action research, like a spiral, as seen in the image below.

action research spiral

In summary action research is a rigorous method of problem solving involving:

  1. Selecting a focus
  2. Clarifying theories
  3. Identifying research questions
  4. Collecting data
  5. Analyzing data
  6. Reporting results
  7. Taking informed action
    (Sagor, 2000)

Ideas for an Action Research Proposal

I hear a lot from my IB teaching colleagues in the school about many of the problems they encounter teaching our Japanese students. The IB teachers are usually, British, American, Australian, Canadian or a New Zealander. To me it sounds like some of their complaints arise out of cultural misunderstandings from the gap between the cultures of Japanese education and more western humanist education. So, an idea I am considering is to investigate what cultural tensions might be arising in the classrooms and if it is having an impact on student achievement. I could try to measure the cultural sensitivity or awareness of the IB teachers and then see if differing levels of awareness have any relation to the performance of the students in those classes. If a difference is detected then I would propose that some sort of cultural sensitivity and awareness training be given to the teachers and then re-evaluate their class’ performance.

What Parts of Action Research are Challenging vs. Easy

Thinking about what I might find challenging in the action research I believe that there are two areas of the process that will challenge me; selecting a focus and doing and writing the literature review. I think choosing a research question that could be researched at my school yet also be manageable in the time allotted would be difficult. However, I think running a lot of ideas past my instructor, using their experience to help guide me and being careful not to be overly ambitions will help mitigate this. The second challenge, doing and writing the literature review, is probably the one I fear the most. Given the time constraints of the project I worry about being able to sift through the vast, vast, vast amounts of research literature out there to find the relevant information, ideas and methods I will need. Additionally, writing is not my strong suit so I think I will find it trying to cohesively outline the previous research done in light of what I want to investigate. The only way to counter the difficulties of the literature review would be to look into strategies and tactics for finding appropriate background articles and to give myself plenty of writing and revising time. I would approach the writing component as an endurance exercise – slow and steady – rather that a race for the finish line.

I think once I have a clear focus, a research question and have completed the literature review; undertaking the other elements of the action research project will not be too difficult for me. I think things will logically progress, and I believe logical progression of ideas is one of my strong suits. I like to plan things out and execute the plan so actually doing the research and analyzing the results will feel natural for me.


Rigsby, L. (2005, March). Action Research: How is it Defined? Retrieved February 21, 2018, from http://gse.gmu.edu/assets/media/tr/ARRigsbyppt.htm

Sagor, R. (2000, May). Guiding School Improvement with Action Research [Web log post]. Retrieved February 21, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

Teach-Now. (n.d.). Guidelines and Rubric for Module 14 Final Project [DOCX], Retrieved February 21, 2018, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HENDXgi7azEuAJiwYTWzdhE07p9jRnYHL6nDwg5N_Oo/edit


M13U1A1 – Malin Matus – Cross-Cultural Terminology


In this blog I will explore the meaning of three cross-cultural terms; intercultural literacy (IL), international-mindedness (IM) and global competence (GC). I will start with a comparison of the three terms and how they inter-relate to one another. Next I will explore some opposing opinions about teaching international mindedness. Lastly, I will conclude with three questions and my answers regarding the pros and cons of education with an international focus. I will focus on specifically addressing the integration of IL, IM and GC in curricula.

