Professional Development by the Middle East Studies Center (MESC)
The purpose of the MESC training program is to engage, inform and train teachers at every level in specific pedagogy and substantive knowledge for changing students' thinking about and increasing their understanding of the Middle East. This includes pedagogy for cultural awareness development pedagogy, social justice consciousness, and related skills and understanding for discussing issues pertaining to the area in an informed and sensitive manner. The reason we focus on teachers, whether P-12 or at the collegiate level, is that they provide a multiplying effect for impact as they teach many students over the years. Thus, we provide courses, professional development opportunities and resources for classroom teachers, as well as others who want to teach. These include:
- Summer institutes and other courses,
- Short-term workshops,
- Year-long lecture series, and
- Trips to the Middle East or field trips in the U.S
- Online discussions with global education scholars in the US and Turkey
- Other Training Opportunities
The communities start there, and are strengthened through continued support, online conversations, and membership in national professional organizations, such as the Middle East Outreach Council. As a part of each of these activities, instructional materials are produced and published in a professional manner for all to access online.
We train individuals who are already professional teachers or who simply wish to share knowledge about the Middle East in the classroom. These exchanges also take place in public venues such as retirement homes, rotary club meetings, places of worship, etc. A major theme of the training is communication, and there is a focus on how it relates to teaching about The Middle East and diverse world areas. Certificates of completion will be awarded to those who complete either the Cultural Consultants training or the Diversity Mediator training.
Cultural Consultants are natives of North Africa, Turkey, West and Central Asia. They will visit classrooms, and sometimes other educational venues, such as libraries and learning areas in retirement communities, etc, to share their culture. Individuals are not expected to speak for an entire "culture." This is discouraged. However, sharing their own experiences and perspectives is an effective way to build on students' knowledge and make connections to the academic content of their presentations. Instructional materials are available through the Center as well as other support.
For those who are not natives of the Middle East, or natives who simply wish to deepen and broaden their knowledge of the region, the Center provides additional training and information. The Middle East presents considerable linguistic, ethnic, religious, and political diversity. Thus, combined with the wide array of identity factors encountered in Columbus, Ohio and the greater region, the major programmatic goal is a familiarity with the diversity and an ability to make connections to the experience of multiple groups. Individuals who successfully complete the program are called Diversity Mediators. They engage in the training program in order to gain knowledge and teach in culturally relevant ways, with particular emphasis on North Africa, Turkey, West and Central Asia. These participants in the training program will tend to be classroom teachers, trainers in companies, or conscientious employees that want to model cultural sensitivity and share knowledge of the world. They focus on a combination of knowledge for some degree of "insider" literacy, and pedagogy for sharing that knowledge.
Regardless of the track one chooses, this training program provides pedagogy and firm grounding for teaching about the Middle East, particularly in regard to communication. Transformative academic knowledge is emphasized (Banks,1996) at every level of our training program, with the goal of challenging stereotypes and increasing understanding and awareness of aspects that are "below the surface." This includes elements of "deep culture" such as beliefs and values, but it also includes economics and social divisions. There is a certificate of completion for both Cultural Consultants and Diversity Mediators. We have had one graduate thus far. A major goal of the program is that many of its graduates will present in P-12 classrooms to further extend the Center’s impact.
MESC will provide opportunities to put your new knowledge to work by presenting to various communities (particularly P-12 classrooms), which will help build your resume. These are the gateways to national networking, and we recommend joining the Middle East Outreach Council, a national organization of outreach professionals and educators focused on sharing knowledge of the Middle East widely and providing the highest quality content (insider literacy is one of the keys in our programs) to classrooms. We also encourage membership in the National Association of Multicultural Education (NAME), and the Middle East Studies Association (MESA).
To find out more about what an Outreach Professional is, read about Barb Petzen in this article in the Autumn 2011 issue of the OSU Middle East Studies Bulletin, p. 33.
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