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Running head: A Call for International Mindedness

A Call for International Mindedness in our Schools:

Egyptian-American’s Youth Identity between Enculturation & Acculturation

Nora El-Bilawi

George Mason University

EDUC 853: World’s Perspectives

Dr. Rebecca Fox

December, 2008

“If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”Chuck Palahniuk


Overview of purpose

The search for one’s identity formation in order to find who we are, can be a challenging quest especially in a younger age (Merten & Schwartz, 1967); being culturally, physically, and ethnically different, can further deepen this difficulty.

The purpose of initiating this paper is the call for further qualitative studies to explore Egyptian-American youths’ perceptions of identity formation, ethnic identity, self-esteem, and world perspectives. This information will be important for both Egyptian-American youth and for teachers and teacher educators. It is important for Egyptian-American youth to learn about their self development, their ethnic identity formation, and their self-esteem as an initial stage before they reach the awareness stage of the existence of the other. Moreover, learning about the Middle-Eastern, particularly Egyptian-American youth’s, cultural perspectives will enable teachers and teacher educators to understand the complexity and the different dimensions of this ethnic group’s identity formation and mental stratum. Consequently, an integration of global understanding, international-mindedness, and enrichment of global citizenship concepts will be inevitable in our education: teacher preparation programs and school curriculum. It is expected that the perceptions of this particular population will depend upon how they perceive their culture, their level of acculturation, and how they perceive their level of acceptance by Egyptian and non-Egyptian peers.

The ultimate goal is to integrate the knowledge about immigrant Middle Eastern, particularly Egyptians- and their ethnic identity and self-esteem- as a “way of knowing” and to be an ingredient of our educational programs and course-readings; for example, in teacher education and teacher preparation programs, in educational psychology programs, in world perspective courses and/or in educational anthropology course readings.

This issue of minority identity formation has been associated with the dilemma between enculturation (individual development of own cultural competence) versus acculturation (developing a new cultural competence after already acquiring one) (Pearce, 2007). Thus, the integration of a minority group with the majority group has always been an ongoing issue raised with the increase of global mobility and immigration. According to Sampatkumar (2007), people moved around the world in voluntary immigration or as refugees coming to the new land and carrying their traditions and ethnic ideologies that is different than new land’s majority inhabitants. This transition causes the continuous “friction between communities.”

Identity Formation

One of the major developmental procedures an individual go through when living away from the “homeland” is his or her identity formation especially if his ethnic identity is not accepted among the other major ethnicities in a society. The search for personal identity was examined by theorist Erik Erickson who focused a great deal on the different developmental stages an individual goes through developing their identity (Kinney, 1993). Identity diffusion could play a negative role in shaping youth’s identity as they develop an unclear sense of their identity (Robinson, 2000). Pearce (1996) assures that a strong and well established self-identity and self-esteem shape a “complex-self” that can endure cultural shock and cultural assimilation.

Identity formation, as above mentioned, is designed with complex components of integrated images of self-esteem and ethnic identity. These unique components can be influenced by the experience he or she goes through, negative or positive, throughout the experience of identity formation. These components go through a process of an evaluative, judgmental, or affective customization of a person’s self-concept of identity within the social context (Owens, 1994).


Learning about the fact that any group of youth, who belongs to a particular ethnic identity, may encounter difficulties in shaping their identity and self-esteem -especially if this process is challenged by narrow-mindedness, stereotyping, and misrepresentation from the majority group- necessitates call for an integration of international-mindedness in our teacher preparation programmes, our schools premises, and educational curricula in order to touch our youth and up-coming generations’ lives.

Cultural diversity is becoming everyday the norm for schools worldwide, and can be considered a school’s richest, most accessible resource rather than a tool for cultural marginalization and diffusion. To facilitate best use of this resource, and optimise student achievement, teachers must be aware of cultural differences beyond the immediately visible surface aspects of the so-called 4-Fs - fashion, festivals, flags and food. They need to be sensitive to the less visible aspects of culture, such as teaching and learning philosophies, communication styles, beliefs and values. Acculturation can also play a great role where schools try to assimilate culturally diverse students and make sure that they are able to integrate (Pearce, 2007). The optimal situation is for each student to develop and value his/her own cultural identity while being enriched by contact with the cultures of others.

