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"What makes a global teacher?" Examining student responses to development and intercultural education


Global Citizenship


Introduction   The need to prepare teachers for working in multicultural contexts in an increasingly globalised world is one that all of us working in education would acknowledge as being of significance.  It is something that particularly exercises us on the Development and InterCultural Education (DICE) Project, as we are concerned with both development and intercultural education.

            DICE works with student teachers in the four Dublin colleges of education (primary) and has links with Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.  The Project delivers courses in development and intercultural education, some of which are elective while other courses are a compulsory component of an Inclusive Education Module in Years 2 and 3 of the BEd in the Trinity-associated colleges (Coláiste Mhuire, Froebel College and The Church of Ireland College of Education).  This paper will explore some of the challenges that we have encountered in our work in initial teacher education, focusing on our input with student teachers, and will also draw on some of our experiences of working with college lecturers and practising teachers.  The paper will also describe some of the responses that we have developed to these challenges.   Challenges and responses in relation to content and focus   Within preparing teachers for working in an increasingly globalised world, there are two competing demands on course design and on the focus of delivery.  Mainly that there is a danger that the urgency of ‘local’ needs can push an exploration of the ‘global’ off the agenda or down the list of priorities.  The immediacy of these needs means that it is critical for DICE to have a response to these issues as they arise but also to consider the project’s primary task of promoting both development and intercultural education.

            One of the on-going challenges therefore, is to ensure that preparation for the ‘multicultural context’ does not take precedence over a development education perspective.  There can be a tension between the dual demands of ‘development education’ and ‘intercultural education’, and the perceived urgency of the intercultural agenda can heighten this tension.

            In acknowledgement of that tension when DICE commissioned a Literature Review in 2005, it was entitled Global and Justice Perspectives in Education.  Early on it emerged that little, if any, literature used the focus or concept of ‘global and justice perspectives’.  Rather, literature focused more specifically on either development /global, intercultural or citizenship education. We identified ten core themes in the field of development/global; intercultural and citizenship education:

  • Development
  • Sustainable development
  • Interdependence
  • Cultural identity and diversity
  • Human rights and responsibilities
  • Discrimination, raciscm, prejudice
  • Equality and social justice
  • Peace, conflict and conflict resolution 
  • 'State of the world' - geographic, economic, political, social, and environmental knowledge

By working with these ten core themes, practitioners are drawing the strands of development and intercultural education together under a common framework in which the local and the global become intertwined and interconnected.

            Another response lies in course design. In recognition of the immediacy of students’ concerns with local issues we begin the course with a module exploring just that. Immediate concerns can be used as a ‘way in’ and also as a means of underlining the importance of this work with students. Courses or sessions then move beyond the local and extend into looking at development education themes such as exploring the concept of ‘development’; teaching about distant localities; teaching about ‘natural’ disasters; human rights education and so on.  However, while this approach provides an entry point with students, it is also possible that the interest of many students will not extend past practical and immediate classroom concerns of incorporating global awareness into their teaching.  This leads to the all-important question, “what makes a global teacher?”. 

            The examples that follow are drawn from evaluations on completion of an eight to ten-week module delivered to Year 2 BEd students.  Often students drew from their Teaching Practice experiences.  Student comments on this first session in their end-of-term evaluations included:   “It is a good idea to have clear information on various cultural differences and I learned a lot about the various cultures in Ireland to aid me when teaching children of various cultures”.   “As Ireland is changing so rapidly, it is important that teachers promote equality to the next generation”.   “I wouldn’t have really thought there was a major need for intercultural education so this lecture opened my eyes to the need for this type of education”.   Classroom application: The development of skills   The following comments highlight a point often made by students on DICE courses.  That is that the classroom application of ideas and concepts is of paramount importance to them and is often the deciding factor about whether they have found a session useful or not. For example:   Teaching about ‘natural’ disasters:   “….I thought it could be very useful topic to integrate into History, Geography, SPHE, English”.   Simulation activity on food/population distribution globally:   “…I will try this activity during my next TP [teaching practice] as I think it conveys the message of unequal distribution of food very clearly”.   “The game was great, very hands-on and useful to use in the classroom, really showed powerfully the reality of the division of food”.               While this is a very small sample of student evaluations, and certainly more structured investigation would be required over a period of time, it is consistent with feedback that DICE regularly receives from students on completion of courses.  It is often apparent that what matters first and foremost to students is the potential applicability of the material to teaching; if they can use it in the classroom then it is valuable.  Whether that relates to development or intercultural education appears to be of secondary concern, for example:   “A lot of ideas given for an ‘ideal world’ but not many for teaching practice which is priority for all at the moment” (Overall course comment).   “(I would like) more designing and planning our own lessons and approaches” (Overall course comment).               A student may respond very positively to particular practical aspects of a course, but a longitudinal study would be required in order to see if this interest was maintained past the particular lesson activity or topic.  Furthermore, DICE cannot shape a course purely around the practical application of ideas.  Development and intercultural education is concerned with knowledge and attitudes as much as with skills, so it is imperative that we build students’ knowledge base in courses.  This is despite feedback that shows that theoretical discussions are often less popular with students:   “Found it hard to relate the ideas to the classroom” (Feedback on ‘Exploring Culture’).   “Interesting, surprising facts; not classroom usable though!” (Feedback on ‘Development’ session).   “Found that it was too theoretical too soon.” (Feedback on ‘Exploring Culture’).   Attitudinal development: “What makes a ‘global teacher’?”   In addition to knowledge and skills, the third aspect which DICE courses aim to develop is attitudinal.  This leads back to the earlier question: “What makes a global teacher?”  In other words, why is it that some students will go on to incorporate a global and justice dimension as an integral part of their teaching, while another student who may have attended the same courses, will see this aspect as peripheral or irrelevant to their practice?  The answer possibly lies in this third area of attitudes.  The motivational factor is the key to whether a student will a) build on her /his knowledge base in relation to development and intercultural education and b) acquire the necessary skills to incorporate the perspective into teaching.  Some of the students will have learnt interesting activities which they may use as one-off or sporadic exercises.  Others will go on to develop an approach to their entire teaching career.

            Some of the material in the Literature Review Global and Justice Perspectives in Education (2005) is useful to consider in the context of motivation and attitude.  The literature review presented and analysed Irish and international literature on the factors which influence teachers’ incorporation of global and justice perspectives in their teaching. As would be expected, whole-school issues such as ethos and leadership figure strongly as facilitating factors, as do aspects such as time, make-up of the student body, and the availability of resources.

