How can we best prepare our students for their future in an increasingly diverse and globalizing world? Internationalization of the curriculum is one of the pedagogical techniques that has been widely discussed and implemented in many countries. In the following section, we are going to talk about what is curriculum internationalization, why it is important, and some tools and strategies that you can use to internationalize academic programs and courses.
What is curriculum internationalization?
Knight (1994) has defined internationalization as “the process of integrating an international or intercultural dimension into the teaching, research, and service functions of the institution” (p.7). According to Leask, “Internationalization of the curriculum is the incorporation of international, intercultural, and/or global dimensions into the content of the curriculum as well as the learning outcomes, assessment tasks, teaching methods, and support services of a program of study” (2009, p. 209).
Why is it important?
After conducting research and working with colleagues on this topic for several years, the following are the rationales for internationalizing the curriculum that Leask highlighted in her book, entitled “Internationalizing the curriculum”:
The curriculum is linked to broader issues of social power nationally, internationally, and globally (Bernstein 1971). The big problems of the world, such as poverty, the spread of infectious diseases, the capacity to feed a growing world population in the future, and issues of environmental sustainability, require that the graduates of tomorrow are not restricted or parochial of mind. Therefore we need to ensure that the students of today have access to knowledge and wisdom from all parts of the world, are open to new ideas regardless of the origin of those ideas, develop the capacity to solve tricky problems and find innovative solutions, and are committed to actions that benefit others as well as themselves. —Leask, 2015, p. 23
Further, she articulated the rationales from different disciplines:
As members of a caring professional nurses have an ethical responsibility toward all members of the global community
(Bachelor of Nursing).
We have a responsibility to empower staff, students, and industry to be global citizens and practitioners. This means they must be:
- able to enact their ethical and social responsibilities in relation to the impact of global media communications
- sensitive to the varied cultural responses to communications in international, regional, and local markets
- respectful, ethical, responsible, adaptive, and flexible
- critically aware of the impact of their own culture on the way they feel and act towards others in a global context
(Bachelor of Media and Communication).
The big problems in biology are international problems that require international solutions. There are many important problems to be solved in the developing world
(Bachelor of Biological Sciences).
Internationalization of the curriculum can be targeted at both the program and course level. The Questionnaire on Internationalization of the Curriculum (QIC) has been widely used to stimulate reflection and discussion among groups of faculty members about the internationalization of the curriculum in their program (Leask, 2015). Different versions of the QICs have been developed, which can be accessed through this website: http://ioc.global/questionnaire-for-internationalisation-of-the-curriculum-qic/.
Practical Strategies (adapted from Barker et al., 2011)
Course content and design
Ideally, course content should include diverse perspectives on social, economic, political and/or environmental issues and differences in professional practices across cultures. Some tips for broadening topic areas through intercultural approaches include:
- Addressing how knowledge may be constructed differently across cultures;
- Comparing and contrasting international and cross-cultural research findings;
- Drawing on cross-cultural databases and sources of information (e.g., journals);
- Examining content that addresses critical global environmental issues;
- Examining how professional practices vary in other cultures;
- Focusing on the historical development of issues relating to current international issues/practices;
- Including content from both local and international sources;
- Including subject matter relating to global, intercultural and indigenous perspectives (e.g., the inclusion of international and national case studies, examples, illustrations, etc.).
- Including topics on ethical issues in globalization, such as social justice, equity, human rights, and related social, economic, and environmental issues;
- Referring specifically to intercultural communication in professional practice;
- Using real-life or simulated case studies that examine cross-cultural communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution.
