Learning from Our Mistakes: International Educators Reflect

  • David Shallenberger
Keywords: International Educator reflections, Education abroad, Study abroad, Mistakes


The research addressed in this article explores the learning from mistakes international educators have made in the course of their work. Built on the experiences of forty-five individuals, shared through surveys and interviews, the this study finds that the participants learned valuable lessons regarding the value of strong and positive relationships; the impact of culture in their work; the importance of well-designed procedures; the balance between intuition and investigation in evaluating options and making decisions; key considerations in program design; and the importance of self-care. The last three of these lessons are the focus of this article.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

David Shallenberger

David Shallenberger is Professor of International Education at SIT Graduate Institute. Beginning in the field in 1975, he has worked in education abroad as a teacher-facilitator, manager, designer, director, and dean. Most recently, he oversaw semester and summer programs in Europe and the Middle East for SIT Study Abroad; directed an undergraduate degree program in Hong Kong for DePaul University; and led programs in Asia, Latin America, Europe and North Africa. He has presented workshops and other conference sessions around the world on a variety of topics related to education abroad. 


Accountemps. (2012). Workplace frights: Survey reveals workers are most afraid of making a mistake [Press release]. Retrieved from http://accountemps.rhi.mediaroom.com/workplace-fears

Antony, M. and Swinson, R. (2009). When perfect isn’t good enough Strategies for dealing with perfectionism (2nd ed.). Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

Forum on Education Abroad. (2013). Report on the 2013 Forum Survey to its Members and Subsequent Dialogue with International Officers of Brazilian Institutions at the FAUBAI Conference Carlisle, PA: Forum on Education Abroad.

Holden, C. (2007, December 7). Gene variant may influence how people learn from mistakes. Science 318 (5856), 1539.

Hoye, W. P. (2006, February). Legal issues influencing international study abroad programs. Paper presented at the 27th Annual National Conference on Law and Higher Education, Clearwater Beach, FL.

Laufenberg, D. (2010). How to learn? From mistakes [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/diana_laufenberg_3_ways_to_teach?language=en

Lehrer, J. (2009, December 21). Accept defeat: The neuroscience of screwing up. Retrieved from: http://www.wired.com/2009/12/fail_accept_defeat/all/

Livio, M. (2014). Brilliant blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - colossal mistakes by great scientists that changed our understanding of life and the universe. New York: Simon and Schuster.

McGregor, J. (2006, July 10). How failure breeds success,” Business Week, pp. 42-52.

Molinsky, A. (2013). Global dexterity: How to adapt your behavior across cultures without losing yourself in the process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Peace Corps. (2010). Cultural gaffes beyond your borders. Retrieved from: http://www.peacecorps.gov/wws/videos/beyond-borders/

Schoemaker, P. (2011). Brilliant mistakes: Finding success on the far side of failure. Philadelphia: Wharton Digital Press.

Schon, D. (1984). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline. New York: Doubleday.

Tugend, A. (2011). Better by mistake: The unexpected benefits of being wrong. New York: Riverhead.

Ullsperger, M. (2008). Minding mistakes: How the brain monitors errors and learns from goofs. Scientific American 19, 52-59. doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0808-52
How to Cite
Shallenberger, D. (2015). Learning from Our Mistakes: International Educators Reflect. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 26(1), 248-263. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v26i1.369
Research Articles