WHAT MAKES A MOBILITY CHAMPION? QUALITATIVE INSIGHTS ON TEACHERS' MOBILITY EXPERIENCES

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Teachers' mobility is one of the facets of Higher Education Institutions internationalization, and despite its importance in implementing the program's purposes it is still disregarded by researchers, with most mobility studies focusing on
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  WHAT MAKES A MOBILITY CHAMPION? QUALITATIVE INSIGHTS ON TEACHERS’ MOBILITY EXPERIENCES Belem Barbosa 1 , Claudia Amaral Santos 2 , Sandra Filipe 1 , Margarida M. Pinheiro 3 , Dora Simões 4 , Gonçalo Paiva Dias 5   1  Aveiro Institute of Accounting and Administration, University of Aveiro (ISCA-UA) and GOVCOPP Research Unit on Governance, Competitiveness and Public Policies (PORTUGAL) 2   Aveiro Institute of Accounting and Administration, University of Aveiro (ISCA-UA) and CLLC Languages, Literatures and Cultures Research Centre (PORTUGAL) 3  Aveiro Institute of Accounting and Administration, University of Aveiro (ISCA-UA) and CIDTFF Research Centre Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers (PORTUGAL) 4  Aveiro Institute of Accounting and Administration, University of Aveiro (ISCA-UA) and CIC.DIGITAL/Digimedia - Digital Media and Interaction (PORTUGAL) 5   Águeda School of Technology and Management, University of Aveiro (ESTGA-UA) and GOVCOPP Research Unit on Governance, Competitiveness and Public Policies (PORTUGAL) Abstract Teachers’ mobility is one of the facets of Higher Education Institutions internationalization, and despite its importance in implementing the program's purposes it is still disregarded by researchers, with most mobility studies focusing on students. This research concentrates on highly active mobility teachers and aims to delve into their experiences, namely by identifying facilitators and goals for this repeated internationalization and by analyzing the outcomes of these initiatives in their personal lives, professional activity, home and host students, and for their Universities as a whole. This study adopts a qualitative exploratory approach. Having as sample universe the teachers of one Portuguese University that in a 7-year period (2009-2016) engaged in mobility experiences under the Erasmus program (N = 107), 8 were identified as having the highest number of initiatives and were invited to participate in this study. From these mobility champions, 5 accepted, resulting in 5 phenomenological interviews. Data was collected in January 2017. The participants shared an integrated view of the Erasmus mobility, being essential for its success the additional opportunities of joint research and the strengthening of international relationships and networks. Prior relations with teachers from the host University and ongoing research projects stood out among the facilitators. The opportunity to observe and get to know other cultural settings was also mentioned as one determinant stimulus. Still, the outcomes in terms of teaching methodologies and best practices as well an effective impact in home students seemed residual. Moreover, the ability to encourage other teachers to join the program was very limited, often confined to close colleagues and research partners. Despite its exploratory nature, this study demonstrates the relevance of further research on mobility champions to assess the success and possible pitfalls of repeated mobility experiences in terms of extended institutional outcomes and well as individual gratification of the teachers involved. Based on the results, we suggest the consideration of a wider set of outcomes in the appraisal of mobility initiatives, as well as the widespread of champions’ insights on the topic in order to motivate inexperienced teachers to embrace internationalization. Hopefully this paper is able to inspire not only research but also teaching mobility initiatives. Keywords: Teacher Mobility, Higher Education Institutions, Erasmus Mobility Program, Mobility Champions. 1 INTRODUCTION The goal of internationalization has been widely adopted by Higher Education Institutions (HEI) across the globe. Erasmus is the most successful mobility program ever launched by the European Proceedings of EDULEARN17 Conference 3rd-5th July 2017, Barcelona, SpainISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4 7551  Commission, aiming to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, the proliferation of academic best practices, and, most especially, to the promotion of overall mobility, cooperation and integration of European citizens. Teachers’ mobility is one of the facets of HEI’s internationalization, and despite its importance in implementing the program's purposes it is still disregarded by researchers, with most mobility studies focusing on students. Extant literature [e.g., 1, 2] emphasizes that while most teachers do not seem willing to join mobility programs, others are champions of participation with repeated experiences in teaching assignments. Several authors [e.g., 3, 4] stress that