Learning and teaching activities
A wide range of teaching and learning strategies can be specifically designed to develop graduates who demonstrate international perspectives as professionals and as citizens. Tips for internationalizing learning and teaching activities include:
- Asking students to consider issues and problems from a variety of social, economic, political, religious, ethical/moral, and cultural perspectives;
- Comparing and contrasting how issues of multiculturalism are dealt with in different nations, and how this impacts on citizens both in terms of their personal lives and in professional practice;
- Creating a safe, non-threatening learning environment in which students can express their own views/opinions while respecting those of other students and staff;
- Creating group-based opportunities to learn more about students’ backgrounds through such tools as student surveys or brief “get-to-know-you” ice-breaker activities;
- Encouraging students from different cultural backgrounds to contribute relevant examples from their home country or community;
- Encouraging students to analyze the issues, methodologies, and possible solutions related to current areas of debate within their discipline from a range of cultural perspectives;
- Encouraging students to compare/contrast how cultural influences can impact on the construction of knowledge around the world;
- Exploring the impacts on culture on the development of specific approaches to the profession/discipline;
- Facilitating dialogue and collaborative learning activities between students from different cultural backgrounds which will increase the potential for deep learning and cross-cultural understanding;
- Highlighting to students the ideology behind the discipline and how it has developed, and discuss and analyse any cultural aspects of this;
- Including activities that examine how culture can impact on the application of knowledge socially, scientifically, and technologically and how this can advantage or disadvantage of people from different cultural backgrounds;
- Including activities/tasks which require students to critically reflect on international or intercultural matters (e.g. by keeping a reflective journal);
- Including an international component in problem-solving exercises and/or research assignments;
- Integrating global issues and cross-cultural perspectives into learning tasks;
- Using fieldwork with local organizations working on international projects or national projects with an intercultural focus;
- Using team tasks to encourage students to engage with others from different social, cultural, economic, political and/or religious backgrounds (e.g., multi-cultural teamwork, contacting international students in overseas universities via email, chat-rooms or list-serves).
Materials, tools, and resources
A wide range of teaching tools, resources and support materials can assist students with acquiring the knowledge, skills and attitudes of a global citizen. Tips for internationalizing your learning materials, tools and resources include:
- Encouraging students to locate, discuss, analyze and evaluate information from a range of learning materials (e.g., online resources, textbooks, journal articles, conference papers, video recordings);
- Including materials and research from national, international, and intergovernmental organizations to ensure students have a global perspective on their discipline.
- Including presentations/guest lectures from industry professionals with international experience in specific topics in the course;
- Including role-plays and simulations of international or intercultural interactions;
- Using electronic links and networks, such as email chat groups and list-serves, with students of the discipline in other countries;
- Using online resources, textbooks, and workshop materials from international sources which are culturally sensitive and demonstrate respect for the diversity of the student body;
- Using recently published, international journal articles, conference papers, and texts;
- Using up-to-date multimedia technologies and electronic equipment to ensure that students can develop their skills in these areas.
Ideally, assessment tasks should measure the specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes of students that are related to global citizenship. Tips for internationalizing assessment include:
- Designing activities that encourage students to interact with one another (real or virtual);
- Designing assessment tasks that are aligned with curriculum content, specifically relating to the development of global and intercultural perspectives;
- Designing assessment tasks that require students to present information to, and receive feedback from, an ‘international’ or cross-cultural audience;
- Including assessment items that draw on cultural contexts as well as disciplinary knowledge (e.g., comparative exercises that involve comparing/contrasting local and international standards, practices, issues, etc.);
- Including both individual and group projects, so that students’ ability to work with others, consider the perspectives of others, and compare and contrast the diverse perspectives of other individuals is assessed;
- Making assessment criteria related to global/multicultural capability explicit to students;
- Mapping out the links between assessment criteria and international standards in the discipline area or profession for students, so that they are aware of why the assessment items are important;
- Using assessment tasks early in the course which provide feedback on students’ background knowledge, so that teaching can be modeled in such a way as to ‘fill in’ any gaps in requisite knowledge or skills and hence combat risk of failure.
Barker, M., Frederiks, E., Farrelly, B., & Shallcross, L. (2011). The GIHE good practice guide to internationalising the curriculum. Griffith University.
Knight, J. (1994). Internationalisation: Elements and checkpoints. Ottawa: Canadian Bureau for International Education.
Leask, B. (2009). Using formal and informal curricula to improve interactions between home and international students. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(2), 205–221.
Leask, B. (2015). Internationalizing the curriculum. Routledge.