Future Generation of Educators Build Negotiation and Leadership Skills through Experiential Virtual Exchange
PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education's Game Changers in Education
Through PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education’s Game Changers in Education, Lauren and Lee, two undergraduate education majors on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, have gained vital competencies in intercultural communication and negotiation. They leave the program with an expanded vision of what it means for them to be leaders in education and with the skills, tools, and confidence to be educational change-makers in their schools and communities.
As current president of her student government, Lee, who once considered herself to be shy and avoidant, has been working diligently to gain the skills necessary for bringing positive change into the lives of others, which she soon hopes to do as an educator. Lauren, who is active in academic workgroups on her campus, dreams of being a history teacher who provides a safe and positive learning environment for her future students while they navigate difficult topics. Both were surprised and challenged by the questions posed to them by the Game Changers in Education program. In particular, how can educators be leaders in changing the game of negotiation in their schools and communities from bargaining and conflict to creative problem-solving?
Last fall, PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education launched a new virtual exchange program, Game Changers in Education. Undergraduate education majors from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts came together with future teachers studying at Al-Qasemi Academic College of Education and Oranim Academic College of Education in Israel to develop their negotiation skills based on Harvard Negotiation Project’s methodology. Over twelve highly interactive sessions that included paired exercises, role plays, simulations, group discussions, and team-based activities, participants experimented with addressing different scenarios and then reflected on the process and their results. In each simulation and exercise, students were split to represent different roles and paired with a student from another school. They got to experience navigating challenging situations that included day-to-day issues as well as imaginary high-stakes scenarios. During the process, participants created meaningful connections with one another, built awareness of their own habits and assumptions about negotiation, and developed their professional toolset and self-confidence.
“When I think of students from other countries, especially a country across an ocean, I always used to think that there must be so many differences between us, but this program has shown me that this is not always the case."
Lauren, Participant, PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education's Game Changers in Education
Lauren, a student at Bridgewater State University, joined the program with the goal of strengthening her ability to interact more effectively with her peers, as well as a curiosity for meeting new people from another country. Prior to participating, Lauren believed that she would have very little in common with her international peers. “When I think of students from other countries, especially a country across an ocean, I always used to think that there must be so many differences between us, but this program has shown me that this is not always the case,” she said, reflecting back to when she initially signed up for the program.
Participating in the program changed her perspective. “While talking with these students I learned that we may have slightly different cultural differences such as religion, and how we interact with politics, [but] we have so much more that unites us. Some of my favorite moments of our group exercises were talking with other students [from Israel], and finding out that we both loved Harry Potter, or that we both try to negotiate with our mothers to get out of chores, or that we [even] have the same sense of humor,” she said. “These small similarities we found allowed us to see that even though we were oceans apart and grew up with different religions and life experiences, we weren’t so different from each other.”
Lee of Oranim Academic College shared she was concerned early on that she may not receive as diverse of a cultural exchange if her fellow participants were also education majors. However, like Lauren, her experience positively exceeded her initial expectations. “Each and every individual I met was different from the other, and some meetings were really powerful and intimate. I am happy I got the chance to be exposed to a different culture and different background stories of the students of BSU [Bridgewater State University],” she said.
In addition to learning from diverse peers and finding commonalities, participants delved deeper into what it means to be a leader. Lauren challenged her initial ideas of what it means to be a leader through learning that she wants to be an educator who is there to help her students but also to teach them how to be independent thinkers and actors themselves. Lee also learned what leadership really means to her as a future educator, stating that she wants to make a change by working alongside her students when they’re experiencing conflict towards a solution no matter the situation. She also intends to help her future students plan their own paths towards their future goals and aspirations.
"The program has provided me with tools that I could implement into the classroom in the future [...] that will encourage my students to think about situations differently. I hope to be able to pass on my newly found knowledge of negotiation and assist other people in pursuing their dreams."
Lee, Participant, PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education's Game Changers in Education
While both Lauren and Lee shared about their plans to be educators in their respective communities, they have also shared the impact that participating in Game Changers in Education has had on them, and how they will utilize their newly developed negotiation and cultural sensitivity skills in their future classrooms. “Through this program and seeing the different steps to prepare for a negotiation, such as seeing each side’s interests and perspectives, I can use this to positively defuse an academic argument that may happen in my classroom and gear students towards a more respectful conversation. Teaching students how to negotiate through a problem in both an academic situation and in personal situations will hopefully help lead me to my goal of fostering a positive learning environment where all student’s ideas are heard and respected,” said Lauren.
Lee agrees that the program has helped prepare her for her future classroom. “As educators, we always have to think outside of the box, collaborate and mediate so we can bridge over cultural gaps in a constructive manner. The program has provided me with tools that I could implement into the classroom in the future […] that will encourage my students to think about situations differently. I hope to be able to pass on my newly found knowledge of negotiation and assist other people in pursuing their dreams,” she said.
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Game Changers in Education is implemented by PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education and is supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI). JCSVEI is a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program administered by the Aspen Institute.