            The DICE literature review has found that certain life experiences can influence a teacher’s value system and how they incorporate this into their professional environment.  This in turn can determine the extent to which their teaching methodologies reflect global and justice perspectives.  The researcher cites her own research with practising teachers (Fitzgerald, 2003) to highlight this:   “For those teachers who did not have the same life experiences, they did not exhibit the same awareness of social injustice, or a desire to bring about change in society…The underlying cause of this differentiation between the two groups of teachers was found to lie in a differing value system between the teachers, arising from having different personal experiences in life” (Fitzgerald, 2003, quoted in Literature Review, DICE 2005).               Nevertheless, we cannot assume that the only students who will go on to incorporate a global dimension are those who already have a disposition towards these values as they commence their BEd.  We must also hope that our input will have a positive impact on the attitudes of many students, including those not previously disposed.  The attitudinal component of DICE courses therefore remains of central importance as well as being one of the most challenging aspects of the work.  Part of that challenge is the need to engage students at an emotional as well as at a cognitive level, often within the constraints of relatively short courses.

            Is emotional engagement possible over one term, with students meeting in large groups for one hour each week?  Interestingly, some of the feedback would suggest that some attitudinal changes were occurring:   “I think that if anybody had any prejudices before going to these lectures, the lectures would probably open their minds more…” (Overall course comment).   “Really opened my eyes as to how unfair the world is…” (Session on Food).    “Seemed very obvious initially but made me think much more deeply over the following weeks of the issues raised” (Introductory session).               These comments suggest that including an experiential and discursive dimension in sessions is a critical response to the challenge of addressing attitudinal issues.  Further work would be required to ascertain whether the students who responded in the way described above already have a predisposition towards social justice issues.  A minority of student responses would indicate however that engaging with concepts such as social justice is a little more difficult:    “Introduction task (visualisation about moving to a new country) was very drawn out and required much too high a level of concentration than most of us had at that time of the day” (Session on migration).    “I find the content is strongly associated with Geography and therefore should not have so much time allocated to it” (Overall course comment).   Conclusion   Preparing teachers for working in multicultural contexts in an increasingly globalised world is one of the crucial challenges facing teacher educators today.  Attitudinal factors are fundamental to this, and while life experiences may be central to attitudinal change, college courses can support this work in a very real way.  Courses on development and intercultural education may challenge some students’ attitudes yet may also provide essential support for those students who already have a predisposition towards issues of social justice.  For those students, DICE sessions may provide a dedicated space in which to explore matters of importance to them, about equality and justice, whether local or global, and gain tools for incorporating these issues into their future teaching.

            This small scale evaluation of student responses to DICE courses reveals the need for a more structured longitudinal study which could explore the issues in greater depth.  In 2005-2006 the DICE Project administered a baseline survey to students undertaking modules in development and intercultural education across some of the colleges of education, the results of which are being analysed at present.  This will provide some insight into students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards social justice perspectives in the second and third years of the BEd, opening the way for follow-up work to take place.  It will also inform our thinking about further design and development of modules.  It is crucial for teacher educators, especially in the area of social justice, to continue to develop our courses in order to best educate student teachers for working in increasingly diverse settings, in the wider context of a globalised world.     References   Claxton, G (1999) Wise Up: the Challenge of Lifelong Learning , London: Bloomsbury   DICE (2005) Global and Justice Perspectives in Education: A Literature Review , Dublin: DICE.   Fitzgerald, H (2003) 'Intercultural Education in the Irish Primary School System – A Teachers’ Perspective', Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Limerick.   Lyle, S & Salmon, C (2003) ‘The Global Dimension in Initial Teacher Education: A Case Study of Twelve Mentors and Twelve ITE Students Following BA (Ed) Degree Programme’, Paper presented at UNESCO Conference on Teaching and Learning for Intercultural Understanding, Human Rights and a Culture of Peace, Jyvaskyla, Finland, 15-18th June, 2003.   Inman, S (2005) 'Making Values Central: The ‘Partners in Change’ Project', The Development Education Journal , Vol. 11, No. 2.   NCCA (2005) Intercultural Education in the Primary School , Dublin: NCCA.   The DICE project works to integrate development and intercultural education within initial primary teacher education, and operates across five colleges of education in the Republic of Ireland. It seeks to foster and develop programmes which equip educators within that sector with the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes to include global and intercultural perspectives within primary schools.   This is an edited version of a paper originally read at a conference on Linking the Global and the Local: Education for Development in a Globalising World at Dublin City University, March 2006.

Global report on teachers: What you need to know

teacher report highlights

What are the alarming findings regarding the shortage of teachers?

The  global report on teachers reveals an urgent need for 44 million primary and secondary teachers worldwide by 2030. This includes a demand for seven out of ten teachers at the secondary level and a need to replace over half of the existing teachers leaving the profession. Sub-Saharan Africa is especially affected, with an estimated need for 15 million new teachers by 2030. Understanding the scale of this demand, its geographical implications, and the subsequent effects on educational infrastructure and student-teacher ratios is fundamental to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Does the teacher shortage affect specific regions or income levels?

Teacher shortages are a global issue, prevalent not only in developing nations but also in high-income regions like Europe and North America. Despite well-resourced education systems, these regions struggle to recruit and retain qualified educators, posing significant challenges to educational quality and equity. Notably, attrition rates among primary teachers almost doubled from 4.62 per cent globally in 2015 to 9.06 in 2022, with teachers often leaving the profession within their initial five years. Understanding the widespread nature of this shortage and its socio-economic impacts is crucial in formulating effective, all-encompassing solutions.

How to tackle the teacher shortage effectively?

Addressing teacher shortages requires a holistic approach. Beyond recruitment, factors such as teacher motivation, well-being, retention, training, working conditions, and social status need attention. Creating attractive career pathways with equitable access to professional development, autonomy, and purpose is crucial in sustaining teachers' motivation. Recognizing the multi-faceted nature of this issue and proposing comprehensive strategies is crucial to finding lasting solutions.

Why is promoting gender equality in teaching essential?

Inclusive policies that foster gender equality in the teaching profession are vital. Diverse teaching workforces reflecting the communities they serve enhance the relevance of education and enrich the learning experience. Encouraging women's representation in leadership positions while engaging men in the teaching profession, especially at early years education, is critical. Understanding the significance of a gender-balanced teaching workforce and its impact on educational outcomes is crucial in crafting inclusive and effective education systems.

How can countries address teacher shortages?

Enhancing wages, working conditions, and investing in education significantly impact a teacher's well-being and motivation. Involving teachers in decision-making and fostering a collaborative school culture can attract and retain quality educators. Adequate investment in novice teachers can reduce attrition and address shortages sustainably. Exploring the nuanced details of these measures and their potential impact on the teaching landscape is vital to implement effective reforms.

Why is the shortage of teachers a pressing issue?

The shortage of teachers stands as a major challenge as we approach 2030. The UNESCO-Teacher Task Force’s global report on teachers exposes alarming statistics. This scarcity is not just a number: It is a crisis undermining educational systems globally. The effect of a worldwide teacher shortage is profound, leading to larger class sizes, overburdened educators, educational disparities, and financial strain on educational systems. It is crucial to understand the profound impact this shortage has on educational quality and access.

