Development of a U.S.-Scottish Immersion Experience and Its Influence on Participants, Partners, and Programs: An International Case Study


  • Karsten K. Powell University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • Kirsten Darling-McQuistan University of Edinburgh
  • Rosemary Battalio University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire



Global partnerships, social justice, special education, teacher education


This study explores how a long-running, special education teacher education-focused international immersion experience has grown over time to include robust international exchange between home and host institutions and how participation influenced past participants’ professional practice. This research fills a gap in the research linking special education teacher preparation and international immersion experiences by focusing on a twenty-year-old immersion program which places preservice special education teachers in Scotland for a five-week experience including a homestay, school-based practicum, and travel. Researchers included two groups for this multiple case study design: Scottish school partners and preservice U.S. teacher participants. Interviews and reflections from each group were analyzed using the Relational-Cultural Theory framework to understand how this program grew and led to mutually beneficial partner and participant exchanges. Findings indicate that trusting relationships emanating from long-term interactions are key for meaningful exchange and that participation in the 2019 program influenced current teachers’ professional decisions and trajectory.


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Author Biographies

Karsten K. Powell, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Karsten K. Powell, EdD, is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education and Inclusive Practices at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. His research focuses on using case study and mixed methods approaches to investigate teacher preparation and retention. As a former high school special education teacher, Dr. Powell focuses his practice on inclusion, collaboration, and inquiry. He has led a Scottish immersion program for American preservice teachers since 2019.

Kirsten Darling-McQuistan, University of Edinburgh

Kirsten Darling-McQuistan, PhD, is a lecturer in Teacher Education (Primary) at Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh. Since making the transition from classroom teacher to lecturer, she has been further developing her interests in inclusive pedagogical practices. She is particularly interested in how to capture and analyse such practices through qualitative research methods that engage with and surface multiple views and perspectives.

Rosemary Battalio, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Rosemary Battalio, PhD, is a professor emerita in the Department of Special Education and Inclusive Practices at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. She spent seventeen years leading preservice American teacher in the Special Education in Scotland program. Her motivation as an instructor was to teach preservice teachers skills which supported inclusive classroom environments. She concentrated on how to build positive classroom environments for all students, especially for those who demonstrated unique behavioral responses.


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How to Cite

Powell, K., Darling-McQuistan, K., & Battalio, R. (2024). Development of a U.S.-Scottish Immersion Experience and Its Influence on Participants, Partners, and Programs: An International Case Study. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 36(1), 103–130.



Research Articles