WHAT DOES RESEARCH HAVE TO DO WITH BUILDING CAREERS IN INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION?

Michael is a longtime colleague whose views on the role and function of research not only make sense but seem compelling to me – MJT

Guest blog By Michael Smithee

President, SmitheeAssociates

Website:  http://smitheeassociates.com/

 

Research rather than opinion

Twenty years ago, advancing knowledge in the field of international education was in a nascent stage.  There were very few journals and books that spoke to issues embedded in the field of  international education.  Internationalization was a term that often drew quizzical looks from administrators.  At that time, if one asked if their institution was internationalized, it would depend greatly on who was asked.  At that time, it was difficult for practitioners to be acknowledged that they had something to say; that they should be accorded a place at the table in the discussions about the focus of university’s international dimensions.

Today, no matter where you work in the field of international education, you will find many people making decisions based on personal experience, gut feelings, so called experts, and consultants.  This covers a wide range of supportive decision-making.  Yet, what has been lost is the necessity for decisions to be evidentiary and based upon the best researchable evidence.  This evidentiary basis for decision-making is rooted in good research.  It is the collecting of data or a measurement or a process based upon what you want to accomplish; rather than simply using someone’s opinion. It’s easy to look at statistical studies (which can be biased) and repeat or report them because it is easy to do so.  Without investigating the assumptions made as the basis for collecting the data, one may be repeating inaccurate information.

Research can advance careers

If you are just starting out in your search for a job, or if you have a job and find the need to transition, then heed this:  research is a basic component of the role of the international educator.

Because the mobility of students around the world has continually increased over the past 10 years and, because U.S. and institutions abroad have invested resources in making the international component/dimension of their institution more visible, critics, thinkers, and practitioners in the field are now considering research as an important part of the internationalization process (but perhaps not in the ways they think).  For example, faculty conducting research in their disciplines cross borders to do so and contribute important global scholarship to their institutions.  On the other side of the coin are policy-makers and practitioners who need to collaborate more on the research basis for decisions made on behalf of their institution’s international dimensions (See Rumbley, University World News, #364).

You will likely not find research in the job descriptions you read.  Still, you should prepare yourself to establish that you have the ability to conduct, support, engage in research that answers questions

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