Interrogating Racialized Discourses in Educator-Focused Study Abroad: An Ecological Approach


  • Michele Back University of Connecticut



Discourse, ecological framework, Global South, Peru, pre-service teacher education, racialization, study abroad


I use an ecological approach to analyze a presentation in which four teacher candidates used racialized discourses to describe the indigenous students with whom they worked while studying abroad. I discuss this event and a subsequent interview with two faculty members present at the event, triangulating these data points with program artifacts, interviews with school administrators in the host country, and journal and assignment data from one of the candidates who presented at the event. Findings highlight the importance of viewing racialized discourse as contextualized social practices, as candidate perceptions of their indigenous students were reflected in interviews with school directors, promotional materials from the host university, and host family members. I argue that interlocutors in positions of power, such as teacher educators, must combat their own perceptions of racialized discourses as “ingrained” in White individuals from the United States and pay closer attention to the ideologies and practices these individuals might face while in culturally diverse environments.

Abstract in Spanish

Utilizo un enfoque ecológico para analizar una presentación en la que cuatro candidatos a docentes utilizaron discursos racializados para describir a los estudiantes indígenas con quienes trabajaron mientras estudiaban en el extranjero. Hablo de este evento y de una entrevista posterior con dos miembros del profesorado presentes en el evento, triangulando estos datos con artefactos del programa, entrevistas con administradores escolares en el país anfitrión y datos de diarios y tareas de uno de los candidatos que se presentaron en el evento. Los hallazgos resaltan la importancia de ver el discurso racializado como prácticas sociales contextualizadas, ya que las percepciones de los candidatos sobre sus estudiantes indígenas se reflejaron en entrevistas con directores de escuelas del país anfitrión, materiales promocionales de la universidad anfitriona y miembros de la familia anfitriona. Sostengo que los interlocutores en posiciones de poder, como los formadores de docentes, deben combatir sus propias percepciones de los discursos racializados como “arraigados” en individuos blancos de los Estados Unidos y prestar más atención a las ideologías y prácticas que estos individuos podrían enfrentar en ambientes culturalmente diversos.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Michele Back, University of Connecticut

Michele Back is an Associate Professor of World Languages Education at the University of Connecticut, where she works with preservice and in-service teachers of Spanish, French, Chinese, and ASL. Her research interests include world language teacher development and professionalization; intersections of race, discourse, and identity; and the role of translanguaging and multilingual ecology in transforming schools and other communities of practice. She has published articles in the Modern Language Journal, Foreign Language Annals, TESOL Quarterly, and CALICO, as well as the books Racismo y lenguaje (with Virginia Zavala; Fondo Editorial PUCP, 2017) and Transcultural Performance: Negotiating Globalized Indigenous Identities (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2015).


Addleman, R. A., Nava, R. C., Cevallos, T., Brazo, C. J., & Dixon, K. (2014). Preparing teacher candidates to serve students from diverse backgrounds: Triggering transformative learning through short-term cultural immersion. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 43, 189–200. DOI:

Anya, U. (2017). Racialized identities in second language learning: Speaking blackness in Brazil. Routledge. DOI:

Augoustinos, M. & Every, D. (2007). Contemporary Racist Discourse: Taboos against Racism and Racist Accusations. In A. Weatherall, B. M. Watson, & C. Gallois, (Eds.), Language, Discourse and Social Psychology (pp. 233–254). Palgrave. DOI:

Aveling, N. (2006). ‘Hacking at our very roots’: Re-articulating White racial identity within the context of teacher education. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 9(3), 261–274. DOI:

Badwan, K. & Simpson, J. Ecological orientations to sociolinguistic scale: Insights from study abroad experiences. Applied Linguistics Review, 3(2), 267–286. DOI:

Bird, M. T., Rich, P. J., & Yanchar, S. C. (2021). The Ecology of Study Abroad for Language Learning: Synthesis and Interdisciplinary Insights. L2 Journal, 13(1), 20–39. DOI:

Beyl, S. (2020). Questioning the Rule: The Civic Implications of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as a Pedagogy of Power (Unpublished Education Studies capstone, Yale University).

Bucholtz, M. (2010). White Kids: Language, Race and Styles of Youth Identity. Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Caton, K., & Santos, C. A. (2009). Images of the other: Selling study abroad in a postcolonial world. Journal of Travel Research, 48(2), 191-204. DOI:

Chang, A. (2017). "Call me a little critical if you will": Counterstories of Latinas studying abroad in Guatemala. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 16(1), 3–97. DOI:

Chun, E. and Lo, A. (2016). Language and Racialization. In N. Bonvillain, (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology (pp. 220–233). Taylor and Francis.

Coleman, J. A. (2013). Researching whole people and whole lives. In C. Kinginger (Ed.), Social and cultural aspects of language learning in study abroad (pp. 17–44). John Benjamins Publishing. DOI:

Delgado, R. (1989). Storytelling for oppositionists and others: A plea for narrative. Michigan Law Review, 87(8), 2411-2441. DOI:

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies and language diversity in education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149-171. DOI:

Fraczek, M. S. (2010). Perpetuating a culture of White behavior: The experiences of non-native speaking Hispanic students in a PBIS school (Doctoral dissertation, Boston College).

Friend, C. A., Hunter, A.G. & Fletcher, A.C. (2011). Parental Racial Socialization and the Academic Achievement of African American Children: A Cultural-Ecological Approach. Journal of African American Studies, 15(1), 40–57. DOI:

Gadd, S., & Butler, B. R. (2019). Culturally Responsive Practices and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS): Annotated Bibliography. National Technical Assistance Center on Transition.