IM, IM and GC a Comparison

M13U1A1 - Malin Matus - Venn DiagramThe above Venn diagram illustrates my understanding of the behavior and attitudes associated with IM, IL and GC, as well as, how they interrelate to each other. I will provide a brief explanation of my thinking here. The IB learner profile in Sriprakash, Singh, and Jing (2014), describe IM as “knowledgeable about local/global issues, empathetic inquirers, critical thinkers, communicators, risk-takers as well as being caring, open-minded, balanced, reflective and able to make responsible work/life decisions.” The idea of IM to me is to develop someone who is reaching out of their own ethnocentric view and becoming open to new experiences and change. To compare and contrast IL is “the understanding, competencies, attitudes and identities necessary for successful living and working in a cross-cultural or pluralist setting. … [an ability] to `read` a second culture, to interpret its symbols and negotiate its meanings in a practical day-to-day context.” (Heyward, 2002). Compared with IM we can see that IL has many similarities, the idea of cross cultural communication, open-mindedness and an awareness of other view points. The interesting difference that Heyward (2002) describes is that for one to attain IL the individual must not only have contact with another culture, but they must experience that cultural in a deep way. The individual must experience the other culture in a “supportive social” context (Heyward, 2002) and develop relationships within the other culture, while retaining a strong sense of their primary culture. The ultimate goal of IL is for an individual to develop multiple cultural identities. Lastly, I will compare GC and how it relates to IM and IL. GC is more interested in preparing students for the future world of environmental and social problems that will arise in the 21st century, where as, IM and IL are more focused on post-secondary and career readiness. Mansilla and Jackson (2011) define GC as “using the big ideas, tools, methods, and languages that are central  to any discipline … to engage the pressing issues of our time. … [deploying and developing] expertise to investigate such issues, recognizing multiple perspectives, communicating views effectively, and taking action to improve conditions.” Definitely GC shares the attributes of cross-cultural communication and understanding, multiple languages and perspective taking, with IM and IL. On the other hand GC’s focus is much more activist, looking to teach students how to think big about global issues, investigate solutions and then act. From this comparison we can see IM, IL and GC share several characteristics, mainly in the ideals of cross-cultural communication and understanding, multiple language proficiency and open-mindedness. Yet, each has its own specific characteristics that define it and its goals separately from the others, and align the term with it’s own educational goals; IM to prepare students for 21st century college and careers, IL to develop individuals who can freely switch between cultural identities as the situation demands, and GC to create the global problem solvers of the 21st century.

Two Critiques on International Mindedness

IB education has been lauded as ‘the’ international education, and the IB philosophy of IM through the IB learner profile certainly seeks to produce cross-culturally sensitive individuals, who have sensitivity to both local and global issues. However, this position has been challenged by two authors Drake (2004) and von Oord (2004). Drake (2004) argues that administrators need to consider carefully the implications of adopting an IBDP program for their school:

educational leaders in the non-Eurocentric world endeavoring to provide an internationally minded education would be unwise to simply attempt to ‘clone’ on to their models educational systems and methodologies designed to accommodate cultural norms in another part of the world. Even with careful adjustment, the introduction of IB programmes to regions such as China, Africa and South America will inevitably produce dissonance and cultural tension. Cultures are, of course, dynamic entities and are constantly changing; a repositioning of characteristics such as power–distance relationships may be regarded as an acceptable, even desirable, consequence of adopting IB programmes and methodologies. Whatever the case, such  outcomes need to be the product of considered intentionalist design and not an accidental by-product. (Drake, 2004)

Drake’s position is that the IB has grown out of a Eurocentric humanist education epistemology that will necessarily be at odds with educational philosophies with different backgrounds. An example is provided that IB teaching methodologies may, “create tensions with certain traditional cultural attributes which lend themselves to high power–distance relationships; fatalism as opposed to pro activism; collectivism as opposed to individualism and uncertainty  avoidance. In some cultures, for instance, uncertainty ‘is often viewed as psychologically uncomfortable and disruptive, and people seek to reduce it and to limit risk by hanging onto the way things have always been done’ (Dimmock, 2000: 52–3).” Drake argues that well intentioned teaching practice from a western perspective could be uncomfortable or harmful from another cultural perspective. I think Drake’s ideas have merit and caution is warranted when one is teaching students from a very different cultural background than one’s own.
Similar to Drake, von Oord (2004) argues that IB’s western humanist pedagogy may be inappropriate for certain cultures. Von Oord uses the ideas of Balagangadhara and his colleagues, to demonstrate that “comparisons between western and Asian culture, stressing the difference between theory-oriented learning  in the former and performative-oriented learning in the latter. In the  former,  emphasis in the learning process is put on orthodoxy (‘true beliefs’), while the learning process of the latter focuses on orthopraxy (‘right practice’). In a theory- oriented culture, the learners should ‘act to know’, while a pupil in a performative- oriented culture should ‘know to act’ (Balagangadhara, 1987).” This disconnect comes from Balagangadhara’s idea of meta-learning where by a culture instills its fundamental learning framework on an individual. Thus the western meta-learning framework can be and is in fact different than those of people in Asia and Africa. Therefore, to be successful at IB, von Oord (2004) says that a person must necessarily give up their learning culture to that of the western world. von Oord calls this process a kind of cultural imperialism. To my mind von Oord makes a compelling argument and one that is difficult for me, as a western humanist educated person, to conceive of. Although, thinking on his arguments has given me food for thought and I believe that the value of his arguments to educators is not to necessarily try to encompass all possible meta-learning systems into international education. Rather, we need to be sensitive to their existence and the challenges and conflicts that may arise from our application of western meta-learning driven instruction.

