A Conceptual Framework

Internationalisation of the curriculum, an essential component of the broader concept of internationalisation in higher education, is variously interpreted and enacted. In part, this can be explained by the different ways of thinking and approaching issues that are associated with different disciplines, but other factors are also important. These other factors include the relative importance ascribed by academic staff to the different contexts within which they work. The layers of context and their possible impact on the way academics think about internationalisation and the curriculum are represented visually in the conceptual framework on page 3. Each layer of context directly and indirectly interacts with and influences the others, creating a complex set of conditions influencing curriculum design. In these circumstances the wide divergence in the understandings of internationalisation observed in universities across the world is not surprising.

A conceptual framework of internationalisation of the curriculum

Conceptual Framework Knowledge in and across disciplines Dominant and emerging paradigms Requirements of professional practice and citizenship Assessment of student  learning Systematic development across the program in all students Institutional context Local context National and regional context Global context

Knowledge in and across disciplines

Knowledge in and across disciplines is at the centre of the framework.

Dominant and emerging paradigms

The process of curriculum design involves a series of choices about whose knowledge will be included and what skills and attitudes will be developed.

Requirements of professional practice and citizenship

What international and intercultural knowledge skills and attitudes will be required of graduates as professionals and citizens?

Assessment of student learning

How and when will progress and achievement be measured? What feedback will students get along the way?

Systematic development across the program

Where and how will all students develop the identified knowledge, skills and attitudes across the degree program?

Institutional context

What mission, ethos, policies and priorities? What services, opportunities for experience and extension beyond the formal curriculum?

Local context

How does global interconnectivity and interdependence influence local conditions for professionals and citizens and vice versa?

National and regional context

What culture of internationalisation, past, present and future?

Global context

What kind of world do we live in? What kind of world do we want?

The framework explained

Knowledge in and across disciplines

Knowledge in and across disciplines is at the centre of the framework. The disciplines are the foundation of knowledge, but the complexity of problems faced by the world and its communities requires ‘problem-defining and solving perspectives that cross disciplinary and cultural boundaries’ (Hudzik 2004,1).

Dominant and emerging paradigms

The process of curriculum design involves a series of choices about whose knowledge will be included and what skills and attitudes will be developed. This is often decided, by default, according to dominant paradigms, with little if any consideration being given to alternative models and ways of practising a profession or viewing the world. An important part of the process of internationalisation of the curriculum is to think beyond dominant paradigms, to explore emerging paradigms and imagine new possibilities and new ways of thinking and doing. This is a challenging task for academic staff. They have been socialised into their discipline. Through that process they have developed a sense of identity and personal commitment to the shared values and associated ways of doing, thinking and being embedded within dominant paradigms of their discipline communities (Kuhn 1996). Thus, academic staff are themselves culturally bound by their own disciplinary training and thinking (Becher & Trowler 2002).

Requirements of professional practice and citizenship (local, national and global)

The requirements of professional practice are important considerations when decisions are being made about what and what not to include in a curriculum, especially when the program is accredited by an external professional body. But a university education is not just about training for demands of professional practice in a globalised world. The moral responsibilities that come with local, national and global citizenship are also important considerations when planning an internationalised curriculum.

Assessment of student learning

An important consideration in curriculum design is what you would expect students to be able to do at the end of a program and as graduates. This can then be used to plan assessments tasks and learning experiences in different courses at different levels in the program, ensuring that students are provided with regular feedback on how they are performing and progressing. In an internationalised curriculum it is important to specifically provide feedback on and assess student achievement of clearly articulated international and intercultural learning goals.

Systematic development across the program in all students

The development of international and intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes in an internationalised curriculum requires careful planning, collaboration with colleagues and coordination across a program of study. The development of skills such as language capability and intercultural competence may need to be embedded in a number of courses at different levels. Given that not all students will enter the program with the same capabilities, a range of strategies to assist all students to achieve desired learning outcomes by the end of the program are likely to be required. Finding ways in which student services and the informal curriculum can support the work undertaken in the formal curriculum is an important part of curriculum design. Mapping where desired knowledge, skills and attitudes will be developed and assessed in the formal curriculum is a good starting point.

Institutional context

The formal curriculum does not operate in isolation. The informal curriculum, the various extra-curricular activities and services available to students, are an important part of the context in which the formal curriculum is enacted. Together, the formal and the informal curriculum define the total student experience. Both the formal and the informal curriculum occur within, and are influenced by, the institutional context. Both will, to some extent, be shaped by university mission and ethos. These are reflected in various ways in policies (such as in ‘graduate attributes’ statements), the range and focus of degrees offered (such as the availability of foreign language study and recognition of concurrent global experience programs), funding priorities (such as to what extent international service learning is supported) and staff development opportunities.

Local context

Developing students’ abilities to be ethical and responsible local citizens who appreciate the connections between the local, the national and the global is an important aspect of internationalisation of the curriculum. The local context includes social, cultural, political and economic conditions. All may provide opportunities and challenges for internationalisation of the curriculum. For example, there may be opportunities for students to develop enabling intercultural skills, knowledge and attitudes through engagement with diversity in the local community.

Local accreditation requirements for registration in a chosen profession may require a seemingly exclusive focus on local legislation and policy. However, the local context is reciprocally connected to national and global contexts. Developing all students understanding of these connections is an important part of the process of developing their ability to be critical and reflexive citizens and professionals able to think and act locally, nationally and globally.

National and regional context

National and regional matters and related government policies concerning internationalisation are the background against which institutions formulate policy and academic staff do or do not engage in internationalisation of the curriculum. For example, policies concerning foreign language learning and support for student mobility, the recruitment of international students and the extent to which universities are connected with others in the region will all influence approaches to internationalisation of the curriculum. Different national and regional contexts will to some extent determine the options available.

Global context

World society is not one in which global resources and power are shared equally. Globalisation is being experienced as discriminatory and oppressive in some places and beneficial and liberating in others. It has contributed to increasing the gap between the rich and the poor of the world, and the exploitation of the ‘South’ by the ‘North’. This domination is not only economic. It is also intellectual, the dominance of Western educational models in the developed world defining what is knowledge, who will apply it and to what ends.

Each contextual layer of the framework directly and indirectly interacts with and influences the others. This creates a complex set of conditions within which the curriculum is constructed by academic staff and experienced by students. Hence we find that conceptualisations and enactments of internationalisation of the curriculum vary between disciplines in the one institution, and in the same discipline in different institutions. For example, some disciplines are less open to recognising the cultural construction of knowledge than others and the international perspectives required of a nurse or a pharmacist will most likely focus more on socio-cultural understanding than those of an engineer. Some will be more influenced by the requirements of local employers or national professional associations than others.

The framework assists understanding of the broad concept of internationalisation of the curriculum as well as the role of the disciplines and academic staff in it. It identifies some of the key questions that need to be considered when engaging in the process of internationalisation of the curriculum in a particular academic program.

While internationalisation of the curriculum is to some extent disciplinedependent, other critical factors will also influence the approach taken by academic staff to internationalisation of the curriculum.

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