What much will the financing of new teaching positions cost?

Determining how much to pay current teachers or investing in infrastructure or professionalization initiatives are key financial decisions for any education system. In addition, however, many countries must also factor in projected costs of new teaching positions. According to latest projections, and in order to meet the SDG target 4, the financing of the additional teachers needed will cost US$12.8 billion for universal primary education, and US$106.8 billion for universal secondary education. Combined, additional financing needed to cover new primary and secondary teaching posts’ salaries by 2030 reaches US$120 billion annually. 

How can teachers be empowered to transform education positively?

The global teacher shortage demands urgency. It's not solely about quantity but also about the quality of prepared and retained teachers. The Global Report on Teachers aims to offer evidence-informed solutions to ensure every child has access to qualified and motivated teachers. Recasting teaching as a collaborative profession, lifelong professional development, professional autonomy, and engaging teachers in decision-making are crucial aspects highlighted in the report. Delving deeper into the proposed strategies and understanding their transformative potential is essential to reshape the teaching landscape.

This new report will be launched at the  Policy Dialogue Forum on addressing global teacher shortages on 26 February 2024 in Johannesburg, South Africa. On this occasion, the  UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession , supported by a joint UNESCO-ILO Secretariat, will also  release its recommendations on transforming the teaching profession. 


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Creating ‘Global Teachers’ for a sustainable & inclusive world

How will the future look if all educators have leadership skills that enable them not only to impart knowledge but also to activate students to become leaders that believe in their own potential?

This is what AIESEC is aiming for: To cultivate global teachers with leadership skills.

What is a “Global Teacher”? 

Nowadays, educational resources are easier to access than ever before. Everyone can be an educator. We can see millions of tutorial videos on YouTube, we can also purchase different online courses to gain knowledge at any time. “Teachers” are everywhere.

The defined role of “Global Teacher” is, increasingly, serving as a cornerstone among the well-functioning education system, especially given the ever-evolving demands of the education profession, such as providing a quality education environment, connecting with the global educator’s community, supporting students in expanding their horizons, and understanding global cultures and history better.

A “Global Teacher” serves not necessarily only an educational function, it also serves a leadership role that determines the school’s climate, and ultimately, the culture in the global education systems.

Why is leadership important for educators?

According to Walter McKenzie, “Teaching today is a more complex set of roles and responsibilities than ever before. The skills and knowledge required to successfully engage students and prepare them for our quickly-changing societies define how teachers lead within the classroom and without. Traditionally teachers who have wanted to lead beyond the classroom went into administration, meaning oft-times the best and the brightest left the classroom after a few years of teaching. But today many more opportunities are emerging for teacher leadership, both formally and informally.”

If we look into the United Nations’ SDG #4, it aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. Education, as one of the most powerful tools to change the world, can significantly contribute to societies, influencing peoples’ mindset from an early stage in various aspects and fields, thus creating a sustainable and inclusive world.

To achieve this, educators must adapt faster to our rapidly changing world, which starts from activating leadership in themselves. 

Creating “Global Teachers” for a sustainable and inclusive world.

Global Teacher is the internship program provided by AIESEC, the world’s largest youth organization, aiming to cultivate educators with leadership skills. 

Every year, we work with 300+ schools and institutions from 35+ countries and territories, more than 1000+ future educators join the program. The participants can gain teaching experience in new cross-cultural settings, get equipped with new skills, and add value to the school or institution they work in.

We believe that quality education should not only be about knowledge but also about leadership — how to be more self-aware, to be a true world citizen, to be solution-oriented in the face of adversity, and how to empower others to achieve the same goals.

To achieve SDG #4 – Quality Education, we strive for providing international opportunities for future educators to foster their professional skills and leadership mindsets. We focus on educators to set great examples for young people to learn what “inclusive” means, and we promote learning from different countries to improve global education quality and systems.

Our teaching opportunities are inclusive for everyone passionate about education, whether looking to teach for the first time or already an experienced teacher.

Develop the leadership while boosting the career prospects with an opportunity to work as a teacher abroad. For further information, kindly check the program website.

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essay about global teacher

Connie Zheng

Global Product Innovation Manager, AIESEC International

Connie Zheng works to empower youth to fulfill the best version of themselves and realize their own potential. At 23, she currently leads the global product innovation strategy at AIESEC - the world's largest youth-led organization engaging and developing over 40k youth annually in 110+ countries and territories.

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Becoming a global teacher: Ten steps to an international classroom

One of the most important tasks for educators in the world today is to help students learn about the rich variety of people in our multicultural world and the important world problems that face our planet. English language teachers have a special role to play in this important task. In this article, I'd like to outline ten steps that classroom instructors can take to become global teachers and to add an international dimension to their language classrooms.

Step 1: Rethink the Role of English

The first step in becoming a global teacher is to rethink your definition of English. Definitions are important because they limit what we do. How do you define life , for example? As a party? A pilgrimage? A to-do list? A vale of tears? Each of these definitions will lead you off in a different direction. In the same way, how you define English determines what you do in your classroom. What is "English" then? Traditionally, English has been defined as:

  • a linguistic system of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar
  • a school subject and a topic on university entrance exams
  • a language of "daily conversation" about family, sports and hobbies
  • the mother tongue of English-speaking countries such as the USA and Britain

These four traditional views have long formed the basis of much English teaching worldwide. A global education view of English, however, involves two further dimensions. It sees the English classroom as a place for teaching:

  • English as an international language for communication with people from around the world
  • English as a subject for learning about the world's peoples, countries and problems

A global approach to EFL, therefore, means showing how English can be a language of world citizenship for learning about our global village, for communicating with people from other cultures and for working to solve problems facing Planet Earth.

Step 2: Reconsider Your Role as Teacher

How we define ourselves is just as important as how we define our field. A key question teachers can ask themselves is "Who am I?" How you answer this determines what you do in class. Do you define yourself as "just an English teacher?" Or do you see yourself as an "educator" in the wider sense? I prefer to define myself as a global educator who teaches English as a foreign language. This means that I'm dedicated to good English teaching but that I'm also committed to helping my students become responsible global citizens who will work for a better world.

This mission we have as global educators is outlined in UNESCO's (1974) Recommendation on "Education for International Understanding, Cooperation, and Peace." This calls on teachers in schools around the world to promote:

  • an international dimension and a global perspective in education at all levels
  • understanding and respect for all peoples, their cultures, values and ways of life
  • awareness of the increasing global interdependence between peoples and nations
  • abilities to communicate with others
  • awareness of the rights and duties of individuals, social groups and nations towards each other
  • understanding of the necessity for international solidarity and co-operation
  • readiness on the part of the individual to participate in solving the problems of his/her community, country and the world at large

How we teach English in our EFL classrooms can either promote or hinder these important goals.