García, J. L. (2003). Three scalarities: Racialization, racism, and race in Blum. Theory and Research in Education, 1(3), 283–302. DOI:

Hauerwas, L. B., Skawinski, S. F., & Ryan, L. B. (2017). The longitudinal impact of teaching abroad: An analysis of intercultural development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67(2), 202–213. DOI:

Hochman, A. (2019). Racialization: A defense of the concept. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42(8), 1245–1262. DOI:

Huayhua, M. (2014). Racism and social interaction in a southern Peruvian combi. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(13), 2399–2417. DOI:

Hughes, M. S., & Popoola, V. O. (2022). Perceptions of experiential learning and racial bias following international study abroad in East Africa: A qualitative study. Journal of Studies in International Education, DOI:

Inoue, M. (2006). Vicarious language: Gender and linguistic modernity in Japan. University of California Press.

Institute of Education Sciences (IES). (2020). Characteristics of Public and Private Elementary and Secondary School Teachers in the United States: Results From the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey. National Center for Education Statistics 2020-142.

Kashiwa, M., & Benson, P. (2018). A road and a forest: Conceptions of in‐class and out‐of‐class learning in the transition to study abroad. TESOL Quarterly, 52(4), 725–747. DOI:

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One World.

Kinginger, C. (2009). Language learning and study abroad: A critical reading of research. Springer. DOI:

Kramsch, C. (2008). Ecological perspectives on foreign language education. Language Teaching, 41(3), 389–408. DOI:

Kramsch, C. (2002). Language socialization and language acquisition: Ecological perspectives.


Kramsch, C., & Steffensen, S. V. (2008). Ecological perspectives on second language acquisition and socialization. Encyclopedia of language and education, 8(1), 17–28. DOI:

Ladson-Billings, G. (2017). The (R)Evolution will not be standardized: Teacher education, hip hop pedagogy, and culturally relevant pedagogy 2.0. In D. Paris & H.S. Alim, (Eds.), Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World (pp. 141–156). Teachers College Press.

Malewski, E., & Phillion, J. (2009). International field experiences: The impact of class, gender and race on the perceptions and experiences of preservice teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(1), 52–60. DOI:

Marx, S., & Pray, L. (2011). Living and learning in Mexico: Developing empathy for English

language learners through study abroad. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14(4), 507-535. DOI:

Maslin-Ostrowski, P. & Ackerman, R. (2006). Case Story. In F. English, (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Leadership and Administration (p. 107). Sage Publications.

Open Doors. (2022). Open Doors 2022 Annual Data Release.

Pennington, J.L. (2020). Deconstructing the white visitor: Autoethnography and Critical White Studies in study abroad programs, Theory Into Practice, 59 (3) 289–299. DOI:

Quan, T. (2018). Language Learning While Negotiating Race and Ethnicity Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 30(2), 32-46. DOI:

Rosa, J., & Flores, N. (2017). Unsettling race and language: Toward a raciolinguistic perspective. Language in Society, 46(5), 621–647. DOI:

Sah, P. K. (2019). Academic discourse socialization, scaler politics of English, and racialization in study abroad: A critical autoethnography. The Qualitative Report, 24(1), 174-192. DOI:

Santoro, N., & Major, J. (2012). Learning to be a culturally responsive teacher through international study trips: Transformation or tourism? Teaching Education, 23(3), 309–322. DOI:

Sharma, S. (2020). A poststructural analysis of study abroad as teacher preparation pedagogy: Thinking through theory for generative practice, Theory Into Practice, 59(3), 310–320. DOI:

Talburt, S., & Stewart, M. A. (1999). What's the Subject of Study Abroad?: Race, Gender, and "Living Culture". The Modern Language Journal, 83(2), 163-175. DOI:

Terry, G., Hayfield, N., Clarke, V., & Braun, V. (2017). Thematic analysis. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2(1), 17–37. DOI:

Trilokekar, R. D., & Kukar, P. (2011). Disorienting experiences during study abroad: Reflections of pre-service teacher candidates. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(7), 1141–1150. DOI:

Tusting, K., Crawshaw, R., & Callen, B. (2002). I know, 'cos I was there': how residence abroad students use personal experience to legitimate cultural generalizations. Discourse & Society, 13(5), 651–672. DOI:

Ung, T., O’Connor, S.H., & Pillidge, R. (2012). The Development of Racial Identity in Transracially Adopted People: An Ecological Approach. Adoption & Fostering, 36(3-4), 73–84. DOI:

Van Lier, L. (1997). Approaches to observation in classroom research; Observation from an Ecological perspective. TESOL Quarterly, 31(4), 783–787. DOI:

Vich, V. & Zavala, V. (2019). From racism to racialization: Arguments on inequality in Peru. In V. Zavala & M. Back (Eds.), Racialization and Language: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Peru (117-143). Routledge. DOI:

Wilson, A. (2015). A critique of sociocultural values in PBIS. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 8(1), 92–94. DOI:

Zavala, V. & Back, M. (2020). Discourse and racialization. In A. DeFina & A. Georgakopoulou, (Eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Studies (pp. 523–546). Cambridge University Press. DOI:




How to Cite

Back, M. (2024). Interrogating Racialized Discourses in Educator-Focused Study Abroad: An Ecological Approach. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 36(1), 202–228.



Research Articles