New certificate through School of Education prepares students to teach abroad

Many UW–Madison students dream of teaching internationally after they graduate — and a lot of students follow this path.

In 2020 UW–Madison ranked No. 1 among Peace Corps volunteer-producing colleges and universities in the U.S. The university has also been a leader in sending students to teach abroad through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program. In addition, UW–Madison has a large number of students who pursue international or global studies as part of their degree program and then pursue jobs or other opportunities around the globe.

But to be effective as a teacher in another country, you need more than a passport. You also need to be able to navigate different educational contexts, cultures, and pedagogical approaches.

A new undergraduate certificate program from the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction will equip students who are interested in teaching abroad to be successful in non-U.S. educational settings.  

Bernadette Baker

Launching this fall, the Certificate in Preparing to Teach Abroad will improve students’ understanding of the complexities involved in teaching outside the U.S. Bernadette Baker, the director of the program and a professor with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, explains that it is not a K-12 teacher certification program.

Instead, she says, “it’s more the art of asking about, how do we approach the process of teaching in a country other than where we grew up? What might we need to consider? What are the tools available, and what are the ethical and political considerations we need to think about? What are practical strategies we can use?”

Students who pursue this pathway will learn basic principles of culturally responsive lesson design, teaching techniques, and strategies of reflection and modification. 

To earn the certificate, students must complete a minimum of 15 credits, consisting of three required courses including a capstone course, and six credits of electives. Electives include a broad selection of courses across the College of Letters and Science and the School of Education, as well as study abroad experiences. The program is designed to be flexible to allow students to focus on their interests, including where and in what setting they want to teach.

“We’ve built in flexibility for students to be able to take a big-picture look, and then to drill down for their capstone to really get at where their interests are,” says Baker.

All UW–Madison undergraduate students — across all majors — are eligible to complete the certificate. Baker says she believes the program will be a wonderful niche for students who are interested in exploring job opportunities abroad.

“I think we’re providing students with a real bridge and an onramp to thinking about the complexities — and also the joys and relationship building — that come with working across borders, and working in a context that teaches you about yourself and others in a dynamic setting,” says Baker. “I’m really proud of our department for supporting this and making this opportunity available to so many people.”

Learn more about the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s Certificate in Preparing to Teach Abroad.

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