Three Focus Questions

  • What are the benefits, pitfalls, and arguments against education with an international focus?
    To answer this question you need to first define what is an education with an international focus. Does this mean investigating other cultural and geographic options while studying core subjects in one’s own country? Does it mean being educated abroad, immersed in a another culture, language and education system? Does it mean being educated under an “international” education curriculum like IB or IMYC? I could likely explore the answers to the above questions for sometime, however, for the sake of simplicity I will define an education with international focus as an IB education. With such a definition it can be argued that the benefit of the IB is that, “it provides more meaningful learning for students, given the focus on providing them with the linguistic tools and intercultural understandings to pursue global engagements.” (Sriprakash, Singh, and Jing, 2014). The idea that an international education is necessary to prepare students for a more globalized world is one that is most often touted as a benefit to international education.  Furthermore, IL is described as necessary by Heyward (2002), who says, “without intercultural literacy, expatriates and others, living and working in an international setting risk misunderstandings and intercultural blunders that can be extremely costly to both individuals and organizations.” Certainly the current Trump administration is testament to how a lack of IL can create international tension and conflict.
    The cons of an internationally focused education as defined by IB are best described by von Oord (2004) and Drake (2004). von Oord (2004) describes how an IB program can function as a type of western humanist educational imperialism. Requiring students to abandon their particular culture’s meta-learning practice in favor of the western humanist meta-learning. Drake (2004) describes the potential conflict that results when western humanist education, as exemplified by IB, causes tension or conflict in the school environment through a clash in culture values such as collectivism vs individualism. Drake argues that school cultures that are different from the western humanist viewpoint should be cognizant of the impact that implementing and IB program has.
  • What are reasons why you as an educator may support ideas against international-mindedness (IM), intercultural literacy (IL), and/or global competence (GC)?
    Personally, I don’t see a resounding reason not to embrace IM, IL and GC in an educational setting. However, I will moderate my response to say that it really depends on how and why IM, IL and GC are being implemented. I think we must listen to Drake’s (2004) caution and not simply “clone” a preconceived international program onto an existing educational system. First, one must deeply understand the cultural milieu that the school is operating in, as well as, the culture operating in the school. Then the educators need to identify how to develop the skills and attitudes from IM, IL and GC, in the best way possible for their students. Additionally, I think Heyward’s (2002) advice is pertinent that to attain IL, “the social and learning environments of the school should be structured so that, in the cross-cultural context, cooperation rather than competition is the focus, and students are ideally of equal status, and share a similar level of competency.” It would be tragic in the extreme, in my opinion, if the IM, IL or GC program fostered, what Heyward (2002) describes as cultural chauvinism or cultural passing, a distancing from new cultural experiences rather than an integration.
  • What are reasons why you as an educator would support the integration of international mindedness (IM), intercultural literacy (IL), and global competence (GC) into curricula?
    In this instance I think that Mansilla and Jackson (2011) provide a strong argument for developing GC that “Twentieth-century assumptions about the world are rapidly becoming obsolete. Globalization, the digital revolution, mass migration, and the prospect of climate  instability  are  triggering new concerns and demanding a new kind of graduate.” I would support the inclusion of IM, IL and GC into the curriculum of any educational institution. I think that all three of these terms encompass an attitude of open-mindedness, communication and empathy, which I believe are going to be the essential skills to solve the problems that Mansilla and Jackson outline. For too long the ones who have, have just horded more for themselves, and the ones who had not, only thought to emulate them. It is an unsustainable way of living. GC puts forth four competencies in an ideal learner, the capacity to recognize perspectives (others’ and one’s own), the capacity to communicate ideas effectively across diverse audiences, investigating the world and taking action. I believe these four competencies are general enough to be applied in a diverse range of cultures and would develop the type of people who might be brave enough and wise enough to tackle some really big issues for humanity. These four I would incorporate into an international curriculum.