further research is needed in order to develop effective strategies and maximize the outcomes of teaching mobility. Based on this research opportunity, this paper aims to contribute to the understanding of the factors associated with successful examples in terms of Erasmus teaching mobility - the mobility champions - and to identify their assessment of mobility achievements. As Sanderson [5] emphasizes, teachers represent one of the essential dimensions of HEI’s internationalization process. Indeed, teaching mobility is indispensable to help students develop international skills [4-6] and to enhance students’ academic experience [2], while simultaneously benefiting research cooperation and improvement of teaching methodologies. In this paper we review the main contributions in the literature regarding teaching mobility, and we present results of a qualitative study with five mobility champions from one Portuguese university. Conclusions include remarks on teachers' perceptions of the mobility process, as well as managerial implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research. 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Knight [7] proposed a definition of HEI’s internationalization as “ the process of integrating an international/intercultural dimension into the teaching, research and service functions of the institution ”, that was later updated to “ the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education ” [8]. As Sanderson [4] emphasizes, Knight’s definition centers the process on the institution, viewing internationalization as a response of the HEI, whereas a more effective approach should be focused on the dynamics of the process, and thus on the interactive roles of students, teachers and institutions. More recently, Jones [2] defined the integration of internationalization as “ developing the culture, attitudes and practices that enable international and cross-cultural perspectives and approaches to permeate all aspects of university life ”.  According to Sanderson [5], the scope of internationalization includes two institutional levels - the individual and the faculty/department - that participate as key actors in its dynamics and outcomes, being the mobility champions especially important to the accomplishment of HEI’sinternationalization mission. In fact, one general aspect of teaching mobility is that it does not attract all teachers, as the majority has never participated in mobility activities, while only a reduced number of academics are frequent partakers. Kinsella and colleagues [1] refer that mobility champions have a passion for and commitment to mobility initiatives. Pinheiro and colleagues [3] suggest that champions’ mobility initiatives are frequently more associated with research goals than with developing teaching methodologies and curricula and thus not impacting home students. Still, the expected outcomes of HEI’s internationalization include promoting excellence in research and teaching and developing partnerships with similar universities [2], as well as contributing to students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes that are required to succeed in the globalized environment [4], especially by fostering and conveying international awareness to non-mobile students [6]. Amongst the perceived benefits of mobility are breaking routine [9] and improving teaching methodologies [6, 9], extending the research network [6], challenging one’s courage and gaining a more open attitude [10]. Engagement in former international positions or the existence of a past experience of international cooperation, seem to be clear facilitators of the process. Similarly, personal traits, such as interest for other cultures, are considered important triggers to embark in a mobility experience [11]. The main obstacles to teaching mobility referred by Enders and Teichler [6] include insufficient financial support, difficulty in replacing classes, the high workload resulting from class preparation abroad, as well as interrupting agenda and institutional commitments. The fact that traveling to other country can be easily associated with leisure, may promote among mobility teachers the feeling that colleagues would not take their initiative seriously, resulting in no condescendence with the workload to be done at home, and causing tiredness, anxiety and uncertainty [11]. Another frequently mentioned hindrance is language constraints [12], since many are not prepared to teach in English.  Also, the sense that their areas of research are not sufficiently attractive together with lack of information on the program, contribute to a negative feeling associated to mobility, making it 7552  imperative to inform and correctly clarify teachers with no international experience on the value and impact of mobility programs for HEI's dynamics [2]. 