Step 3: Rethink Your Classroom Atmosphere

A third step in internationalizing your teaching is to rethink your class atmosphere and the impact it has on students. What do students see when they enter your classroom? Bare concrete walls? Pictures and photos of the USA? If we really want to teach English as a global language, we need to think carefully about our classroom atmosphere and what it says to students.

What is a global classroom? A global EFL classroom is a room decorated with global posters, world maps and international calendars—all in English. It's a dynamic, colorful place which stimulates international awareness and curiosity about our multicultural world. It features globes, international displays, and walls decorated with posters of world flags, current events, and Nobel Peace Prize winners. A global classroom is also an environmentally-friendly classroom where teachers and students use recycled paper, save energy, and use both sides of the paper for handouts and homework.

Step 4: Integrate Global Topics Into Your Teaching

Global education doesn't happen through good intentions alone. It must be planned for, prepared and consciously taught. After all, students can't learn what you don't teach. It doesn't do any good, for example, to teach English grammar and hope that students somehow become more international as a result. Rather, a good global language teacher must sit down and write up a "dual syllabus" comprising: (1) a set of language learning goals and (2) a set of global education goals. Once these are listed, the teacher's job is to design effective, enjoyable class activities that achieve both sets of objectives in an integrated, creative way. A sample global education lesson plan might look like this:  

Activities to Accomplish the Above Goals

  • a polluted river
  • an oil spill
  • a dead tree
  • litter on the ground
  • picked up litter from the ground
  • turned off the lights to save energy
  • used something that was recycled
  • given money to an environmental organization
  • For homework, assign students to do 3 good deeds for the environment over the next week. Then, make a present perfect class poster entitled: "Things our class has done for the environment"

Step 5: Experiment With Global Education Activities

Part of becoming a global teacher involves experimenting in class with global education activities such as games, role plays, and videos. Games designed around international themes can stimulate motivation, promote global awareness, and practice language skills. Typical global education games range from environmental bingo, to human rights quizzes, to world travel board games. Books such as Worldways (Elder & Carr, 1987), Multicultural Teaching (Tiedt, 2001) and In the Global Classroom (Pike & Selby, 2000) provide a variety of such activities that can be adapted to the EFL classroom.

Role plays can stimulate students' creativity while promoting communicative language use in a way that lecturing can't. There's a big difference between reading about Third World refugees, for example, and actually becoming one in class. Global education role plays include conflict resolution skits, discrimination experience games, and Model United Nations simulations, and can have students take on roles ranging from endangered species, to African slaves, to world leaders.

Video allows teachers to bring the world into class in a very real way. Through the magic of video, we can take our students back in time to meet Gandhi, or off to visit UN headquarters in New York - all at the touch of a button. For EFL lessons on the environment, I'd love to fly my students to Brazil, but my salary doesn't quite allow that. Since I can't take my class to the Amazon, the next best thing is to bring the Amazon to my classroom. This I can do with global education videos such as "Spaceship Earth" (Worldlink, 1990). This allows my students to travel to Brazil with pop singer Sting and learn about tropical rainforest destruction—all in English and without ever leaving the classroom.

Step 6: Make Use of Your International Experience in Class

Language teachers are an incredibly "global" group of people. Some speak foreign languages such as French or Korean. Others know Spanish dancing or Chinese cooking. Some have traveled widely in Asia. Others have lived in Brazil or Germany. Despite their "global" backgrounds, however, many language teachers leave their international experience at home and spend their class time just being "ordinary" teachers. In my view, these teachers lose out on a special chance to add an international dimension to their teaching and to promote good language learning.

Good teaching means using our talents to promote effective learning. If you're good at art, you should use your skill through blackboard drawings to motivate your class. If you're good at drama, you should exploit this in your teaching. The same applies with international experience. If you've lived in the Middle East, use your experience to design exciting English lessons to promote understanding of Islam and the Arab world. If you've been to Hanoi, prepare an English slide show about your trip to Vietnam.

As teachers, we bring to the classroom a variety of talents, skills, and experiences. Using these effectively can enliven our teaching, stimulate motivation, promote global awareness, and encourage language learning. If you have a global talent, skill, or experience, exploit it. If you don't have any international experience, then why not try to get some?

Step 7: Organize Extra-Curricular Activities

Extra-curricular activities are another way to combine global awareness with English practice. Arranging penpal or keypal programs is one way to get your students using English to communicate with young people around the world. Setting up an English "Global Issues Study Group" is another idea. Some schools write English letters to foster children from Third World countries. Yet others hold English charity events to raise money to remove Cambodian landmines, help African AIDS victims, assist Iraqi children, or build schools in Nepal.

Some schools add an international dimension to their school festival through English speech contests on global themes, or by inviting English guest speakers from groups such as UNICEF. Others arrange volunteer activities where students pick up litter on local beaches, or participate in charity walk-a-thons to end world hunger—all while using English out-of-class.

School trips are a further way to promote international understanding. Language study tours to the U.S. and Australia can include projects on social issues to broaden students' experience beyond homestays, sightseeing, and shopping. Taking students to destinations such as India, the Philippines, or Korea can improve their English as they learn about life in developing countries, or neighboring Asian nations. One of my current projects is an Asian Youth Forum (AYF) which brings together students from across Asia to build friendships, break down stereotypes, and discuss global issues all through the medium of English-as-an-Asian-language.

Step 8: Explore Global Education and Related Fields

Another key step in becoming a global teacher is to explore global education and its related fields. Exploring a new field to help improve our teaching is nothing new. Good teachers have always gone to other disciplines to learn new ideas, techniques and resources. Teachers who wish to deepen their knowledge of grammar, for example, turn to the field of linguistics. Teachers interested in student motivation turn to the field of psychology. In the same way, if we are serious about teaching English to promote global awareness, international understanding, and action to solve world problems, we need to turn to those fields which specialize in these areas:

  • Global education aims to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed by responsible world citizens. Global education can provide language teachers with ideas, techniques, and resources for designing lessons on world religions, for creating units on Asia, or Africa, and for teaching about global issues such as AIDS, refugees, and world hunger.
  • Peace education deals with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to build a peaceful world. Peace education can provide language teachers with ideas, techniques, and resources for designing lessons on topics such as war, peace, conflict, violence, Gandhi, and the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Human rights education aims to inspire students with the knowledge and commitment required to protect human rights. Human rights education can provide language teachers with ideas, techniques, and resources for teaching about topics such as prejudice, sexism, ethnic minorities, Martin Luther King, and organizations such as Amnesty International.
  • Environmental education aims to develop the knowledge, skills, and commitment needed to protect our home, Planet Earth. Environmental education can provide language teachers with ideas, techniques, and resources for teaching about such topics as pollution, endangered species, solar energy, recycling, Rachel Carson, and organizations like Greenpeace.

