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International Education in Global Times: Engaging the Pedagogic

reviewed by Dan Kaczynski & Michelle Salmona - April 06, 2015

coverTitle: International Education in Global Times: Engaging the Pedagogic
Author(s): by Paul Tarc
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433114763, Pages: 132, Year: 2013
Search for book at Amazon.com

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the future of higher education around the world. In many ways we are now part of a global network that is interconnected through finance, commerce, the entertainment industry, and social media. Instant connections are at our fingertips through technology that we have come to expect to function seamlessly in a transnational, borderless world. However, moving to a new era of transnational, borderless education remains tenuous. Forces of change are creating tension as knowledge becomes borderless and the online delivery of higher education increasingly accessible. Yet higher education is perceived by some as entrenched in traditional practices designed to guard geopolitical borders and the ivory towers of sandstone institutions.

In his book International Education in Global Times: Engaging the Pedagogic, Tarc draws upon his personal background as a Canadian educator and his wealth of experience abroad to critically explore tensions in the study of international education. His professional formative years were shaped by his time working in South America and throughout the text Tarc makes his voice clear.

A dominant thread throughout the book is a call to deconstruct and reflect upon our own worldview. The works of Derrida and Foucault are cited as a means to stimulate the reader’s deconstruction of commonly held preconceived notions of social justice. This process of deconstructing the nuanced meanings underlying social justice is particularly valuable when participating in a study abroad program. Experiencing a new culture allows one to gain some sense of being the outsider and a taste of marginalization.

With the intensification of transnationalism, Tarc shows that the middle classes are increasingly able to independently move across borders and outside the control of national institutions. Growing numbers of educated, middle class Westerners are becoming global citizens. Yet, many others are not socially positioned and privileged enough to freely move across borders. Separation through national boundaries, economic status, and cultural distinctions abound. The Institute of International Education (2014) reports that study abroad programs from the United States are disproportionately comprised of 65% female and 76% white university students. In this sense, Tarc raises an important social justice concern that international education is increasingly providing the Western middle class a privileged short-term experience to explore the world.

The book challenges students to reflect on what they hope to achieve through an international experience. Tarc makes a credible argument that justifying international education on the basis of achieving a personal transformation has serious shortcomings. He questions whether transformation can be predicted or planned (p. 45) and maintains that, “an intensive international experience frequently exceeds what can be prepared for in the classroom” (p. 50). By raising such fundamental points we are drawn to consider that what constitutes a life changing experience is highly subjective.  

Tarc’s sense is that an engagement with pedagogy is of growing relevance to the international education movement. By exploring the pedagogy of international encounters, our experiences may illuminate the complex learning processes of intercultural experiences. A key lesson to promote such learning is when “interactions with others in trans-local spaces bring with them forces and mentalities beyond the self” (p. 16). To draw insights from this lesson, Tarc uses Saxe’s parable, The Blind Men and the Elephant, to “illuminate the difficult challenge of transformative learning from encounters across international and intercultural difference” (p. 20). The lesson offers engaging discussions on:

meaning construction that is shaped by social forces beyond the individual;

new evidence that is shaped by our pre-existing experiences and worldview;

how people in positions of power have the greatest access to defining meaning to themselves and others;

meaning construction that is not balanced;

and knowledge that can cause us to question ourselves and our culture.

To weave these complex issues into a cohesive strategy for approaching international education, Tarc introduces us to the concept of cosmopolitan literacy. How does someone become cosmopolitan? Cosmopolitan is a term applied by Tarc as a competency that can and should be taught. To be cosmopolitan is to be “interested in engaging and learning from others” (p. 101) both within, and more importantly, outside of your native culture. To foster cosmopolitan literacy one must: refine skills that promote respect for the voice of the other; value and pursue opportunities that stimulate continued learning; and become an explorer in the pursuit of transnational knowledge. This life-long view that promotes the exploration of transnational knowledge reflects an emergent appreciation of culture as dynamic and evolving at multiple levels.  

