While mainstream approaches to internationalization abound, and while critical internationalization approaches seek to upend dominant paradigms, the field of international education has made less explicit room for “middle ways” based in constructivist pedagogy and frameworks. 

Inspired by early twentieth century educational pioneers, “constructivist” theories of knowledge and learning focus on the joint making of knowledge, reflective experiential learning, the social nature of knowledge, project-based learning, collaboration, and problem solving. Major theorists of constructivism include John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Maria Montessori.

In one sense, the field of global education owes its foundations to constructivist theories. Early international education organizations, such as the Experiment in International Living, drew heavily on the work of Dewey and other progressive educators. Many intercultural theories, such as the intercultural development movements and Intercultural Development Inventory, also relied on constructivist methodology. In “internationalization” discourse, however, constructivism is rarely mentioned, despite rhetorical emphasis on collaboration, reflection, student-centeredness, and holism.

Resources and Further Reading

GlobalEd Feature Essay: Intercultural Learning Design

Gregersen-Hermans, J. (2021). Toward a Curriculum for the Future: Synthesizing Education for Sustainable Development and Internationalization of the CurriculumJournal of Studies in International Education25(4), 461–481.

Plough, I. C. (2016). Cultures & Languages across the Curriculum: Strengthening Intercultural Competence & Advancing InternationalizationMulticultural Education23(2), 46-51.

Anh, D. T. K., & Marginson, S. (2013). Global learning through the lens of Vygotskian sociocultural theoryCritical Studies in Education54(2), 143-159.


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