By Chloé Eberly, Intercultural Learning and Volunteer Coordinator at AFS New Zealand
600 attendees came together from around the world for the New Zealand International Education Conference (NZIEC) in Wellington this August. AFS is proud to have been the programme partner this year. Representatives of AFS ran pre-conference workshops and conference sessions all aimed at fostering global competence and empowering international educators with quality tools. The conference itself was an exciting, innovative environment. AFS was one of 18 stallholders in the exhibition hall, where people were busy networking and enjoying the food.
NZIEC brings together professionals and leaders in international education from New Zealand and around the world to explore and discuss new strategies. This year’s theme was Inspiring Global Citizens, which is exactly what we work toward every day at AFS. This year’s event was marked by an important milestone: the announcement of the new New Zealand International Education Strategy took place on the final day of the conference, with three new goals: delivering an excellent education and student experience, achieving sustainable growth, and developing global citizens.
“I got tools to develop global competence and intercultural learning. Also, I learned how it’s important to know that what we see is on the surface [of a culture], like an iceberg,” said a participant of the AFS workshop facilitated by AFS Intercultural Programs’ Director of Education and Intercultural Learning Marcela Lapertosa and AFS New Zealand’s Organizational Development Specialist Carla Rey Vasquez. The workshop titled Global Competence in International Education: What is it? explored the concept of global competence, why it is important, and provided suggestions of ways that organisations can embrace it. There was a lot of experiential learning in this session, and participants left feeling inspired.
Bert Vercamer, Chief Program Innovation and Educational Products Officer at AFS Intercultural Programs, facilitated High Tech Solutions for Global Competence workshop which offered three frameworks that can provide a foundation for a curriculum to build global competence for both inbound and outbound students. Research shows that merely coming into contact with cultural differences doesn’t develop global competence in students. Participants left with the skills to deliver blended learning sessions on global competence that are engaging, attractive, and effective for their audiences.
Global competence development in international education: Tools to make it happen! focused on AFS’s 70 years of experience in running study abroad programs and intercultural research. Lapertosa used this session to discuss the recent extensive review of best practices and pedagogical studies from across the field to identify the most effective tools and programmatic factors to enhance students’ intercultural development while they take part in study abroad or domestic exchanges. Those who attended this session learned about the AFS Student Learning Journey Curriculum and gained tools to effectively and practically implement intercultural learning in their own institutions.
The session titled From research to practice: Enhancing global competence through blended learning shared lessons learned from developing the Sentio Global Competence Certificate (GCC) and how research was applied to inform best practice. Vercamer touched on the importance of effective cultural mentoring and guided reflection, the need to share culture-general frameworks and culture-specific content before departure, ongoing support throughout a program, and the necessity of a developmental approach. The session included a preview of the content of the GCC, and those who attended received a free GCC demo.
Hristo Banov, Manager of Business Analytics and Impact Measurement at AFS presented Mapping Generation Z: Attitudes toward international education programmes. The Mapping Generation Z study aims to reveal the perceptions of present-day teenagers (ages 13-18) on studying and living abroad, experiencing new ideas and immersing themselves in dramatically different cultures than their own. Participants in this session examined some of the key findings, including:
- Cultural exploration as the main motivation to go abroad
- Affordability remains a barrier to student mobility
- Programme specifics emerge as the main choice influencing factors
- Apprehensiveness about security tops the list of concerns
If you haven’t already had a look a the Mapping Generation Z study, you can do so here.
On the final afternoon of the conference, Vasquez presented The missing piece: Supporting host families to double our impact. This presentation explored the role of host families in international education, with reference to the AFS Intercultural Programs Host Family Intercultural Learning Journey. Research suggests that host families play a crucial role in study abroad programmes, but the learning outcomes that they gain are largely unexplored. Engaging host families poses challenges and opportunities, in terms of fostering their own professional development and aiding their role as key cultural informants and facilitators for the people they are hosting. Participants left this session with practical approaches and activities to be used with host families before, during and after the intercultural experience.
Overall, NZIEC was an excellent space for AFS to bring expertise in intercultural learning and study abroad programmes. Attendees heard from international students about their experiences in New Zealand, key government figures in both immigration and education, and leaders in international education from different backgrounds and organisations.