Fulbright Teacher Exchanges: Overseas Research Opportunities for K-12 Educators

In the spring of 2018, I was thrilled to be selected as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching recipient. It was a life changing personal and professional experience so I would like to share my reflections and encourage anyone interested in it to apply. Several programs are available to teachers and administrators through Fulbright Teacher Exchanges, and in this post I intend to share the expectations and application process along with some of my experiences in Singapore.

Available programs offer a variety of experiences. Some limit travel time to just a few days or perhaps a month over a summer. The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Short-Term Program runs for 2-6 weeks, and teachers develop goals to be completed in coordination with an educational or other governmental agency in a host nation. Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms consists of a 10-week graduate-level global education course to be completed with a cohort that culminates in a short cultural exchange in another country.

The Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program, the one I participated in, usually occurs over a full semester. Educators can travel to countries like Finland, New Zealand, Greece, Taiwan, India, Singapore, and Brazil. Awards cover the cost of travel, food, and lodging and are overseen by a nonprofit organization in the U.S. In the host country, awardees are supported by local education organizations and the U.S. embassy or Fulbright Commission.

To apply for the 3-6 month long research program, applicants must propose a research project that would benefit both schools in the U.S. and in the host country.

I was interested in how games can be used for learning and for promoting literacy. Prior to applying, I completed a bit of research, identifying a high degree of interest in Singapore for the use of games as a teaching tool. Project ideas you develop must be well thought out and a good fit for the host organization; you may be subject to an interview.

If selected for this program, you will also get the chance to build professional connections and explore learning opportunities at a local university. Your work is supported by a mentor and Fulbright team in the host nation. I was able to audit a university course and make contact with several professors with interest in games. The Ministry of Education in Singapore took excellent care of me. I conducted my research in three different schools while observing master teachers and participating in classes. I even had the opportunity to teach two lessons. Each explored point of view in a game and how different perspectives could be synthesized to produce a clearer interpretation of the scene.

Applications for the research program open in December and consist of a series of short essays that require a high degree of reflection on teaching practices, experiences, and program goals. You must also include your resume, letter of recommendation, and a document from your school district acknowledging your application. I became interested in applying for the award two years before I turned in an application, which gave me time to better prepare and fill in gaps.

Before applying, there are several things to consider.

The award includes enough money to live and travel comfortably, but it is not intended to replace your salary or benefits. Successful applicants will need to have a serious talk with school district officials before accepting the award. Might you lose a half-year of service credit? Will they commit to an entire semester of leave? Is there contract language in place that would allow a leave of absence?

Your family may be able to travel with you. However, it could be a very different experience for you trying to balance the research commitment with family time. In my case, there were two other Fulbrighters with me, and we bonded wonderfully. Our families stayed in the U.S. but were able to travel to be with us at the end of our commitment.

Fulbright is expected to be a cultural experience for you as well. You will be invited to countless school events and social events, including private homes and embassy gatherings; you may receive offers to speak at professional conferences. Singapore is a very multicultural nation, and I got to experience the wonders of Chinese New Year, Diwali, Vesak, and Eid al-Fitr with new friends and colleagues.

When you return and have completed your project, you become part of the Fulbright Alumni community and have opportunities to present your project at conferences, apply for more grants and awards, and connect with other Fulbright teachers, scholars, and students around the world.

Please consider applying and reach out to me if you have any questions. Here is a list of resources you might find useful:

Fulbright Teacher Exchanges homepage contains information covering all teacher opportunities.

The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program.

Inquiry Project examples.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which oversees the Fulbright Program.

Teachers on Fulbright: Reflections on Global Pedagogy and Practice book that several members of my cohort assembled for publication (Free PDF)

Fulbright Teacher Exchanges Facebook group.

John Miller is a California Teacher of the Year Finalist (2017) and Fulbright Fellow, having researched games and learning in Singapore (2019). He currently works with underperforming and economically disadvantaged students in middle school, promoting literacy through innovative uses of educational technology. John would like to thank NNSTOY for giving him this opportunity to share his passion. You can learn more about John by visiting his website, johnmillerEDU.com, and by following him on Twitter, @johnmillerEDU

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