With the ongoing trend for globalisation, and the increasing need for international understanding and the need for global respect of ethnic identities, teacher education is now seen as essential by governments and educators. Pearce (2007), views education and schools as “a society’s way of transmitting to its young the necessary knowledge” from this society’s traditions, history, and way of life. Therefore, if teachers and school curriculum promote international-mindedness, youth from different ethnic group will find the transitional process from enculturation to acculturation much easier and dignifies their self-esteem. It is proposed that curricula should include peace studies and conflict resolution, interdependence and intercultural communication, human rights and social responsibility, world issues and problem-solving skills, with an overall aim of developing students who are not only internationally-minded but internationally-hearted. If we accept that teachers are key factors in educational effectiveness then it follows that they need the specialised knowledge, skills and characteristics to nurture this in students. It is time to initiate a systematic approach to the preparation of teachers in key elements of internationalism, both by integration of this content into existing teacher training and through the development of new tailored programmes.

As cultural identity problems soar because of the rapid increase in globalization and normalization around the world accompanied with the rapid decrease of ethnic groups’ mutual understanding, the call for a world perspective and international mindedness becomes necessary. The following is a drawn integration between the idea of Egyptian-American youth’s ethnic identity and self-esteem and the need for international-mindedness in our schools:

First, a group of youths who are culturally and ethnically different need help to attain a firm sense of their ethnic self before they can integrate an inclusive and general sense of self. It is important for this group to move from a singular sense of self to a mature identity of integration and inclusion (Spencer, 1990). It is also important for younger age generation to learn that when they are unable to extend themselves and allow for inclusion of others (races, cultures, ideologies, groups), they are in danger of suffering from “self absorption” and “self locking” (Erikson, 1963, p. 130). In order to prevent self-locking of a certain ethnic group there must be a mutual respect. International-mindedness will allow for this understanding to occur because it will facilitate ,through teachers in schools, a cultural dialogue among different students when interacting in their classrooms.

Second, Middle Eastern youth’s identity confusion, particularly the Egyptians’, reflect the struggle of this minority group’s inner identities of their eastern (homeland origins) and the majority (outer) identity of the Western (inhabited land) (Nasser & MacMillan, 2003). Few researchers have focused on such topic on such population; for example, Marshall and Read (2003) examined identity formation among Arab-Americans and focused on the relationship among ethnic and religious identities of Arab-Americans to determine if a strong ethnic and religious identity undermined their self-esteem-since their religion (Islam) is always stereotyped, undermined, and associated with terrorism.

Third, linking both above mentioned ideas of Egyptian-American youth’s ethnic identity with this view of schools’ role, I may say that a cultural friction can sustain if schools disregarded cultural diversity and tried to replace a group of youth’s ethnic identity with the schools culture.

Literature Review

The following are the literary frameworks that I will base my future research studies on. The plan is to study Egyptian-American youth’s perspective on ethnic identity and self-esteem, and the importance of this knowledge to initiate a call for international-mindedness integration in our teacher preparation and development programs. This featured literature review will outline my theoretical and conceptual framework for potential papers.


International-mindedness, according to Skelton (2007), is “a part of the continuum that represents the development of self.” Skelton further links international-mindedness to the idea of self, identity formation, and existence of the other. He explains that the concept of self develops form early childhood, as it starts with egocentricity, until a point of differentiation between self and other (2007, p. 380). An individual needs to develop a clear depiction of his self before recognizing the others’ and this process is the initial goal to develop international-mindedness. Heyword (2002), emphasizes on the importance of the development of “self” as a step towards “bicultural identity;” hence, cultural identities may emerge and generate international-mindedness.

Ethnic groups have different identification to the concept of culture and self. Skelton explains that there is a major difference between the Western and the Eastern conception of self. “Self” in the East is more collective and interdependent; whereas, it is more individualistic and independent in the east (Skelton, 2007). However, individuals form their “self identities,” within their cultures, in different scales- either selectively or holistically. As a result, single cultures “do not remain static;” the beliefs that constitute the culture and self identity become “individually and collectively reinterpreted” according to the social context (Skelton, 2007). Therefore, international-mindedness is needed among individuals and their cultural beliefs because, due to this complexity of cultural interchangeability, diversity interaction may cause the opposite of tolerance.

