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Students present Belize research at national forum

08-20-2013 Belize Research.jpg
Joyce Kinsey (second from left) and Erika Word (right) present their research at the Emerging Scholarly Research Forum.

Two University of North Georgia education students who visited Belize to document differences between U.S. teachers still in school and Belizean teachers in the field presented their research in July at the Emerging Scholarly Research Forum at Nova Southeastern University and also shared how visiting a third-world school can impact the futures of American teachers.

Students Joyce Kinsey and Erika Word recently visited Belize and gathered a wide range of data on the Belizean teachers, including their years of experience, age, educational background, time spent planning, government influence, job satisfaction, availability of resources, and pay. Based on these and other variables, the students compared teacher efficacy between American and Belizean teachers.

"By comparing the Belizean teachers to ourselves as undergrad 'student' teachers, we noticed they do not focus as much on procedures and classroom management as we do in the United States. We also compared the ages, experience and education of the Belizean teachers to one another and discovered there is a wide range in ages and experience," Word said.

Their research supports UNG's mission to develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. Visiting educational facilities in third-world countries such as Belize can have profound impacts on students, especially future educators. Belize is located southeast of Mexico, and its population is estimated to have more than 40 percent living below the poverty line with 6.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product being used for education expenditures.

Kinsey and Word, along with Dr. Carly Womack-Wynne, associate director for the Center for Global Engagement, and Dr. Sheri Hardee, Foundations director, presented at the Emerging Scholarly Research Forum, which was attended by  more than 1,500 national and international scholars.

"Erika and I created an electronic poster using the data collected on the American and Belizean participants, and presented the findings at the conference, which focused on global leadership, learning, and research," Kinsey said. "A live presentation of the research was presented at the Emerging Scholarly Research Session by Drs. Wynne and Hardee, and I was able to encourage the audience to consider participating in the education efforts to support Belize."

Wynne added that the group also wanted to see how the dispositions of American teachers change after exposure to a third-world educational setting.

"We were really trying to capture how it changed our future teachers for the better, and made them more able to respond to the needs of a very diverse group of children when they returned to the U.S.," Wynne said.  

Kinsey noted that the experience changed her perceptions, and she wants other educators to have the same opportunity.

"I feel all U.S. teachers could increase their teacher efficacy by having an international experience. I think these opportunities can change attitudes in regards to people becoming global citizens and the desire to establish public/private partnerships to support literacy in underprivileged countries," she said.

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