Tag Archives: transnational

261 – Successful TNE: Engagement or Positioning Theory? – Alison Macfarlane and Hazel Horobin

Anticipated outcomes: Participants will have an opportunity to consider what makes for meaningful and authentic learning in an international context

Session outline (or abstract): max 300 words

Much of the literature relating to teaching international students focuses on ‘managerialist’ issues associated with what is done to the learner and the efficiencies generated by activities such overseas teaching (Altbach, 2007).  Conversely, relatively little research exists in relation to the meanings generated for participants by that teaching (Edwards and Usher, 2008).  The current down turn in international student numbers into the Allied Health Department has prompted outreach work in the form of Transnational Education (TNE) in Asia that aims to continue to develop both recruitment and partnership working.  There are divided opinions on the issue of adaptability in transnational programmes.  Some suggest that pedagogic practice should be in line with the cultural context of the students (Kelly and Tak, 1998); others disagree and claim that the impact of cultural differences can be reduced by use of the principles of good teaching regardless of the course location (Biggs, 1997).

The authors have both successfully undertaken TNE this academic year and they discuss their approaches to TNE founded on theoretical constructs that align with opposite ends of the pedagogic discourse around adaptability.  Alison used an engagement approach aiming to generate a collaborative classroom, she and students pursued together worthwhile and meaningful answers to practice problems generated by the students.  The non-academic, ‘authentic’ activity and real skill development enabled the qualified physiotherapist participants to build on their previous knowledge as well as expand existing skills (Kearsley and Shneiderman, 1999).   Hazel used an appreciation of positioning theory to challenge notions of traditional roles (Langenhove and Harré 1999) and shape classroom encounters and generate a positive and welcoming academic environment, consistent with good pedagogic practice  (Ryan and Viete, 2009).  The discussion demonstrates that both approaches have strengths, but also issues that need to be taken into consideration in complex teaching arenas.

Session activities for engagement: Discussion of how practices relate or not to theoretical constructs and explores the meaning of teaching and learning effectiveness in different contexts.


ALTBACH, P.G. (2007) ‘The Internationalization of Higher Education: Motivations and Realities’ Journal of Studies in International Education, 11 (3-4): 290-305

BIGGS, J.B. (1997). Teaching across and within cultures: the issue of international students. In Murray-Harvey, R. & Silins, H.C. (Eds.) Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Advancing International Perspectives, Proceedings of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Conference (Adelaide), HERDSA, 1-22.

EDWARDS, R. and USHER, R. (1997) ‘27th Annual SCUTREA Conference Proceedings 1997.  Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries: Research in the Education of Adults.  Globalisation and a Pedagogy of (Dis)location’ [www] http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/000000225.htm

(Last accessed 20th December 2010)

KEARSLEY, G., & SHNEIDERMAN, B. (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Retrieved March, 20013, from http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm

KELLY, M.E., & TAK, S.H. (1998). Borderless education and teaching and learning cultures: the case of Hong Kong. Australian Universities’ Review, 41(1), 26-33.

RYAN, J and VIETE, R (2009).  Respectful Interactions:  Learning with International Students in the English Speaking Academy. Teaching in Higher Education. 14 (3), 303-314.

van LANGENHOVE, L. and HARRÉ, R. (1999) Introducing Positioning Theory.  In Harré, R. and van Langenhove, L. (Eds). Positioning Theory.  Oxford, Blackwell

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