UVic Torch -- Spring 2006
Spring 2006,
Volume 27, Number 1

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Wider view: Geraldine Van Gyn and Sabine Schuerholz-Lehr help re-design courses to embrace international perspectives.
Photography by JO-ANN RICHARDS

With most students completing all of their coursework on campus, new ways of teaching are helping to bring the world into lectures and course materials.

GLOBALIZATION GETS MORE ENTRENCHED WITH EACH PASSING DAY, raising a question that’s being posed on campuses all across Canada: How can universities help students become internationally knowledgeable and inter-culturally competent for life in the 21st century? Part of the answer is found in the Learning and Teaching Centre’s groundbreaking Course (Re)design for Internationalization Workshop—a week-long immersion in what leaders Sabine Schuerholz-Lehr and Geraldine Van Gyn call “teaching for world-mindedness.”

“Many of our students will never go abroad for a truly international experience,” says Schuerholz-Lehr, the assistant director of UVic’s Office of International Affairs. In fact, only five to 10 percent of Canadian students work or study in another country during their university years and few are away for more than a month. That puts the onus on campus-based learning to provide the stay-at-home majority with a more global outlook. Yet few existing courses offer an international perspective and instructors are often daunted by the prospect of redeveloping them.

“Designing a course without the right conceptual tools is like trying to build a table without a hammer or nails,” says Van Gyn, director of the Learning and Teaching Centre. Her remedy is a workshop which puts those tools (things like concept maps, learning outcomes, instructional strategies and assessment methods) in the hands of instructors and shows them how to use them. When Van Gyn and Schuerholz-Lehr created their curriculum internationalization workshop, they used the same model.

The pair’s first teaching-for-world-mindedness workshops were attended by instructors from a cross-section of faculties and departments including Sociology, History in Art, and Computer Science. Such a multiplicity of interests might seem unwieldy at first glance, but it’s exactly what Schuerholz-Lehr had hoped for. “Internationalization of the curriculum is not about creating a new major in international studies,” she explains. “We are trying to infuse the notion of internationalization across all disciplines.” Exactly how that happens depends on individual instructors rising to the challenge.

Rachel Westfall, a Department of Sociology sessional lecturer found the internationalization workshop provided the impetus to change the readings for her third-year course in human sexuality. “I felt the textbook I’d been using was too American,” she says, “so I switched to one that had a more international focus. It was also too American, but it had more articles that showed other perspectives. Ideally, I would like to come up with a text that really does look at sexuality from an international focus, but right now there isn’t such a thing on the market.”

Westfall has other “big plans” for internationalizing her course and is frustrated by logistical constraints that have kept her from acting, but Schuerholz-Lehr actually prefers a gradual approach. “People will be overwhelmed if they try to do it all at once,” she says. “It’s better to start slowly, maybe with getting to know the international students better or incorporating two readings that come from a very different angle, and building incrementally over time.

World-minded Teaching | World-minded Teaching Con't

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