3 METHODOLOGY This study adopts a qualitative exploratory approach. Having as sample universe the teachers of one Portuguese University (N = 107) that in a 7-year period (2009-2016) engaged in mobility experiences under the Erasmus program, 8 were identified as having the highest number of initiatives (2 with 5, 2 with 4, and 4 with 3 mobility experiences) and were invited to participate in this study. From these mobility champions, 5 accepted (Table 1). Table 1. Characterization of the participants   Thus, five unstructured phenomenological interviews were conducted in order to gain an insight into the interviewees’ points of view and personal experiences, in a detailed and spontaneous analysis of the theme. At the beginning of each interview participants were asked to share their experience on Erasmus mobility. When appropriate, the interviewers requested additional information in order to add greater detail about the phenomenon under study. The recorded Interviews had an average duration of 55 minutes. Data was collected in January 2017. 4 RESULTS The starting point of all interviews was how the mobility experiences started, and the narrations naturally flowed to facilitators, success factors, and outcomes of the mobility initiatives. Although mobility was regarded as a natural event in the professional careers of the participants, several factors were determinant to initiating and repeating the experiences, combining personal, institutional, and interpersonal aspects. 4.1 Mobility facilitators 4.1.1 Erasmus mobility mechanisms and networks When recalling the first mobility experiences, one recurrent theme was the existence of a previous contact with a teacher from the hosting institution, provided by events such as participation in conferences or a prior visit of a foreign teacher to the home institution. This interpersonal influence was restricted to international peers, as champions did not recognize their department peers as mobility influencers. Champion1 explained that her mobility experiences “ started always with a  previous personal contact. (  !  ) It all starts with a conference, with a personal contact between teachers of two universities ”. Other participants mentioned that the starting point was an Erasmus visit done by a foreign colleague that they had hosted, as the case of Champion4: “actually I was invited by a colleague who had been here three or four times, and I went there to give some lectures".  Personal contacts are complemented by institutional incentives, either in the form of grant announcements or through the work of Erasmus coordinating staff that often promote opportunities and provide lists of agreements with partner HEIs. In the case of Champion5, his first mobility initiative happened after a visit of foreign teachers that culminated with the signature of a mobility agreement between the two HEIs. The agreement was the motto for him to contact the teachers he had met telling that he would like to visit them back. In fact, the existence of an agreement between the two institutions is an important facilitator of mobility initiatives. On the one hand, it expedites the application process, and on the other it provides a network of potential partners with whom it is easier "#$%&'&(#)%   *+),+$   -+)&.$&%/   0123+$ .4 5$#6216 2.3&7&%/   &)&%&#%&8+6   0#%&.)#7&%/   9:#2(&.);   <+2#7+   =)%+$2+,&#%+   >   ?%:+$   9:#2(&.)@   <+2#7+   -+)&.$   A   ?%:+$   9:#2(&.)A   B#7+   -+)&.$   A   ".$%1C1+6+   9:#2(&.)>   <+2#7+   =)%+$2+,&#%+   A   ".$%1C1+6+   9:#2(&.)D   B#7+ =)%+$2+,&#%+   >   Other    7553  to initiate an interaction, in case the mobility candidate does not have personal contacts on the intended hosts. As Champion3 explained: “I'm not an Erasmus coordinator and do not have contacts with the network, I'm not involved in any network. What I did was to take a look at a couple of PDFs from my University rectory and have an idea of the Universities we have agreements with, sort of auditing the number of students and so on... Fact is, I had a target which was to do mobility with much stronger universities [in my scientific field]... so I sent [the application to several partner universities]..." 4.1.2 International experience beyond the Erasmus program The mobility champions that participated in this study exhibited an international profile that was much wider than the Erasmus mobility program. They had extensive experience in international conferences, international research teams, and in receiving visits from foreign teachers. Champion4 explained in detail: “You see, my experience with international mobility and international meetings is not new (  !  ) [Professionally, I] have always participated in international meetings, and even  projects with other universities. (  !  ) I don't know if that's because at international level I've always been invited to several conferences and meetings, it's not an isolated thing that I do during the year, it's part of my working plan. I think it works that way." Thus, this prior international experience in the professional activity helps to overcome fears associated with mobility. According to Champion2: “It helps. It helps because we're also not afraid to travel (...) because we participate in conferences and have to travel. It eases things up, the more experience we have, the easier it gets... specially if you're going to the same country, it's easier..." 