As we announce the news of another overseas centre in which to deliver MA modules, this time in Switzerland, Simon Smith shares his thoughts of teaching the MA abroad.
Teaching on a Master’s course in an overseas venue is familiar in many ways, because the course objectives are the same as on any other Master’s course and participants’ motivation for doing a master’s module usually fall within a familiar range of reasons.
But it does feel different, unpredictable and rather exciting in many other ways. At a very mundane level, I find myself needing time to tune in to the classroom environment. The class furniture needs arranging, air conditioning may have idiosyncrasies, the IWB usually works in a slightly different way to what I am used to, and so on. Course participants know their environment much better than me, and so this gives them a chance to show me the ropes.
More interesting for me is that I can learn about the culture of the country I’m in from the inside.For example, the journey to and from the venue each day is full of new sights and experiences. I do not always understand what I see on my way to and from work, and so this is a good chance to find out about local culture from course participants.
Lunchtimes are another great opportunity here: instead of the familiar sandwiches I eat when working in Britain, I get to try local food, and this opens up endless possibilities for discussion and learning both for me and for the people I’m teaching. Of course, I also get an inside track on local exam systems, and on conditions in state and private education. There are always surprises and further questions to ask here.
The most interesting part for me of an overseas course, though, is the human dimension.
I work with generally fantastic local support staff at an overseas venue, for example. In addition, overseas courses are slightly more intensive than our traditional face-to-face courses in Norwich. This means that as a group, we all see a lot of each other over a period of 8 or 12 days, and often eat and sometimes socialise together, too. This intensity tends to lead to quite deep relationships forming which last well beyond the duration of the course
In sum, I think the cliché about teachers learning more than they teach applies very much to my experience of working in overseas MAPDLE centres, and I’m very much hoping for another opportunity....
Photos from the core module at AEXALEVI, Argentina, February 2017