What can educators at Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland learn from their counterparts 5,000 miles away at traditional public schools and public charter schools around Los Angeles – and vice versa?
Those answers will be gleaned from a collaboration between Loyola Marymount University’s School of Education and Queen’s University Belfast – an international exchange funded with a $55,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in London. The initiative paved the way for 17 local educators and policymakers from LAUSD, Youth Policy Institute, WISH Charter and Loyola Marymount University to visit classrooms in Northern Ireland in January; and it will fund a trip in April for Northern Ireland educators to visit Los Angeles and LMU.
The goal is to enable teachers and administrators to work together, exchange information and explore shared challenges, including: the logistics of school collaboration; support for special and inclusive education; and strategies for school improvement. The initiative will allow educators from Los Angeles’ diverse school network to examine how teachers and leaders in Catholic and Protestant schools have collaborated in post-conflict Northern Ireland and encouraged students from different backgrounds to learn together, strengthening their academic achievements and community connections. Given proposals to establish shared campuses, Northern Ireland educators could learn from the co-location of traditional public and public charter schools on campuses around Los Angeles.
“We are thrilled to partner with Queen’s University Belfast to provide this exciting opportunity for our Los Angeles educators and leaders to have a dynamic shared learning experience with the educators and leaders of Northern Ireland,” said Victoria Graf, professor of education at LMU. “When we bring together an international community of educators who hold a shared vision of education, we enrich our educational and cultural links between our countries, while supporting LMU’s vision of global imagination.
Graf visited Northern Ireland last month with LMU School of Education Associate Dean Mary McCullough; LAUSD board member Ref Rodriguez, who represents District 5; and teachers and leaders from LAUSD, Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools and WISH Charter.
The exchange is a part of The Education Success Project located at LMU. Among its partnerships, TESP has worked together with YPI to promote collaboration among schools in the Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood to advance teacher satisfaction and student achievement.
“Voluntary collaboration is a matter of stepping outside of yourself to experience the success of others, and then applying their success to your own challenges,” said Maureen Kindel, founder of The Education Success Project and chair of the School of Education’s Board of Visitors. “In the case of the exchange with Northern Ireland, the experience is heightened by stepping out of the American experience.”
The exchange builds on a roughly four-year relationship between LMU’s School of Education and Queen’s University Belfast that has allowed for joint writing and research projects, school site visits and reciprocal invitations to conferences, among other benefits.