Cross-Cultural Experiences through Erasmus: Pre-Service Teachers’ Individual and Professional Development

Ali Ersoy and Elvan Günel
Anadolu University Faculty of Education, Eskişehir-Turkey

Problem Statement: In today’s global society, international student mobility is becoming more important in terms of its outcomes such as increasing student participation and involvement in international education and re-shaping teacher education in many countries. It also might lead to a strong collaboration between countries and may allow universities in Turkey to gain a broader international perspective in their educational practices and policies. Since the student population around the world has been rapidly becoming diverse in terms of culture, religion, and race, teacher education programs need to educate teachers in a way that they will be aware of cultural differences, be open-minded, be respectful to other cultures, and be willing to make instructional decisions to increase tolerance in their classrooms.
Purpose of Study: The purpose of this study is to understand pre-service teachers who came to Turkey through the Erasmus program for cultural experiences in the college of education at West End University (pseudonyms) in Turkey. This study will also analyse how these experiences influenced the individual and professional development of these teachers.
Methods: Phenomenological approach was employed as the main research approach in order to describe and interpret the experiences and perceptions of the pre-service teachers. The study was conducted with eight (two males and six females) students. The purposeful sampling methods were used to select participants for this study. The researchers conducted three individual interviews with each participant. In order to analyze the data collected from multiple interviews, the constant comparative method was employed.
Findings and Results: Analysis of the data for this study suggested that cross-cultural experiences of pre-service teachers helped them to improve their professional skills and contributed to their individual development. Findings of the study also indicated that diverse field experiences assisted the participants to understand the importance of infusing multicultural approach in their classrooms. During their experience in the university, they also became aware of various instructional methods and different teacher-student relationships. Pre-service teachers also stated that this experience helped them to improve their knowledge of different cultures, increase their self-confidence, change their world view, and become more open-minded individuals.
Conclusions and Recommendations: The experiences that the participants encountered during their cross-cultural schooling and daily life in Turkey influenced their development of professional skills and their individual development as teachers of the future in a global society. The study has implications for teacher education programs, policies, and pre-service teachers.
Keywords: Cross-cultural experiences, Erasmus, teacher education, student mobility.