Since receiving my Fulbright I have learned that there are two camps of people. There are those people who hear that I received a Fulbright and reply with, “You got a FULBRIGHT? Congratulations! That is amazing! That is so prestigious!” and those who reply with, “What’s Fulbright?” So, I’d like to start off by explaining what Fulbright is and what exactly I’ll be doing.
What is Fulbright?
In 1945, Senator J. William Fulbright wrote a bill asking the US government to use the sales of surplus war property to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.” In 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the bill into law. As a result, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government with the intent to increase mutual understanding between citizens of the United States and citizens of other countries.
It is estimated that 8,000 merit-based grants are given a year giving participants in a wide variety of disciplines the opportunity to study, teach, or conduct research in another country.
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This year, I am one of 38 US teachers who received a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. This award began in 2009 and aims to promote mutual understanding between teachers, their schools, and their communities in the US and abroad. It gives K-12 educators the opportunity to do practical research abroad in the form of an inquiry project, audit classes at a university in their host countries, lead classes and seminars, and collaborate with educators worldwide.
What This Means
This means that I will only be teaching for the fall semester this year. In January, I will be traveling to Wellington, New Zealand for five months where I will audit classes at Victoria University of Wellington and visit local schools in order to conduct research on education in New Zealand.
My Inquiry Project
Each grantee is required to choose a research topic and complete an inquiry project while abroad. My research will be on special education inclusion with the goal of providing US schools with possible improvements to existing inclusion models that will enhance the progress of students with special needs.
I chose New Zealand for this research because in 2016 the Ministry of Education collaborated with schools, teachers, families, and the community to redesign special education from the ground up in an effort to improve inclusive education in their country. They call this the Learning Support Update and state that it aims to create a “world class inclusive education system.” The pilot program implemented a new service delivery model and produced positive results. Students with special needs received services faster and at younger ages. There was increased collaboration between stakeholders, and decision makers were given more flexibility to make the correct education choice for each student.
I plan on conducting research through interviews with education leaders and professionals, observations in schools, and surveys completed by stakeholders including families and community members. I hope to discover methods of improving the roles of stakeholders, collaboration, family/community involvement, and/or inclusion classroom structure. The end product will be a curriculum guide for a professional development workshop on ways to improve special education inclusion. I hope to create a workshop that will provide pragmatic solutions that can be immediately implemented in schools and classrooms. At least that is the plan. My project will evolve once I am abroad and actually in the schools.
Follow along on this blog to see how it all unfolds. 🙂