Exploring these fields can be done in a number of ways: by reading books, by attending conferences, by contacting organizations, and by trying out teaching materials. Global education conferences take place throughout the year. The Peace as a Global Language (PGL) conference in Kyoto this September is one such event. Global issue groups such as Oxfam , Friends of the Earth , and Amnesty International can provide teachers with useful information and teaching materials. Global education videos, CD-Roms, posters, and teaching packs can be obtained through on-line resource centers such as Social Studies School Service .

English teachers who explore these fields soon discover a new excitement in their classes and a new mission in their teaching. They are able to approach global issues and world topics more confidently, and can draw from a wider variety of teaching activities, techniques, and resources for their content-based classes. The result is usually greater student motivation, increased global awareness, and enhanced language learning.

Step 9: Join a Global Issue Special Interest Group

A further step in becoming a global teacher is to join one of the many global education special interest groups (SIGs) in the English teaching profession. These offer a rich variety of ideas, activities, and resources for language teachers. The oldest of these is JALT's Global Issues in Language Education Special Interest Group (GILE SIG) which features a quarterly newsletter and active website. Similar groups include the Global Issues SIG of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the TESOLers for Social Responsibility Caucus (TSR) of the US-based organization TESOL.

Step 10: Deepen Your Knowledge through Professional Development

A final step in becoming a global teacher is to invest your time and money in professional development linked to global education. It's now possible to enroll in academic courses in global education and peace education in Japan and overseas to increase your professional knowledge and skills in these areas. The Teachers College Columbia University MA-in-TESOL program in Tokyo, for example, offers graduate courses on global education as well as a Peace Education Certificate for language teachers wishing to acquire knowledge and qualifications in this field. In the United States, associations such as TESOL now organize regular seminars on topics such as Classroom Responses to War and Terrorism (Washington DC, 2003), Teaching for Social Responsibility (Brazil, 2004), and TESOLers as Builders of Peace (New York, 2004).

I hope the ten steps above prove useful for teachers seeking to add a global dimension to their EFL classrooms. I'd also like to encourage teachers in Japan and overseas to promote international understanding, social responsibility, and a peaceful future through professional content-based language education aimed at teaching for a better world.

Elder, P., & Carr, M. (1987). Worldways: Bringing the world into your classroom . Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Pike, G., & Selby, D. (2000). In the global classroom . Toronto: Pippin. Tiedt, P. (2001). Multicultural teaching (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. UNESCO. (1974). Recommendation concerning education for international understanding, cooperation, and peace . Paris: UNESCO. Worldlink. (1990). Spaceship earth (video). Order from

Asian Youth Forum (AYF) Social Studies School Service (USA) Peace as a Global Language Conference (Kyoto) Teachers College Columbia University (Tokyo) TESOL (USA)

Global Issues Interest Groups

JALT Global Issues SIG (Japan) IATEFL Global Issues SIG (UK) TESOLers for Social Responsibility (US)

Kip Cates has a B.A. in Modern Languages from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Reading. He teaches English at Tottori University and courses on global education for the MA-in-TESOL program of Teachers College Columbia University (Tokyo). He is the chair of JALT's Global Issues in Language Education Special Interest Group, past president of TESOLers for Social Responsibility and founder of the Asian Youth Forum . He has presented on global education and language teaching in countries such as Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Hungary, the US, and the UK.

A Global Approach to Teacher Development

  • Posted January 18, 2019
  • By Grace Tatter

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Today’s students — no matter where in the world they live — will need to solve problems that loom on a global scale. Poverty. Climate change. Terrorism. But to do so, they’ll need an education that is equally global in scope, delivered by educators who are prepared to focus on the whole child. They’ll need teachers who think about these global challenges and who know how to help children draw connections and use their knowledge to find innovative, cross-border solutions.

That kind of excellent teacher requires excellent professional development, according to Harvard Graduate School of Education researchers Fernando Reimers and Connie Chung . A new book edited by the pair, Preparing Teachers to Educate Whole Students: An International Comparative Study , takes a close look at professional development programs across the globe that are training teachers to help children prepare for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

Effective professional development should include the entire social context in which teachers exist, allowing them to reflect on and change not only their individual practices, but whole school communities

In this new era, students need to do more than master content, Chung and Reimers say: they also need to be able to collaborate, problem-solve, and self-assess, among other things. Such an education, focused on the whole child, involves the whole community.

Here are some common features of strong professional development programs from across the world that focus on promoting cognitive and social-emotional growth in the classroom. These shared strengths can serve as lessons for effective professional growth for educators everywhere — and benchmarks for professional development in a changing world.

Effective professional development for 21st-century educators is:

Not just for teachers. Teachers don’t work in isolation; their roles often intersect with guidance counselors and administrators in and outside of the school building. So — professional development for teachers who are focused on the whole child should include the entire social context in which teachers exist, allowing them to reflect on and change not only their individual practices, but whole school communities. In one chapter, researchers describe how, at schools that use the Escuela Active Urbana program in Colombia, all teachers and administrators learn alongside one another, recognizing their overlapping roles and sharing information and lessons accordingly.

Not one-and-done. The professional development programs that Reimers and Chung highlight go beyond a single workshop, spanning long portions of teachers’ careers — from an entire school year to several years. In programs in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and the United States, an emphasis on continuous learning allows for coaches and teachers to develop fruitful relationships built on trust and respect. Such programs adapt to teachers’ changing needs and challenges and, therefore, become part of the fabric of teachers’ working lives.

Good professional development must be tactical. It should focus on teacher autonomy and professionalism, but it should also give educators specific tools to draw from and adapt to their particular context. 

Focused on the relationship between social-emotional skills and cognitive skills. In order to educate the whole child, it’s helpful to know how cognitive schools more commonly associated with academic success work in tandem with social-emotional skills like cooperation, discipline, self-regulation, and empathy. Suchetha Bhat, the CEO of Dream a Dream, a professional program in India, sums it up like this: what good do high test scores do students if they still aren’t prepared to face life’s challenges?

Tactical and specific.  The programs highlighted by Reimers and Chung go beyond theory to give teachers concrete takeaways — in the form of routines, protocol, and toolkits — that they can apply into the classroom. They focus on teacher autonomy and professionalism, while giving educators specific tools to draw from and adapt to their context. In Chile, teachers struggled to synthesize the kinds of 21st-century science skills promoted by a program founded by Chilean scientists with their national curriculum. Lesson plans and toolkits they received in professional development sessions made it easier for them to do so.

About more than can be measured by a test. Educating the whole child often means transcending what formal accountability structures – which, across countries, tend to rely on standardized tests in core academic structures – deem important. For that reason, effective professional development programs encourage and support teachers in imparting knowledge and skills that aren’t necessarily assessed by a test. In some countries, the highlighted professional development programs were well-aligned to policy, while the programs in the United States, India, Chile, and Mexico had to reconcile their own improvement priorities with policy demands.

