Visiting Scholar at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA: An Inspiring Experience

In this report by visiting scholar Reinhard Bauer, University College of Teacher Education Vienna (PH Wien), Department for Interdisciplinary Education (IBS), Center for Educational Technology and Innovation (ZLI), he reports on his exciting, inspiring and informative trip across the Atlantic Ocean to the University of New Mexico (UNM) from October 22th to October 26th, 2018.

The purpose of my stay was to intensify the links between the PH Wien and the UNM, especially the UNM College of Education (COE), in order to plan further steps of cooperation between the two institutions. To this end, I met with a large number of the UNM staff. In a general sense, it was a unique combination of science, technology, business, and art, i.e., a kind of „short-term holistic brain inspiration“.
In my one-week visit to UNM I met my hosts Dr. Deborah Rifenbary, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Faculty Development and coordinator of the Stars Assistant Program, and Dr. Paul Edmunds, Director of the Center for English Language & American Culture (CELAC), with whom I had very exciting discussions on international student exchange programs, foreign language learning, and the role educational technology plays on both issues. We also discussed possible lines of research and publication concerning the Stars Program.

UNM School of EducationUNM Student Union Building

  UNM School of Education                                                                     UNM Student Union Building

During this academic exchange, I also met with Dr. Anne Campton, Associate Director of the Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS), who is interested in higher education learning centers as places that promote social justice and equity in education, and Dr. Kimberly A. Fournier, Associate Director for the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), who has experience implementing numerous pedagogical techniques aimed at promoting meaningful learning (flipped classroom, active learning activities, metacognitive reflection) and innovative assessments (collaborative, two-stage exams) in a large enrollment, high-risk course. These meetings were particularly fruitful as I gained a lot of insight about the inner workings of CAPS, an award-winning learning assistance program available to all UNM students enrolled in undergraduate classes, and CTE, that supports faculty as they cultivate engagement, equity, and learning in their classrooms.

Another item on the agenda was my stay at the La Mesa Elementary School, a multilingual (English, Spanish, Navajo, Swahili, among others) community school in Albuquerque that serves approximately 750 students in grades Prekindergarten to 5th. La Mesa Elementary is in partnership with the University of New Mexico’s TECLA program – Teacher Education Collaborative in Language Diversity and Arts Integration. The goal of this partnership is to incorporate art and literature into every aspect of the curriculum without sacrificing any common core learning. On our arrival, Dr. Rifenbary and I listend to the La Mesa Pop Choir. Conceptualized and directed by Dr. Leila Flores-Dueñas, associate professor of elementary education at the Teacher Education Department of the UNM, La Mesa Pop Choir was created to foster language, literacy learning, and to create a space for personal introspection and expression.

Dr. Rebecca Sánchez, Associate Professor in Teacher Education and Educational Leadership and Policy, is a TECLA coordinator at the COE. She explained the project “Bring a Book to Life Performance and Mural to Dr. Rifenbary and me. In this project the students explored the theme of migration. Therefore TECLA faculty collaborated with classroom teachers and curated a library of 50 books addressing migration. During professional development experiences, cooperating teachers worked with their student teachers to select a book. The book became central to design a tile mosaic mural. Dr. Sánchez stated that for students, these murals are more than what meets the eye. Behind each individual piece are images that represent personal experiences, struggles within the community and history lessons on issues like slavery and immigration. You just have to see the murals that decorate the courtyard of La Mesa Elementary: They are gorgeous!

After our visit to the murals, I met a group of student teachers and their professors Amy Sweet (arts educator) and Dr. Eileen Waldschmidt. We had interesting discussions on media literacy, the importance of personal reflection, and the use of electronic portfolios, among other topics. The teacher students told me that – in keeping with the principles of performance-based assessment – they create their own websites to collect evidence of their best work in the TECLA program.

La Mesa Elementary SchoolCourtyard Mural

   La Mesa Elementary School                                                                Courtyard Mural

Overall, my time as visiting scholar was very fruitful as I could meet relevant professionals and inspiring scholars, with whom I engaged in revealing conversations about educational patterns, digital portfolios, social video learning, and the general role of educational technology in teaching, and the need to promote, research and teach its methods.

I want to thank the faculty of the UNM College of Education (COE) and the Center for English Language & American Culture (CELAC) of the University of New Mexico, especially Dr. Deborah Rifenbary and Dr. Paul Edmunds for their very warm welcome and the inspiring visit. I am also very grateful to the International Office of the University College of Teacher Education Vienna for giving me the opportunity to visit the UNM, especially Renate Hanisch, Stars Assistant Program Coordinator of the Austrian-American Educational Cooperation Association (AAECA), and Dr. Thomas Bauer, PH Wien, Head of the International Office.

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Mag. Dr. Reinhard Bauer, MA

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