In order to reach international-mindedness, Skelton suggests five solutions: First, to educate our teachers how to shape cognitive skills, interpersonal sensitivity, and cultural sophistication in our children’s minds (Goeudevert, 2002). Second, develop deep and challenging curricula that are related to international-mindedness holistic conception. Third, create learning outcomes and targets integrated in our schools’ standards of learning. Fourth, provide practical application of encountering the “other.” Finally, integrate those four ideas within the wider culture of school.

Hofstede’s organizational culture model

According to Elias (2007), this model combines cultural studies together with international education studies. Hofstede (1980, 1999) defines the functional level of culture as “the software of mind” that controls one’s feeling and behavior. Hofstede defines culture as the symbolic actions and interactions that distinguish one culture or one ethnic group from the other.

Hofstede’s model views culture and self formation through four major dimensions of mental software (Elias, 2007). The first dimension is power and hierarchical distance; that is cultural value of power and regarding persons in high power positions. Second, is the individualistic versus collectivist cultures; the degree of bond and independency among people. Third, is the masculinity culture-good salaries and promotion- versus femininity culture-good relations and pleasant environment in workplace. Fourth, is the uncertainty avoidance; that is the amount of tolerance to ambiguous situation an individual encounter in a culture (1999: 46). Understanding those cultural dimensions accrue to the knowledge we need in integrating international-mindedness in our teacher educational programs.

International education

According to Hayden’s analogy (2007), the term international education is “open to interpretation;” in other words, we can define this term according to the context of discussion. In this paper, international education focuses on the idea of teacher preparation programs and caliber development; this term and area of focus is holistically used for both international and national schools. Merryfield (1995) conceptualizes international education by analyzing its primary features: teachers’ global knowledge, cross-cultural experience, global content in teacher preparation programs, ability of facing controversy, and interdisciplinary curricular (Levy, 2007).

Global education develops the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are the basis for decision making and participation in a world characterized by cultural pluralism, interconnectedness, and international economic competition. Growing out of such fields as international relations and area/international studies, world history, earth science, and cultural/ethnic studies, the field of global education recognizes that students must understand the complexity of globalization and develop skills in cross-cultural interaction if they are to become effective citizens in a pluralistic and interdependent world. International education provides knowledge, skills, and experiences that come from in-depth study, work, and collaboration in education in other countries and with international students and scholars in American institutions.

An international education methodology differs from traditional educational approaches in a sense that; first, global educators focus as much on cultural universals, those things all humans have in common, as they do on cultural differences. Cross-cultural understanding, open-mindedness, anticipation of complexity, resistance to stereotyping or derision of cultural difference, and perspectives consciousness--recognition, knowledge, and appreciation of other peoples' points of view--are essential in the development of a global perspective (Case, 1993; Hanvey, 1975; Kniep, 1986). Second, Study of local-global connections leads to recognition that each of us makes choices that affect other people around the world, and others make choices that affect us. Because of this interconnectedness, global education includes knowledge and skills in decision making, participation, and long-term involvement in the local community and in the larger world beyond our borders. Students learn to find and process information from multiple perspectives (Alger & Harf, 1986).

International education can be said to include schools that are international by name and schools that are international by nature (and, of course, some that are both). Hayden & Thompson (1998, p. 285), highlight `teachers as exemplars of international-mindedness’ as one of the core features of international education, `whether or not that be in an institution called an international school’. Within the broader context of education, international schools represent one element of internationalism alongside the multiculturalism and multilingualism that is typical within many national schools, and the diversity within and amongst different country’s education systems. In a world dominated by supranational production and trading forces, international cultural icons and common environmental problems on the one hand, and intensified and often painful expressions of local identity and regional singularity on the other’ (Steiner, 1996, p. xiv), the international teacher, aiming to develop internationally-minded students, should be aware of internationalism in this broader context. As an educator, a teacher has a unique opportunity to extend students’ knowledge and understanding beyond the immediate and the familiar, and to nurture a disposition for compassion and action globally.