Preparing Students (and Teachers) for 21st-Century Challenges

  • How to thrive in the 21st century
  • A curriculum for a changing world

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Teachers today must prepare students for an increasingly complex, interconnected, and interdependent world. Being a globally competent teacher requires embracing a mindset that translates personal global competence into professional classroom practice. It is a vision of equitable teaching and learning that enables students to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Table of contents

Introduction: All Teachers Are Global Educators

Section I. Dispositions

Empathy and Valuing Multiple Perspectives

Commitment to Equity

Section II. Knowledge

About the authors

essay about global teacher

Ariel Tichnor-Wagner is an educator and researcher, committed to identifying and leveraging policies and practices that improve academic and social-emotional outcomes of culturally and linguistically diverse students and that foster global citizenship. She is lecturer at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development in Boston, Massachusetts.

As a former senior fellow of global competence at ASCD, Tichnor-Wagner advocated for, developed, and implemented innovative frameworks, tools, and professional learning experiences to support educators in fostering the knowledge, skills, and attitudes students need to succeed in a diverse, interconnected world.

essay about global teacher

Hillary Parkhouse is an assistant professor of teaching and learning at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education. She began her career as an English and history teacher in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She then taught high school social studies and English as a second language in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Her research focuses on issues of diversity and equity in education, particularly how teachers create inclusive environments and curricula and how students develop the critical citizenship skills necessary for creating a more just future.

Dr. Parkhouse has published in  Theory and Research in Social Education ,  The New Educator , and  The Journal of Social Studies Research .

essay about global teacher

Jocelyn Glazier is an associate professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research and teaching focus is on supporting teacher development of innovative and empowering pedagogies to support all students, particularly those most marginalized in schools. Her qualitative work raises important questions about the potential of transformative, experiential teaching practices at all levels of education and across multiple contexts—local, national, and international.

An important element of this work focuses on teacher learning about diversity, inequity, and social justice, both locally and abroad. Her research has appeared in  The Harvard Educational Review ,  Teachers College Record ,  The New Educator , the  Journal of Experiential Education , and  Teaching Education . Recently, Glazier served as a 2017–2018 mentor in the Global Teacher Education Fellowship program and was a 2018 Transformative Teacher Educator fellow.

essay about global teacher

J. Montana Cain currently serves as the senior evaluator with the Children's Trust of South Carolina, where she leads evaluation activities and works to build evaluation capacity, both externally and internally. She holds a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Educational Psychology, Measurement, and Evaluation. Dr. Cain pairs her interest in education and evaluation with her commitment to equity.

In addition to teaching Spanish at the secondary level, she has taught courses related to multicultural education and social justice for preservice teachers and school counselors. With the goal of bridging the gap between equity-centered practices and measurement, she developed the Multicultural Teacher Capacity Scale.

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Global education: How to transform school systems?

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Emiliana vegas and emiliana vegas former co-director - center for universal education , former senior fellow - global economy and development @emivegasv rebecca winthrop rebecca winthrop director - center for universal education , senior fellow - global economy and development @rebeccawinthrop.

November 17, 2020

  • 12 min read

This essay is part of “ Reimagining the global economy: Building back better in a post-COVID-19 world ,” a collection of 12 essays presenting new ideas to guide policies and shape debates in a post-COVID-19 world.

Reimagining the global economy

Even before COVID-19 left as many as 1.5 billion students out of school in early 2020, there was a global consensus that education systems in too many countries were not delivering the quality education needed to ensure that all have the skills necessary to thrive. 1 It is the poorest children across the globe who carry the heaviest burden, with pre-pandemic analysis estimating that 90 percent of children in low-income countries, 50 percent of children in middle-income countries, and 30 percent of children in high-income countries fail to master the basic secondary-level skills needed to thrive in work and life. 2  

Analysis in mid-April 2020—in the early throes of the pandemic—found that less than 25 percent of low-income countries were providing any type of remote learning, while close to 90 percent of high-income countries were. 3 On top of cross-country differences in access to remote learning, within-country differences are also staggering. For example, during the COVID-19 school closures, 1 in 10 of the poorest children in the U.S. had little or no access to technology for learning. 4

Yet, for a few young people in wealthy communities around the globe, schooling has never been better than during the pandemic. They are taught in their homes with a handful of their favorite friends by a teacher hired by their parents. 5  Some parents have connected via social media platforms to form learning pods that instruct only a few students at a time with agreed-upon teaching schedules and activities.

While the learning experiences for these particular children may be good in and of themselves, they represent a worrisome trend for the world: the massive acceleration of education inequality. 6

Emerging from this global pandemic with a stronger public education system is an ambitious vision, and one that will require both financial and human resources.

The silver lining is that COVID-19 has resulted in public recognition of schools’ essential caretaking role in society and parents’ gratitude for teachers, their skills, and their invaluable role in student well-being.

It is hard to imagine there will be another moment in history when the central role of schooling in the economic, social, and political prosperity and stability of nations is so obvious and well understood by the general population. The very fact that schools enable parents to work outside the home is hitting home to millions of families amid global school closures. Now is the time to chart a vision for how education can emerge stronger from this global crisis and help reduce education inequality.

Indeed, we believe that strong and inclusive public education systems are essential to the short- and long-term recovery of society and that there is an opportunity to leapfrog toward powered-up schools.

A powered-up school, one that well serves the educational needs of children and youth, is one that puts a strong public school at the center of the community and leverages the most effective partnerships to help learners grow and develop a broad range of competencies and skills. It would recognize and adapt to the learning that takes place beyond its walls, regularly assessing students’ skills and tailoring learning opportunities to meet students at their skill level. New allies in children’s learning would complement and assist teachers, and could support children’s healthy mental and physical development. It quite literally would be the school at the center of the community that powers student learning and development using every path possible (Figure 12.1).


While this vision is aspirational, it is by no means impractical. Schools at the center of a community ecosystem of learning and support are an idea whose time has come, and some of the emerging practices amid COVID-19, such as empowering parents to support their children’s education, should be sustained after the pandemic subsides.

It is hard to imagine there will be another moment in history when the central role of schooling in the economic, social, and political prosperity and stability of nations is so obvious and well understood by the general population.

The way forward

To achieve this vision, we propose five actions to seize the moment and transform education systems (focusing on pre-primary through secondary school) to better serve all children and youth, especially the most disadvantaged.

1. Leverage public schools and put them at the center of education systems given their essential role in equalizing opportunity across society

By having the mandate to serve all children and youth regardless of background, public schools in many countries can bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and needs, providing the social benefit of allowing individuals to grow up with a set of common values and knowledge that can make communities more cohesive and unified. 7

Schools play a crucial role in fostering the skills individuals need to succeed in a rapidly changing labor market, 8 play a major role in equalizing opportunities for individuals of diverse backgrounds, and address a variety of social needs that serve communities, regions, and entire nations. While a few private schools can and do play these multiple roles, public education is the main conduit for doing so at scale and hence should be at the center of any effort to build back better.