The application of cosmopolitan literacy may be observed in the ethnographic practice of making the familiar strange. It is very challenging to study our own culture with which we have grown comfortable.  When we step outside of our cultural comfort zone, we more clearly identify windows into our own culture, which stimulates deeper reflexivity. Cosmopolitan literacy through international education is thus a vehicle from which to engage in such a journey of reflection and insights. Tarc attends to these difficulties of learning across difference. Those who participate in international programs may more readily come to terms with their divergent beliefs and experiences. It is this exercise that represents the domain of cosmopolitan literacy: becoming aware of and responding to these difficulties and their implications for learning.

As we wrote this book review we found ourselves reflecting on our own work as international academics. We have experienced many of these unique tensions in higher education. Of particular note are the lessons that can be shared between Australia and the United States. Australia is uniquely positioned to provide insights into United Stated higher education given it is “the third most popular destination for international students” and that international higher education commencements in Australia are the “fourth largest export, following iron ore, coal, and gold” (Group of Eight Australia, 2014). All teachers in the United States, regardless of discipline, are increasingly expected to establish culturally responsive and academically engaging learning environments addressing the educational needs of diverse populations (Kiang, 2004; Siwatu, 2011). We have come to clearly recognize the need for greater commitment to globalizing curriculum, promoting transnational learning outcomes, and developing international benchmarks given the ongoing growth in international education and institution partnerships (ACER, 2013; IIE, 2014).

This book is valuable in that it re-conceives pedagogy as a tool to foster cosmopolitan literacy. Graduate courses on global studies, advanced undergraduate courses in international education, and international student teaching programs would benefit from the use of this text. The structure and delivery will appeal to a wide international education audience and provide scholars of international education stimulating insights from which to experience intellectual growth. As we continue to encounter heightened global interconnectivity, the importance of international education will only increase the need for greater shared understandings.


Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). (March 2013). Higher education update. Retrieved from http://www.acer.edu.au/documents/Higher-Ed-Update-11.pdf

Group of Eight Australia. (2014, March). International students in higher education and their role in the Australian economy (Policy Note). Retrieved October, 2014, from https://go8.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/publications/international_students_in_higher_education_and_their_role_in_the_australian_economy.pdf

Institute of International Education. (2014). Open doors report on international educational exchange. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/opendoors

Kiang, P.N. (2004). Linking strategies and interventions in Asian American studies to K-12 classrooms and teacher preparation. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17(2), 199–225.

Siwatu, K. O. (2011). Preservice teachers’ culturally responsive teaching self-efficacy forming experiences. The Journal of Educational Research, 104(5), 360–369.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 06, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17919, Date Accessed: 12/7/2021 9:51:57 AM

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About the Author
  • Dan Kaczynski
    Central Michigan University
    E-mail Author
    DAN KACZYNSKI, PhD, is a professor at Central Michigan University in the Department of Educational Leadership where he teaches qualitative research, research methods and program evaluation. His publications and presentations promote technological innovations in qualitative data analysis, advanced online instructional delivery, and doctoral supervision professional development. Danís current research is based in Australia where he is exploring threshold concepts in doctoral education and the methodological integration of analysis software. He holds appointment as a visiting fellow at The Australian National University and adjunct professor at the University of Canberra.
  • Michelle Salmona
    Australian National University
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE SALMONA, PhD, is a PMI certified Project Management Professional, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK and a lecturer in the College of Business and Economics at the Australian National University. Michelle graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Master of Business & Technology and received her doctorate from the University of Technology, Sydney. Her research agenda is wide and varied and promotes inter-disciplinary approaches to issues of culture and access. Recent research includes exploring the changing practices of qualitative research during the dissertation phase of doctoral studies and investigates how we bring learning into using the technology during the research process. She is currently working on different projects with researchers from Education, Information Systems, Business Communication, Leadership, and Finance. Michelle works internationally as a consultant Program Evaluator and Trainer in research methods and qualitative data analysis software.
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