Promoting Intercultural Competence in Professional Spaces

Education Abroad Experiences in England for Social Studies Pre-Service Teachers


  • Ian M. McGregor University of Connecticut
  • Alan S. Marcus University of Connecticut
  • David M. Moss University of Connecticut


Education abroad, Social studies education, Intercultural competence, Ethnorelative, Pre-service teachers


This article presents a qualitative case study of U.S. social studies pre-service teachers (PSTs) interning in England. We explore how these experiences influence their teaching and their orientation towards culture and cultural difference, and how the structure of education abroad programs are designed to support growth in cultural competence and orientations towards teaching history. Participants are enrolled in a teacher education program that affords social studies PSTs an opportunity to study abroad in England post-student teaching. For this study the developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS) provided the conceptual frame to explore intercultural competence as it presents a continuum of ethnocentric to ethnorelative perspectives (Hammer & Bennett, 2003). Using this conceptual framework, data were collected from 32 social studies PSTs representing three annual cohorts who participated in the education abroad program from 2015-2017. Data from weekly student journals were captured and qualitatively analyzed. Participants wrote journal entries prior to departure, while abroad, and upon reentry to the United States in response to instructor generated prompts. Three broad themes emerged across the data: (1) living and interning in English society challenged facets of PSTs’ cultural identity and professional practices, (2) PSTs more critically examined their orientation towards social studies education as a discipline, and (3) PSTs expanded their awareness of broader educational issues and concerns. Implications offer insight to how education abroad programs impact pre-service social studies teachers’ pedagogical practices.

Author Biographies

Ian M. McGregor, University of Connecticut

Ian M. McGregor is a doctoral candidate in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut. Prior to attending UConn, he was a high school social studies teacher in Louisiana. His current research explores how teachers and students conceptualize citizenship in human rights education. He is also researching the social and emotional outcomes of human rights education in collaboration with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the use of virtual interactive technologies in Holocaust museum education in collaboration with the UK National Holocaust Centre and Museum. His teaching focus is on teaching difficult histories and global citizenship.

Alan S. Marcus, University of Connecticut

Alan S. Marcus is an associate professor in the department of curriculum and instruction and a University of Connecticut teaching fellow. His scholarship and teaching focus on history museum education and teaching history with film, with an emphasis on World War II and the Holocaust. He collaborates with museum educators across the United States and internationally, is a faculty fellow for the Holocaust Institute for Teacher Educations at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and runs an education abroad program for pre-service teachers in Nottingham, England. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University in curriculum and teacher education. Prior to attending Stanford, he taught high school social studies in Georgia. He is a co-author of Teaching History with Museums: Strategies for K-12 Social Studies (Routledge, 2017) and Teaching History with Film: Strategies for Secondary Social Studies (Routledge, 2010), and co-editor of Teaching Difficult History Through Film (Routledge, 2017). He is the past president of the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies and most recently was a lead writer for the State of Connecticut Social Studies Frameworks. His current research is in collaboration with the UK National Holocaust Centre and Museum evaluating the potential and limitations of virtual interactive Holocaust survivor testimony.

David M. Moss, University of Connecticut

David M. Moss, Ph.D., is an associate professor and the director of global education on the faculty of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. Specializing in curriculum studies and internationalizing U.S. teacher education, his current research interests are in the areas of education abroad program design and assessment and culturally sustaining pedagogies. As a scholar, he has published numerous articles and reform-minded books, including Preparing Classroom Teachers to Succeed with Second Language Learners (Routledge, 2014); Reforming Legal Education: Law Schools at the Crossroads (IAP, 2012); Critical Essays on Resistance in Education (Peter Lang, 2010); Interdisciplinary Education in an Age of Assessment (Routledge, 2008); Portrait of a Profession: Teachers and Teaching in the 21st Century (Praeger, 2005, 2008); and Beyond the Boundaries: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Learning and Teaching (Praeger, 2003). He was named a teaching fellow at the university, the highest honor awarded for instructional excellence and leadership. He has also served as a keynote and featured speaker at scholarly societies, universities, and national/international conferences. He has extensive curriculum development and assessment experience and directs the Neag School of Education London study abroad program.