November 16, 2021

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Sean Lennon Earns Fulbright Specialist Award

Dr. Sean Lennon, professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Valdosta State University 

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University’s Dr. Sean Lennon has earned a Fulbright Specialist Award and will spend two weeks with the Faculty of Education at Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, helping prepare rising teachers and their teacher-educators to better guide lessons on controversial issues.

“Controversy is a mainstay in many of the educational fields, and teachers need to know how to handle such concepts, said Lennon, a professor in VSU’s Department of Teacher Education. “In my research and training I teach teacher-educators to not shy from these concepts but to use them as a resource to enable critical and empathetic thinking from students.

“One powerful way of doing this is through discourse and dialogue. This dialogue, of going back and forth among participants, is referred to as dialogic discourse and is a powerful tool in using higher order thinking skills. In the socio-educational fields we refer to these different levels of thinking in term of steps or units and commonly use templates such as Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. These are easy-to-use templates for eliciting such responses in a classroom setting.

“Basically I teach teachers how to use controversy to enable higher thinking of students as they address this issue from multiple viewpoints and sides. By allowing a ‘safe’ discussion, it enables multiple concepts of a dispute to be heard and for students to hear and discuss this ‘sides’ in an open environment around peers. Besides critical thinking this also develops open discussion, which is another skill set sorely lacking in American discourse today.”

This will be Lennon’s second Fulbright Specialist Program experience. In 2017 he visited Hanoi, Vietnam, where he presented two workshops on teaching controversial issues and critical thinking. He said he enjoys the opportunity to share his knowledge and skills and help educators around the world overcome obstacles to reach their unique goals.

Lennon’s work in the Czech Republic and Vietnam reflects VSU’s desire to be of service to others, to support and strengthen educational initiatives at home and abroad, and to foster collaboration around the globe.

VSU has a long history of collaborating with Palacky University, which is considered one of the premier universities in the Czech Republic. The two institutions of higher education first established a partnership in 1998 with a study abroad program through VSU’s Department of Political Science. That partnership expanded in 2004 when the Department of Psychological Science developed a study abroad experience for psychology students.

The Fulbright Specialist Program, which is part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program pairs highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, hone their skills, gain international experience, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions.

Specialists are competitively selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Program roster based on their knowledge, skill sets, and ability to make a significant contribution to projects overseas. Those individuals that have been approved to join the roster are then eligible to be matched with approved projects designed by foreign host institutions from more than 150 countries and other areas. Once abroad, specialists partner with their host institution to conduct project activities in support of the host institution’s priorities and goals.  

The Fulbright Specialist Program aims to provide a short-term, on-demand resource to international host institutions, giving them greater flexibility in how they participate with Fulbright. Specialists are strongly encouraged to continue to work with host institutions in the years following their initial exchange, creating opportunities for ongoing cooperation and consultancies.

Lennon transitioned to higher education after teaching high school social studies for 10 years. He joined the VSU faculty in 2006 and enjoys preparing new generations of teachers ready to inspire young learners to think critically about the world around them.

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