In this blog I described the similarities and differences between international mindedness (IM), intercultural literacy (IL) and global competence (GC). I went on to provide two criticisms from Drake (2004) and von Oord (2004) on the international mindedness model taught by IB. Lastly I answered three questions regarding the pros and cons of implementing the ideas of IM, IL and GC in school curricula. There is a lot of information about these terms and their attending pedagogy.  However, I believe when it comes down to the questions of, what are IM, IL and GC, and whether or not they should be implanted? I have very simple answers to each. IM, IL and GC are ways of conceiving instructional practices to build a more communicative, empathetic, culturally literate, globally aware and active student. And yes we should be implementing IM, IL and GC driven instructional practices, we just need to be careful that we implement them in a culturally sensitive manner. Personally, I feel that IM, IL and GC are ideas we need for the future of our students education as the pace of change in the world no longer lends it’s self to knowledge acquisition alone. What we learn today could be obsolete in just a few years, so what we need is people who know how to learn by themselves. People who know how investigate and leverage knowledge and new ideas for the good of human kind.


Drake, B. (2004). International Education and IB Programmes. Journal of Research in International Education, 3(2), 189-205. doi:10.1177/1475240904044387

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education, 1(1), 9-32. doi:10.1177/1475240902001001266

Mansilla, V. B., & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for global competence: preparing our youth to engage the world. New York, NY: Asia Society.

Oord, L. V. (2007). To westernize the nations? An analysis of the International Baccalaureates philosophy of education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37(3), 375-390. doi:10.1080/03057640701546680

Sriprakash, A., Singh, M., & Jing, Q. (2014). A comparative study of international mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India (Rep.).

M12U2A1 – Malin Matus – International Schools


In this blog I will explore several lines of inquiry into the questions; “what is an international school?” and “What is an international education?”. I will divide this blog into three parts. In part one I will provide my definition of an international school compared to the definition given by the International School Consultancy (ISC). Part two will explore my understanding of the foundation and history of international schools for expatriate students and Kurt Hahn’s contributions to the international school’s movement. Finally, in part three I will explore the future of international school specifically looking at the regional growth of the school, the causes for that growth and lastly a few thoughts on international school collaboration organizations like the Alliance for International Education (AIE).

Part one: International Schools Defined … maybe

On their website ISC says, “ISC Research includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or, if a school is in a country where English is one of the official languages, it offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and the school is international in its orientation.” (ISC, n.d.). This is not a poor definition, in my opinion, however, it is necessarily broad in its scope because the variety of school systems calling themselves “international” is quite varied. To provide an example of this variation I will examine three examples of international school systems here. Those of; the U.S. Department of Defence Education Activity (DoDEA), Council of International Schools (CIS), and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).


According to ISC’s definition, all three of these school systems would be considered international school systems. However, we can see that there are some large differences between them. Comparing the different program’s descriptions we see a stark contrast between the three. DoDEA is only for U.S. military children while CIS and IB are for anyone. CIS does not define anything but the most basic curriculum requirements, on the other hand, IB and DoDEA have specific curriculums. The differences aside though, all three school systems provide education to students in English in overseas locals, and this common thread ties all three to ISC’s definition.

In trying to come up with my own definition of an international school and international education I found Hill’s (2016) idea of a “continuum from national to international, with the two extremities representing ‘ideal’ or ‘pure’ types which rarely exist in reality”, as a measure of internationalness vs. nationalness to be the most useful. I would challenge the ISC definition that an English language instruction medium is a requisite for international education. Hayden and Thompson (1995) talk about a student who studied overseas at an international school and said. “Though she attended an international school, she received a ‘western education, because everything I was taught was delivered in a western point of view since all the teachers were from the west”. While English has become the lingua franca for globalization I feel limiting the definition of an international education to a curriculum that must be delivered, in whole or in part, in English is dangerous. By insisting on using English to instruct there is a tacit insistence that the culture behind English also is taught, as language and culture are so intertwined. I think Hill (2016) puts it best when he wrote, “what is more important to international educators is whether the school is developing international mindedness in its students, wherever they might be and whoever they are.” So, for me, the definition of an international school becomes uncoupled from the language of instruction, and I would say that my personal definition would mirror that of the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS), which state:

Offering a curriculum in which the culture and educational system of two or more countries is represented;
or offering a curriculum typical of one country, but located in another country and actively pursuing cultural exchange with its host country;
or having a student body of diverse nationalities and educational aims and curricula offerings which promote and support the purposes of ECIS [internationally-minded, embracing diversity, and multilingual]
(Hill, 2015)

Although I have aligned myself with ECIS’s definition of an international school, I like Hill believe that there is very little value in defining what is an international school and/or an international education. Rather, I believe it is more useful to define continuums and frameworks that help educators teach important international education themes like global citizenship and international-mindedness.