Phenomenological Approach

Phenomenology is one of many types of qualitative research that examines the lived experiences of humans. Phenomenological researchers hope to gain understanding of the essential "truths" (i.e. essences) of the lived experience. In this context, phenomenological approach focuses on verbal and cultural interactions between teachers and students in schools. This continuous interaction and friction between teacher-student interactions has to be not only interpreted, but also defined in a situated context (Allan, 2007).

The father of phenomenology frequently is cited as Edmund Husserl. Husserl was a German philosopher as well as a mathematician (Byrne, 2001). He further explains that, phenomenological research is frequently inductive or qualitative methods involve transcribing material (usually interview transcripts), coding data into themes, and drawing conclusions regarding the phenomena based on these themes. It is incumbent upon researchers to seek methods that fit with the philosophy and methodology of their research question and to choose methods congruent with the research topic and assumptions. Byrne assures that this approach have different phases and throughout these phases one must have a spirit of receptivity and a readiness for the experience of interpretation and definition of a culturally interactive situation as well as an understanding of one's own biases. "The methodological process is subjective-objective and intuitive-analytic; more specifically, the method entails an intuitive grasp of the phenomenon, analytic examination of its occurrences, synthesis, and description." This process may or may not be linear, in that, this process may occur simultaneously or in any order in any time frame (Byrne et al.).

Colonialism & post-colonialism theory

For colonialism this involved two aspects of the same process: the destruction or deliberate devaluing of a people's culture, their art, dances, religions, history, geography, education, literature, and the conscious elevation of the language of the colonizer (Thiongo'o, 1986, p. 16). The fashionable discourse on multiculturalism and identity seems to be a characteristic feature of what is described as the post-modern and postcolonial condition (Docker & Fischer, 1997). More terms of this discourse has developed such as hybridity, globalization, ethnic identity and diaspora at the end of the 20th century (Docker et al.). The reason of the great interest to such discourse might be the result of the new international relations paradigm, such as the continuing process of decolonization, renegotiation, globalization, and normalization. All these aspects participate in a new global migration pattern. Unfortunately, that tendency towards globalizing economy and politics brought together new concepts of diaspora and identity loss. The reason is when globalization originated it brought the Western views and ideologies. According to Sampatkumar (2007), the West used globalization as the “vehicle to spread Western values to the rest of the world;” hence, globalization became the modern form of colonization. According to Docker & Fischer (1997), in the late 20th century with the dramatic developments like the “implosive disappearance of the “Soviet Empire;” along with the failure of its economic system, a new path of a one world economy of capitalists based on unparalleled world exchange had begun; i.e. the free mobility of capital, services, people, signs, information, and ideas.

Looking at the above synopsis of the historical development of globalization we can realize that it brought together some overlapping and unresolved contradictions; for example, colonial versus postcolonial, old settlers versus new settlers, indigenous people versus invaders, majority versus a great number of minorities, and white against black. All these contradictions brought together the strive for cultural and ethnic understanding among the different groups in order to be able to integrate as global citizens. We need this in order to minimize the ongoing friction of communities facing the globalization concept of “survival of the fittest.” By global citizens I mean those who act and interact as being not only belonging to a certain country or to a certain ethnic group, but as members of a universal human beings’ “league” (Sampatkumar, 2007).

Social identity theory

Social Identity Theory was developed by Tajfel and Turner in 1979. The theory was originally developed to understand the psychological basis of intergroup discrimination. Tajfel et al (1971) attempted to identify the minimal conditions that would lead members of one group to discriminate in favor of the in-group to which they belonged and against another out-group.

In the Social Identity Theory, a person has not one, “personal self”, but rather several selves that correspond to widening circles of group membership. Different social contexts may trigger an individual to think, feel and act on basis of his personal, family or national “level of self” (Turner et al, 1987). Apart from the “level of self”, an individual has multiple “social identities”. Social identity is the individual’s self-concept derived from perceived membership of social groups (Hogg & Vaughan, 2002). In other words, it is an individual-based perception of what defines the “us” associated with any internalized group membership. This can be distinguished from the notion of personal identity which refers to self-knowledge that derives from the individual’s unique attributes.