2. Focus on the instructional core, the heart of the teaching and learning process

Using the instructional core—or focusing on the interactions among educators, learners, and educational materials to improve student learning 9 —can help identify what types of new strategies or innovations could become community-based supports in children’s learning journey. Indeed, even after only a few months of experimentation around the globe on keeping learning going amid a pandemic, some clear strategies have the potential, if continued, to contribute to a powered-up school, and many of them involve engaging learners, educators, and parents in new ways using some form of technology.

3. Deploy education technology to power up schools in a way that meets teaching and learning needs and prevent technology from becoming a costly distraction

After COVID-19, one thing is certain: School systems that are best prepared to use education technology effectively will be best positioned to continue offering quality education in the face of school closures.

Other recent research 10 by one of us finds that technology can help improve learning by supporting the crucial interactions in the instructional core through the following ways: (1) scaling up quality instruction (by, for example, prerecorded lessons of high-quality teaching); (2) facilitating differentiated instruction (through, for example, computer-adaptive learning or live one-on-one tutoring); (3) expanding opportunities for student practice; and (4) increasing student engagement (through, for example, videos and games).

4. Forge stronger, more trusting relationships between parents and teachers

When a respectful relationship among parents, teachers, families, and schools happens, children learn and thrive. This occurs by inviting families to be allies in children’s learning by using easy-to-understand information communicated through mechanisms that adapt to parents’ schedules and that provide parents with an active but feasible role. The nature of the invitation and the relationship is what is so essential to bringing parents on board.

COVID-19 is an opportunity for parents and families to gain insight into the skill that is involved in teaching and for teachers and schools to realize what powerful allies parents can be. Parents around the world are not interested in becoming their child’s teacher, but they are, based on several large-scale surveys, 11 asking to be engaged in a different, more active way in the future. One of the most important insights for supporting a powered-up school is challenging the mindset of those in the education sector who think that parents and families with the least opportunities are not capable or willing to help their children learn.

5. Embrace the principles of improvement science required to evaluate, course correct, document, and scale new approaches that can help power up schools over time

The speed and depth of change mean that it will be essential to take an iterative approach to learning what works, for whom, and under what enabling conditions. In other words, this is a moment to employ the principles of improvement science. 12 Traditional research methods will need to be complemented by real-time documentation, reflection, quick feedback loops, and course correction. Rapid sharing of early insights and testing of potential change ideas will need to come alongside the longer-term rigorous reviews.

Adapting the scaling strategy is especially challenging, requiring not only timely data, a thorough understanding of the context, and space for reflection, but also willingness and capacity to act on this learning and make changes accordingly.

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Emerging from this global pandemic with a stronger public education system is an ambitious vision, and one that will require both financial and human resources. But such a vision is essential, and that amid the myriad of decisions education leaders are making every day, it can guide the future. With the dire consequences of the pandemic hitting the most vulnerable young people the hardest, it is tempting to revert to a global education narrative that privileges access to school above all else. This, however, would be a mistake. A powered-up public school in every community is what the world’s children deserve, and indeed is possible if everyone can collectively work together to harness the opportunities presented by this crisis to truly leapfrog education forward.

  • This essay is based on a longer paper titled “Beyond reopening schools: How education can emerge stronger than before COVID-19” by the same authors, which can be found here: .
  • ”The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World.” The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. .
  • Vegas, Emiliana. “School Closures, Government Responses, and Learning Inequality around the World during COVID-19.” Brookings Institution, April 14, 2020.
  • “U.S. Census Bureau Releases Household Pulse Survey Results.” United States Census Bureau, 2020, .
  • Moyer, Melinda Wenner. “Pods, Microschools and Tutors: Can Parents Solve the Education Crisis on Their Own?” The New York Times. January 22, 2020.
  • Samuels, Christina A., and Arianna Prothero. “Could the ‘Pandemic Pod’ Be a Lifeline for Parents or a Threat to Equity?” Education Week. August 18, 2020.
  • Christakis, Erika. “Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake.” The Atlantic. September 11, 2017.
  • Levin, Henry M. “Education as a Public and Private Good.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 6, no. 4 (1987): 628-41.
  • David Cohen and Deborah Loewenberg Ball, who originated the idea of the instructional core, used the terms teachers, students, and content. The OECD’s initiative on “Innovative Learning Environments” later adapted the framework using the terms educators, learners, and resources to represent educational materials and added a new element of content to represent the choices around skills and competencies and how to assess them. Here we have pulled from elements that we like from both frameworks, using the term instructional core to describe the relationships between educators, learners, and content and added parents.
  • Alejandro J. Ganimian, Emiliana Vegas, and Frederick M. Hess, “Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all?” Brookings Institution, September 2020,
  • “Parents 2020: COVID-19 Closures: A Redefining Moment for Students, Parents & Schools.” Heroes, Learning, 2020. . 
  • “The Six Core Principles of Improvement.” The Six Core Principles of Improvement. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. August 18, 2020. . 

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Equipping teachers with globally competent practices: A mixed methods study on integrating global competence and teacher education

Shea n. kerkhoff.

a Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership, College of Education, University of Missouri – St. Louis, 1 University Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63122, USA

Megan E. Cloud

b College of Education, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

Associated Data

  • • The Global Teaching Model is situated locally, integrated with standards, critical framing, and intercultural collaboration.
  • • Our data showed that global education was not a part of participants’ current curriculum.
  • • However, teachers believed that global competence was important for them and their students.
  • • Our findings show that teachers need guidance in translating global education theory to practice.

Education leaders recommend that global competence–global citizenship mentality and knowledge development for global participation–be incorporated into school curricula. This mixed methods study examined teacher’s perceptions and self-reported practices of globally competent teaching. Data was collected from teachers taking a graduate education course infused with global learning. Results suggest teachers value and desire to enact globally competent teaching but need practical direction for classroom effectuation. Data manifest all four dimensions of the Global Teaching Model (i.e., situated relevant practice, integrated global learning, critical and cultural consciousness raising, and intercultural collaboration for transformative action) to differing degrees. This study provides evidence for the Global Teaching Model as a prospective framework and emphasizes the critical dimension when internationalizing teacher education.

1. Introduction

Today’s world is increasingly interconnected, and growth in global migration has led to more diversity in schools worldwide ( Suárez-Orozco, 2001 ). The authors’ home is no exception to this international trend. In Missouri the number of foreign-born residents increased 51 percent from 2000 to 2010 ( Asia Society, 2018 ) and our hometown of St. Louis led the nation in immigrant population growth in 2016 ( Hulsey, 2016 ; US Census, 2017 ).