Part Two: The History of International Schools and Contributions of Kurt Hahn

The first international schools were founded to service expatriate children of people engaged in work which tied them to a foreign country for an extended period of time. For example, ambassadors, overseas military personnel or staff working in international organizations (e.g. the United Nations). Hayden and Thompson (2008) say, the first international school “typical, perhaps, of the origins of many of today’s international schools was the 1924 establishment of the bilingual (French/English) International School of Geneva, with three teachers and eight children, to cater for the children of expatriate employees of the recently formed International Labour Office and League of Nations” (p. 19). From these humble beginnings, the international school population has grown into, “roughly five million students studying abroad today” (ICEF Monitor, 2017).  Some key developments along the way have been: The rise in the establishment of international schools led to the foundation of the first international education organization, the International Schools Association (ISA), in Switzerland in 1951. Since, then other international education organizations were created; the International Schools Service in 1955, the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS) in 1965, and the Council of International Schools in 2002, to name a few. The purported aim of all these organizations is to support their flavor of international education. Additionally, as more international education organizations arose, more dialogue was generated around the questions, “what is an international school?” and “what is an international education?”. In 1964 “Michael Knight, [and Bob] Leach produced what is arguably the first typology of international schools. The typology was based on Leach’s first-hand experience visiting schools in many countries during his secondment. They posited seven types of international schools in their article (Knight & Leach
1964) in the Education Year Book 1964” (Hill, 2015). Since then many definitions have been proposed yet not one has been universally accepted. This leaves us with several definitions today which encompass a broad range of schools and education programs worldwide. Another way that organizations attempted to define international schools and/or education was by creating so-called international curriculums which could be used in international schools that were not importing a national curriculum from another country.  Over the years several international curriculums were created and distributed with the aim to make an internationally recognized educational qualification for entrance to universities worldwide. The Advanced Placement International was started in 1955. Next came the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)  in 1968, which then added the Middle Years Program MYP, in 1994 and the Primary Years Program (PYP), in 1997. The newest member is the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) released in 1998. In addition to these curriculums other international programs have been established to foster concepts the concepts international-mindedness or global citizenship, for example the United World Colleges (UWC) started in 1962 in Whales by Kurt Hahn. Kurt Hahn deserves special mention in this section as he influences much of the underlying philosophy for the concepts of global citizenship and international mindedness that are touted by the large majority of international schools, and are a requisite for membership in some international education organizations for example CIS. When Hahn founded the Salem School he believed that “education is the bedrock on which to build a peaceful society” (Hahn, 1936) and that it should “[prepare] young people for higher education, but not without laying the groundwork for a life of moral and civic virtue, the chief aims of the school” (James, 2000, p. 3). Hahn extolled the virtues of a humanistic and experiential education system and founded international education programs that are still around today. Hahn started the Outward Bound program in 1941 to teach confidence, tenacity and perseverance through challenging outdoor adventure experiences. He founded the Duke of Edinburgh Award (known internationally as the National Youth Achievement Award) to reward young people who undertake physical service and adventure. Additionally, Hahn was involved in developing the IB curriculum and went on to found the Round Square movement to further spread his educational philosophy of experiential learning and character education. The influence of Kurt Hahn’s educational philosophy echoes throughout the international education community and you can see the influence of his voice in the mission statements and curricular goals of many international schools or programs.

