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IF International: Fellows Train Faculty from Eastern Europe and Central Asia

europe pic 1IF activities and interactions do not end at the U.S. border. Since the very beginning Jay Stern had a project in Hungary. IF’s strongest foray into the international arena was made by Fellows Mark Notturno and Ieva Notturno when they developed a 50 Hour Training Course in the IF Discussion Process for use in Student Centered Discussion Courses.

For three years in a row, and twice in collaboration with George Washington University, Mark and Ieva trained faculty members from Eastern Europe and Central Asia who were studying in the U.S. under the auspices of the State Department’s Junior Faculty Development Program and the Open Society Institute’s Faculty Development Fellowship Program how to use IF’s student-centered discussion teaching methods. These faculty members came from several different disciplines—political science, economics, law, and various business fields—and several different countries, including Albania, Armenia, China, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, and Tajikistan. The 50-hour training course offers hands on experience in facilitating IF-style discussions and conducting student-centered discussion courses, while at the same time conducting a ‘mini’ IF project and developing an IF ‘special report’ on an area of concern relevant to the faculty members. These reports—‘Teaching Methods’ (2010), ‘The Future of Higher Education in Post-Communist States’ (2011), and ‘The Future of Governance in Transitional Societies’ (2012)—are available on the IF website. They have been discussed in the U.S. and abroad. And our trainees have translated them, along with our Guidebook for Student-Centered Classroom Discussions, into several languages.

The 50 hour training course not only simulates the classroom situation that the faculty members are likely to encounter, it also offers mentoring to the faculty members both during the training course and later on when they are implementing the method in their own classrooms. The classroom training consists of weekly discussions—totaling thirty-nine hours—with each trainee facilitating three or four separate one-hour discussion sessions (depending upon the number in the group). The remaining eleven hours is spent partly in mentoring sessions in which Mark and Ieva give feedback to each faculty member before and after each of their facilitations, and partly in the preparation of their discussion summaries. After taking the course, the faculty members typically returned to their home countries and prepared course proposals that incorporated the student-centered discussion method in their classrooms. Nearly all of our trainees have now conducted student-centered discussion courses in their home countries. Some of them have gone on to apply various elements of the student centered classroom discussion teaching method in their subsequent courses. They have also presented the method to the faculty in their universities, and demonstrated the method to their peers in the conferences. And they continue to do so.

Mark and Ieva are now in the process of developing an online training course that could teach faculty members around the world how to use this method. If you are interested in participating, or know someone who might be, please contact [email protected]