The Michigan State University College of Education opened its doors to more than 40 Indonesian educators last year as part of an international exchange program. The visitors from Indonesia came to MSU to explore education and teacher preparation in the United States.
The college was selected from among other U.S. higher education institutions to host University Connect, a USAID-funded program that is implemented by the Institute for International Education (IIE). As part of the agenda, two cohorts arrived on campus to learn about K-16 education and different practica approaches used by colleges and universities to prepare educators, including MSU’s renowned Teacher Preparation Program.
“Indonesia is in the process of reinventing their teacher preparation,” said Margaret Crocco, chair of the Department of Teacher Education and director of the exchange program. “They were looking to learn more from other nations in how to set up their educational programs. This program helped them to see the differences between U.S. and Indonesian systems of education, and also to develop action plans based on what they learned here to implement at their home institutions.”
After the program, all of the participants returned to their home country with ideas and tentative action plans to transform teacher education in Indonesia.
University Connect is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Indonesia Program to Extend Scholarships and Training to Achieve Sustainable Impacts (PRESTASI). The IIE, which administers the program, is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing international education worldwide.
“We were excited to be given the opportunity to have educators from across Indonesia here on campus,” said Lynn Paine, assistant dean for international studies in education. She served as one of the coordinators and spent time in Indonesia prior to the start of the program to help prepare the participants. “One of the great aspects of this program was not only the opportunity to introduce and teach the Indonesian educators about the MSU Teacher Preparation Program, but also for them to be able to meet and collaborate with other education leaders and alumni on campus and around the area.”
Samantha Caughlan, former MSU professor, joined her in the preparatory trips. Caughlan also helped the participants take full advantage of the resources available while at MSU.
A portion of the activities for each cohort included meeting with faculty members and other groups on campus; observing and shadowing local teaching interns, field instructors and mentors; visiting other universities where MSU graduates are teaching; and learning about the culture of Michigan and the U.S. with visits to local museums and the state Capitol.
During the second cohort of the program, government officials from across the U.S. and Indonesia came together, and it was key to University Connect’s success, said Crocco.
“The ministry officials will help support the implementation of projects that the visiting scholars created during their time at the college,” she explained. “They are the individuals who can ‘help make it happen,’ so to speak, with finances and other resources.”
The officials met with individuals across the college, university and state as part of their week in the U.S., which was, for all of them, their first trip to the country.
Their last meeting on campus was with President Lou Anna K. Simon and Provost June Pierce Youatt, which gave the ministry officials an opportunity to express their interest in sending more Indonesian students to MSU for undergraduate and graduate programs.
Participants overwhelmingly left the program with more knowledge regarding teacher preparation in the U.S. and in Indonesia, including similarities and differences. With small changes to the curriculum for the second cohort, several elements of the program showed an even higher rate of success. For example, in a post-program survey, more than 60 percent of respondents for the second cohort indicated they had a high or expert ability to articulate differences between K-12 systems after completing the program. Only 40 percent of the first cohort answered in the same way. Prior to the program, many—including from the first cohort—indicated they had little or no knowledge on the topic.
Each cohort successfully completed University Connect with action plans for their home institution. Action plans were varied and detailed, with suggestions including developing an assessment of student teachers making and using media, creating a new structure and assignments for a micro-teaching courses and developing modules for teacher preparation classes related to diverse learners.
In a check-in several months after the program, many were already seeing changes. Pilots of some of the proposed plans were taking place within the first two semesters of the Indonesian educators returning, and several were working to secure funding for their ideas.
University Connect made an impact on MSU’s campus as well.
“I believe that all the faculty and graduate students who participated in the program felt that it was mutually rewarding,” Crocco said. “We know that our guests learned about our approach to field experiences within the context of our Teacher Preparation Program, but we also learned a great deal about cultural diversity within Indonesia, the ways in which Islam is enacted there and here and the reform efforts within Indonesia’s Ministry of Education to raise the bar in terms of teacher preparation in universities across Indonesia.”