Part Three: The Future of International Schools

Driven by the force of increasing globalization; the rise of China and India, the appearance of new economic players in South East Asia and Oceania and the growth in various South American economies has driven up the need for international schools in many regions in the world. ICEF Monitor states, “five million students are studying abroad today – an increase of nearly 67% since 2005 – and the OECD projects that eight million students will be studying abroad by 2025” (2016) and ISC Research, “predicts the market will continue to develop at a healthy pace, forecasting that within five years (2021) the number of students attending international schools will have reached 6.3 million” (2017). The growth of international schools has reached an unparalleled pace and as ISC Research and ICEF Monitor have stated it is likely to continue for at least the next five years. country international students
(ICEF Monitor, 2017)
The growth of international schools is not spread evenly across the world. The “UK and US markets are shrinking. Both Canada and Australia have attracted a greater share of international students over the past decade; other countries have also gained ground” (ICEF Monitor, 2016). With more emerging economies such as Vietnam and the Phillipeans gaining a greater share of the world’s wealth “some of the most significant emerging markets for international education are characterized by large and growing middle-class populations. These markets include India (which may be the world’s largest middle-class consumer market by 2030), Nigeria, and Indonesia” (ICEF Monitor, 2016). Other factors such as “intra-regional mobility is clearly visible in UNESCO statistics indicating that the percentage of Latin American students remaining within the region increased from 11% in 1999 to 23% in 2007. Similarly, the percentage of mobile East Asian students studying within the region rose from 36% to 42% over the same period”  (ICEF Monitor, 2016). Whether or not these growth trends continue in international schools will likely be linked to economic and political policy factors, as well as population growth or decline. However, I believe after such a sustained period of explosive growth that in 10 or 15 years we will see a leveling off of the international school student population.


To begin this blog I started off with the definition of an international school by ISC that insisted to be called an international school the school must have at least some English in their instruction medium. However, I rejected this idea and instead aligned myself to the ECIS definition that a school can be called international as long as it engages in one of three activities which promote cross-cultural learning and the ideals of international mindedness, diversity, and multilingualism. Ultimately, I believe that definitions are useless and what we need are frameworks which allow international educators to apply sound instructional practices to promote global citizenship and international mindedness. I went on to briefly describe the history of international schools from their humble beginnings, servicing internationally stationed staff, to their current diverse iterations of today. I mentioned the contributions of Kurt Hahn to the humanistic and experiential learning portion of international education philosophy and how his legacy lives on today in the form of UWC, Outward Bound, Round Square and his influence on the IB curriculum. Lastly, I talked about the explosive growth of international schools over the past 10 years driven by globalization. Globalization has lead to the rise of India and China, and new wealth in emerging economies such as Vietnam, the Philippians, Malaysia and countries in Latin and South America, all thirsting for a more internationally recognized and valuable education. I also expressed my belief that the current rapid growth will level off over time as economic growth rates slow. So, in the end, where does this leave us as international educators? My main concern is not how to define international education, nor do I care if it spreads rapidly around the world or not. My main concern is with the quality of education. If we are to turn this third round of globalization into a force for economic and intellectual equity then we must ensure that the education being provided is instilling the knowledge and dispositions for students to become successful humanitarians. I believe Gellar (1981) in Hayden and Thomas (1995) said it best, “the concept of international education demands a curriculum which is both concrete and specific, aimed at giving the student the skills that he needs to achieve the goal he has chosen and broad enough to include those subjects that enable him to see the world from a much wider perspective than is generally required in national systems”. We must give our students the skills and knowledge to pursue their passions and the moral character to pursue their goals for the benefit of all humankind. Only in this way can we assure the world will move towards peace and equity.


Hahn, K. (1965, May 9). Harrogate Address on Outward Bound. Speech presented at Conference at Harrogate in England, Harrogate.

Hayden, M. C., & Thompson, J. J. (1995). International Schools and International Education: A Relationship Reviewed. Oxford Review of Education, 21

Hayden, M., & Thomas, J. (2008). International Schools: Growth and Influence. UNESCO: International Institute for Educational Planning

Hill, I. (2015). What is an ‘international school’?: Part One. International Schools Journal, 35(1), 60-70

Hill, I. (2016). What is an International School? Part Two a Way Forward. International Schools Journal, 35(2), 9-21

ICEF Monitor. (2016, November 1). Four megatrends that are changing the competitive landscape of international education. ICEF Monitor. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from http://monitor.icef.com/2016/11/four-megatrends-changing-competitive-landscape-international-education/

ICEF Monitor. (2017, July 18). Mapping the trends that will shape international student mobility. ICEF Monitor. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from http://monitor.icef.com/2017/07/mapping-trends-will-shape-international-student-mobility/

ICEF Monitor. (2017, August 2). Megatrend: The shift to emerging markets. ICEF Monitor. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from http://monitor.icef.com/2017/08/megatrend-shift-emerging-markets/

ISC Research. (2017). Demand for international school education continues to expand globally . ISC News. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.iscresearch.com/news/isc-news/isc-news-details/~post/demand-for-international-school-education-continues-to-expand-globally-20170427

Keeling, A. (2018, February 2). ISC Research Conference Shares Recent Market News. TIE Online. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.tieonline.com/article/2287/isc-research-conference-shares-latest-market-news

KurtHahn.org (n.d.).[website] Retrieved February 05, 2018, from http://www.kurthahn.org/

James, T. (2000). Kurt Hahn and the Aims of Education. Thomas James.