4.1.3 Personal profile  Amongst the personal characteristics highlighted by the interviewees as mobility facilitators are their international profiles, either familiar or academic, their adventurous personality and their traveling abroad experience, “ You have to have a certain spirit of adventure and really enjoy traveling and get to know other things ” (Champion5), “I travel a lot. I normally attend many conferences and do a lot of scientific work”   (Champion2). Other personality aspects that champions related to mobility experience were curiosity, the need to interrupt routines, and the need of challenges. Champion1 commented: “The Erasmus mobility program is something voluntary, you go because you want to... so... that is part of your spirit and in my case I like challenges. (...)That puts your characteristics under pressure and it's a challenge you should enjoy. It's never easy, but... that's the idea, and I start dying in a routine environment, you start feeling down and need a change, a variation, and these are the sockets that charge my energy again. Moreover, some participants also referred their personal international background, including having been born in a country different from the home university, or completing part of their university studies abroad. These two aspects provide an international profile, the necessary language skills and an international network that were determinant to the mobility experience. 4.2 Champions’ goals The mobility champions that participated in this study agreed that the set of goals they defined for their mobility initiatives are wide, comprising teaching, research, institutional and personal aspects (Table 2). 7554  Table 2. Mobility goals   Personal Teaching Research Institutional Challenge comfort zone Teaching in foreign HEIs International network  Attracting international students Breaking routines Teaching in top HEI  Attracting researchers Creating and maintaining bilateral agreements Cultural experience Learning from partners' practices Specializing in area of interest Scientific publications Joint supervision Facilitating student mobility Developing innovative methodologies First of all, with their mobility initiatives they wish to foster research collaboration with peers and joint supervision of research done by host university students. According to Champion4, combining teaching and researching objectives is beneficial as it maximizes the efforts and relates to the dual nature of university teachers’ profession: "I also have that objective. (  !  ) For me, yes, I don't know if that happens with the other colleagues, but with me it has happened...because I think that since we are using public funding or community funding, I think we should also see that as an investment and maximize it, right? (...) I believe that's something to consider (...) because it's our  profession and I see things that way  ! " Participants also mentioned the importance of presenting their home university and attracting mobility students. One of the interviewees (Champion1) proposed the number of students attracted as the main measure of success for the mobility initiatives, and Champion2 also underlines that fact: “Through these mobilities (  !  ) [we have the] the possibility of attracting students, because that's important... I hope it's important... (...) we receive [Erasmus] students (...) students can return and do their PhDs here..., in [my scientific field]. That's the most important to us...”  Another relevant aspect for several participants in this study was the opportunity to teach themes of their interest that they do not teach at their home institution, as mentioned by Champion4: “[What I teach on mobility] has to do with my academic field, it has to do with research, but it's different from what I teach here (...) it has been different and I think that's even better, because it has allowed me to present other content that here I would not have the opportunity to teach, yes... and in other situations I have given PhD lectures and here we don't have doctorate degree [in my academic field] so it has been an opportunity also in that sense.” 4.3 Mobility strategies The first mobility experiences were characterized as satisfactory, but not without flaws, depending on the goals and expectations each of the interviewees defined. Unexperienced champions started with a straightforward strategy encompassing a lecture about their research topic or presenting a journal article, and teaching a subject matter of their expertise. Our results highlight the importance of developing a mobility strategy during the first mobility experiences as a major factor of champions’ success. Clearly, these teachers wanted a greater impact from their international classes. They meant to attract followers to their research interest, which was not fully accomplished with their first mobility 7555
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