Learning new perspectives from Down Under
To be a global leader in education, Western encourages its employees to seek knowledge from other parts of the world.
One staff member from the Faculty of Education, Dr. Elan Paulson, did just that when she participated in the 2018 Western Staff International Engagement Program (WSIEP).
Paulson, who is the Director of the EdD in Educational Leadership program at Western Education, recently returned to Western after a three week trip in which she visited the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and Griffith University in Australia. She chose these universities because they have strong reputations for being innovative with their graduate programs and approaches to online learning.
“I have a fairly clear understanding of what the landscape looks like in terms of EdD (Doctor of Education) program design and delivery in Canada and the U.S. But, I was eager to learn more about what goes on in EdD programs in other parts of the world,” she said.
WSIEP develops opportunities for Western staff to visit other universities to build their skills outside of their work environments, and share their talents through exposure to international partners with Western. Between one and three weeks, WSIEP participants visit university colleagues abroad to develop and share professional skills with members of the host institution.
During Paulson’s visit, she had 16 meetings with her New Zealand and Australian counterparts. She also visited classes and gave two presentations – one to faculty and one to students – about teaching and learning in the Canadian context.
“This experience exposes you to colleagues in other places, allowing you to make connections and to advance and deepen what you know. It also teaches you how to travel, how to be in new contexts, how to deal with ambiguity, how to reflect on your experiences. It makes you a richer person. It’s the kind of professional development that can be transformative,” said Paulson.
Reflecting on her time Down Under, Paulson noticed the extent to which New Zealand’s post-secondary schools strive to integrate Indigenous culture, language and thinking into their education and health-care systems. Since returning, Paulson is considering how she can better integrate Indigenous ways of knowing into Western Education’s professional programs.
“They use Māori words to describe idea that English words don’t sufficiently capture. For example, they use Māori to describe teaching and learning not as two separate activities but as one: ako.”
Besides scholarly pursuits, WSIEP also encourages its participants to engage in cultural learning opportunities while abroad. Paulson described taking guided and self-guided tours, visiting a botanical garden, animal sanctuaries, a planetarium, and the oldest Catholic cathedral in Australasia. “And, of course I went bungee jumping while I was there,” Paulson said. “That’s a cultural experience, right?”