Stevens, D., Gilpin, A., & Jasiocha, E. (2015). ISC Census 2015 (Rep.). Kent: ISC Research & Intelligence Team

M6U4A3 – Malin Matus – Teacher Evaluation


In this short blog I will analyze two teacher evaluation methods and then outline my ideas on how teachers should be evaluated.

Evaluation Methods

From what I read about in Tennessee and Ohio states’ teacher evaluation systems, and from what was outlined in the Danielson Group’s framework for teacher evaluation, I have concluded that there are two main areas that teachers are evaluated on. One, is to evaluate a teacher on what they do. This means to look at how they teach lessons, plan lessons, interact with students and perform their administrative responsibilities. The other way to evaluate teachers is to look at what effect they have on student learning. This means to look at the teacher’s students’ performance and learning outcomes. Each of these areas of evaluation have their own advantages and disadvantages which I have summarized in the table below.

M6U4A3 - Malin Matus - Teacher Evaluation Table

From my observations I’ve concluded that by observing and evaluating what a teacher does you can provide feedback on the actual practice of teaching (i.e. lessons design, classroom management, etc.), however, you are unable to evaluate with a lot of objectivity as the preferences for many teaching practices can be fairly idiosyncratic. On the other hand, by evaluating the teacher’s effect on student learning outcomes, (i.e. test scores, student growth, etc.) a lot of subjectivity can be removed. Unfortunately, the gain in objectivity is paid for by a loss of specific information. By that I mean, for example, you have a highly effective teacher based on the growth of that teacher’s students. However, that growth data does not tell you what that teacher does which is so effective. It seems to me that any useful evaluation of teachers should measure a combination of both what the teacher does and what effect that teacher has on learning.

What Should be Evaluated

As I mentioned above, I think that a good teacher evaluation system should both evaluate what a teacher does; planning, teaching, interacting with students/parents/colleagues, and other administrative tasks, and what effect a teacher has on student learning outcomes; students reaching standards and showing growth over time. However, when evaluating teachers I think that the evaluator must carefully plan the evaluation criterion to provide accurate, relevant and useful information to the teacher. In terms of what a teacher does I think the criterion should be chosen from a pool of best practices commonly used by teachers previously defined as effective. This is to remove ambiguity and idiosyncratic preferences on the part of the evaluator and to provide solid advice to the evaluee. Secondly, when evaluating the teacher’s effect on student learning extreme care must be taken to use appropriate measures of student growth which reflect areas where teachers actually have an effect. This is to avoid evaluating teachers on measures of student success where teachers can have little impact and/or to avoid measures which fail to robustly measure student growth for all learning types.

If we can believe what Karen Hughes said, in the Teaching Channel (2011) video, that “the teachers who are the most successful are the teachers that are the most self-reflective”, then teacher evaluations may need only to provide and encourage this self-reflection as a means of professional growth.

Personally, should I be evaluated as a teacher I would want three things. One, to see an objective measure of my effectiveness in terms of learner outcomes over time. Two, to be provided with feedback and guidance as to my planning, instructional and classroom management methodology. Lastly I would want regular feedback and time to pursue professional development.


Danielson Group. (2017). Danielson Group » The Framework. Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://www.danielsongroup.org/framework/

Ohio Department of Education. (2017, August 23). Teacher Evaluations. Retrieved September 08, 2017, from http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Teaching/Educator-Evaluation-System/Ohio-s-Teacher-Evaluation-System

Teaching Channel (2011). New Teacher Survival Guide: The Formal Observation Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/preparing-for-formal-observations

Tennessee Department of Education. (n.d.). Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. Retrieved September 08, 2017, from http://tn.gov/education/topic/tvaas