Toward Engaging Difference in a Globalized World

Jennifer MacDonald, Jingzhou Liu, Sylvie Roy, Jody Dennis, Stefan Rothschuh, Marlon Simmons
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 273-290

This paper reflects on participation in an International Doctoral Research Seminar, held in Beijing, China, to consider what it means to locate difference and make meaning in a globalized world in relation to teaching and learning.

The impetus for our inquiry stems from our shared experience at the seminar, which brought together 12 graduate students and six faculty members from three universities. We came with diverse life stories, educational and professional experiences, and research interests. Alongside presentations and school visits, some students questioned how teaching and learning practices differ in China compared to their experiences in Canada.

We employ an interpretive approach which allows us to revisit our individual stories and to explore different views of meaning-making in a globalized context. Specifically, two authors, positioned by different backgrounds (Chinese and Canadian), share their life histories and experiences for wider dialogue with other delegation members. We consider their experiences at various levels of education (K-12, leading up to graduate school, and at the doctoral seminar) as a mode of generating dialogue around the different contexts in relation to teaching and learning.

Our article contributes to the area of globalizing teaching and learning. We invite students and educators to revisit their lived experiences and advocate for daily practices that might defy sameness caused by the forces of globalization to instead contribute to epistemological diversity and tolerance.

Through the process of unpacking the lived experiences of the two authors, we encounter the complexities of already being products of a globalized world. We reveal how a singular normative mode of knowing is perpetuated in many educational institutions. Difference, however, was located in the nuances of our stories. Thus, cultivating a practice of paying attention to the dynamic forms of knowing as they emerge can be a process of unlearning sameness toward rich meaning-making.

We challenge educational practitioners to reflect on the ways in which meaning is, and can be, generated to resist uniformity and honor the lived experiences of students. We offer an opening to engage in narrative opportunities to promote dialogue and facilitate collaboration.

We open possibilities to consider a different ethic for generating meaning that resists overpowering global powers and honor local knowledge.

Our article provides an interpretive lens of global meaning-making to discuss critical social, cultural, and ecological dilemmas facing humanity through individuals’ narratives and life histories.

Future research will inquire into practical and ethical considerations that might play out in local settings (lectures, seminars, assessments, research proposals) and global collaborations, such as future doctoral seminars, to confront western exclusivity.

meaning-making, difference, globalization, praxis, stories, ethics
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