Social Identity Theory asserts that group membership creates in-group/ self-categorization and enhancement in ways that favor the in-group at the expense of the out-group. The examples (minimal group studies) of Turner and Tajfel (1986) showed that the mere act of individuals categorizing themselves as group members was sufficient to lead them to display in-group favoritism. After being categorized of a group membership, individuals seek to achieve positive self-esteem by positively differentiating their in-group from a comparison out-group on some valued dimension. This quest for positive distinctiveness means that people’s sense of who they are is defined in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.

Tajfel and Turner (1979) identify three variables whose contribution to the emergence of in-group favoritism is particularly important. (a) The extent to which individuals identify with an in-group to internalize that group membership as an aspect of their self-concept. (b) The extent to which the prevailing context provides ground for comparison between groups. (c) The perceived relevance of the comparison group, which itself will be shaped by the relative and absolute status of the in-group. Individuals are likely to display favoritism when an in-group is central to their self-definition and a given comparison is meaningful or the outcome is contestable.

In looking at the identity from a psychological point of view, striving for a unified and integrated sense of self may facilitate the definition of personal goals and the sense of direction (Giles, Taylor, Lambert, & Albert, 1976). The search for identity is a persistent topic in our society and is used in many ways to account for various social occurrences. Many different definitions exist to help explain what identity is. According to Cobb (1995), identity is a central aspect of the healthy personality, reflecting both an inner sense of continuity and sameness over time. Identity is an ability to connect with others and share in common goals, to participate in one’s culture (Cobb). Erik Erickson, a leading figure in psychoanalysis, defined identity as an “objective sense of an invigorating sameness and continuity,” as well as a “sense of feeling active and alive.” Identity formation is accomplished by selecting values, release, and concepts that better define our sense of self (Adams, Gullotta, & Montemayor, 1992, p. 2).


As we have discussed throughout the course work, teachers need "global" knowledge about the world in general as well as content specific to the subjects they teach. For example, a language arts teacher should not only studies literature from diverse cultures in different world regions but also learns about the historical contexts and cultural/political perspectives from which the authors wrote. Teacher educators work with colleagues in other disciplines to identify academic coursework in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences so that pre-service teachers have adequate foundational knowledge and in-service teachers have access to new, emerging knowledge in their fields (Merryfield & Remy, 1995).

Moreover, I have learned that content and experiences in global and international education need to be infused throughout teacher education programs. Field experiences, internships, and sites for school/university collaboration are structured so that pre-service teachers work with talented global educators. Courses in foundations, technology, and methods help teachers examine conceptualizations, cases, instructional strategies, curriculum development, interdisciplinary approaches, and assessments in global education. Research courses include relevant studies, literature, and opportunities for action research. Pre-service and in-service programs set aside time for teachers and teacher educators to reflect, experiment, and share ideas and experiences with colleagues (Merryfield, 1995; Tye & Tye, 1992).

Influenced by EDUC 853 course work and materials, I would like to initiate some research papers, using the proposal paper created in this course, to presume and expand in the idea of cross-cultural and identity formation experiences at home and abroad as significant parts of global and international education. Study tours, student and faculty exchanges, semesters abroad, work with international students in American universities and schools, and student teaching in other countries or within different cultures in the United States are some of the ways teacher educators build cross-cultural knowledge, develop skills in cross-cultural communication, and motivate teachers to teach from a global perspective (Gilliom, 1993; Wilson, 1982). Simulations (experiences at the secondary and elementary levels in understanding and communicating in another culture) contribute to cross-cultural understanding by helping teachers develop insights into the process of understanding cultural perceptions and the relationship between instructional methods and learning outcomes in global education (levy, 2006).

I would like to prove the fact that global and multicultural education overlap in their goals to develop multiple perspectives and multiple loyalties, strengthen cultural consciousness and intercultural competence, respect human dignity and human rights, and combat prejudice and discrimination (Bennett, 1994). Global and peace education also share common concerns over issues such as human rights, self-determination, international conflict management, and conflict resolution. Teacher educators help teachers plan instruction that integrates global and multicultural and peace education.


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