Education leaders have called for students to develop global competence for our interconnected world ( Rizvi & Lingard, 2009 ; OECD & Asia Society, 2018 ; US DOE, 2018 ). Longview Foundation defines global competence as “a body of knowledge about world regions, cultures, and global issues, and the skills and dispositions to engage responsibly and effectively in a global environment” ( 2008, p. 7 ). To be globally competent, students need global citizenship dispositions and the multiple literacies necessary for participation in a digital, global world ( Kerkhoff, 2017 ). In order for change to occur in education, however, the extant literature shows that teachers must be trained in teaching global competence ( Kerkhoff, Dimitrieska, Woerner, & Alsup, 2019 ; West, 2012 ; Yemini, Tibbitts, & Goren, 2019 ).

Internationalizing teacher preparation can help teachers personally develop global competence and gain the knowledge and resources necessary for teaching global competence to their K-12 students ( Longview Foundation, 2008 ; Zhao, 2010 ). Traveling abroad is one approach; however, cost makes international travel an unrealistic option for many teachers ( Parkhouse, Tichnor-Wagner, Glazier, & Cain, 2016 ) and the Coronavirus pandemic makes international travel unlikely in the foreseeable future. In this study, the authors investigate ways of internationalizing teacher education curricula that do not require travel. Primarily, the purpose of this study was to investigate teachers’ perceptions and practices related to teaching global competence after participating in the first author’s teacher education course framed with the Global Teaching Model (GTM). A secondary purpose was to examine the feasibility of the GTM, operationalized and validated in Kerkhoff (2017) , as a framework for understanding globally competent teaching.

The GTM was developed through a sequential mixed methods process beginning with in-depth interviews with 24 expert global teachers followed by factor analysis to determine if the findings that emerged from qualitative analysis were generalizable to a larger population of 630 teachers. The process yielded a 19-item Teaching for Global Readiness scale (TGRS) and the four factor GTM. The creation of the GTM was framed in critical theory focused on equity worldwide (i.e., Andreotti, 2010 ; Wahlström, 2014 ).

2. Postcolonialism: a critical lens for global teaching

For educators concerned with equity and critical pedagogy, postcolonialism offers a theoretical lens for globally competent teaching ( Masemula, 2015 ; OöConnor & Zeichner, 2011 ). Postcolonialism according to Andreotti (2010) acknowledges that current societal injustices are directly related to the history of colonization. According to Andreotti, “Our stories of reality, our knowledges, are always situated (culturally bound), partial (what one sees may not be what another sees), contingent (context dependent) and provisional (they change)” (p. 236). Her postcolonial take on global education emphasizes a non-coercive inner process where one negotiates for a broader understanding of human experiences. Postcolonialism offers plural epistemologies where multiple truths are recognized because multiple human experiences are acknowledged and valued.

Using postcolonialism as the theoretical lens, Subedi (2013) put forth three approaches to global education: deficit, accommodation, and decolonization. A deficit global curriculum maintains a strict dichotomy between “us and them.” Eurocentrism is viewed as the dominant ideology, cultural ideal, and lens through which all other cultures and peoples are viewed. In this approach, global discussions center on the problems of the non-Westernized world. The fundamental presupposition of the deficit approach is that Western values are superior and, therefore, the answer to global “problems.” When global events or cultures are presented in a deficit curriculum, they are positioned as dangerous, deviant, and “not worthy of serious academic inquiry” ( Subedi, 2013, p. 628 ).

Similarly, the accommodation global curriculum does little to counter the underlying assumptions of Western/European superiority and ignores the ways Western values acquired historical privilege and power; however, it does bring awareness of global perspectives and events into the classroom. Chosen texts expose students to diverse voices from other cultures while still upholding Western values as the norm. Although well-intentioned, the absence of critical and sociocultural awareness perpetuates stereotypes and reifies the dichotomy of the West and the rest.

Decolonizing global curriculum, however, takes a critical approach when examining the social, cultural, and political influences of knowledge production. Decolonizing is the preferred method of global learning specifically because it comes from critical (concerned with power) and resource (as opposed to deficit) frames. When studying global perspectives, decolonization seeks to read, formulate, and address “events from the perspective of marginalized subjects” ( Subedi, 2013, p. 634 ). It advocates for an anti-essentialist curriculum that dispels the notions of monolithic cultures and the justification of hierarchies due to cultural differences.

In addition to decolonizing curriculum, Ndimande (2018) calls for decolonizing research that influences education policy and practice. This research project hopes to contribute to decolonizing efforts in this field. We are aware of the limitations in reaching this goal, however, as our university affiliation implicates us in the legacy of colonialism ( Subedi, 2013 ). Though we may not be able to eliminate all bias or Western influence on our research, we aim to avoid deficit language and “us and them” conceptualizations, and accept plural epistemologies. While we acknowledge that publishing this research benefits us as authors, we hope it will primarily contribute to transformative educational practices that amplify equity and social justice in teacher education.

3. Pedagogies and models for globally competent teaching

O’Connor and Zeichner (2011) describe globally competent teaching as a practice that is simultaneously broad and specific: Broad in that it transcends disciplines and age-levels, and specific in that it should be relevant to local socio-political contexts and students’ cultural identities. In this study, we focused on global competence in teacher education. Specifically, we use Kerkhoff (2017) empirically validated Global Teaching Model (GTM) as a conceptual framework. In the following sections, we review the relevant teacher education research and then synthesize extant literature with the four dimensions of the GTM.

3.1. Curriculum and instruction in global teacher education

Research describes curricula and pedagogies of global teacher education in multidimensional ways. Some colleges of education have integrated global issues and cultures into existing curricula ( Carano, 2013 ; Ferguson-Patrick, Reynolds, & Macqueen, 2018 ; Poole & Russell, 2015 ), while others have created stand-alone global education courses ( Kerkhoff et al., 2019 ; Quezada & Cordeiro, 2016 ). Through an extensive literature review, Yemini and colleagues found that pedagogies in global teacher education research are innovative (but not necessarily new) takes on existing pedagogies ( 2019 ). Mansilla and Chua (2017) call these innovative approaches to global education “signature pedagogies.” Signature pedagogies include engaging teachers in inquiry about the world ( Kerkhoff, 2018 ), participating in intercultural dialogue ( Kopish, Shahri, & Amira, 2019 ; Ukpokodu, 2010 ; Zong, 2009 ), and playing a role in simulations with global content ( Myers & Rivero, 2019 ).

Tichnor-Wagner, Glazier, Parkhouse, and Cain undertook extensive qualitative research on signature pedagogies for globally competent teaching. They produced the Globally Competent Teaching Continuum (GCTC; 2019). The continuum signifies that globally competent teaching is a developmental progression. The continuum includes twelve components organized as knowledge, skills, or dispositions, such as the disposition of empathy and valuing multiple perspectives and the skill to facilitate intercultural and international conversations that promote active listening, critical thinking, and perspective recognition . Although all twelve components (see Table 1 ) are theoretically sound, the number of dimensions in this continuum may impede its use as a heuristic in teacher education.

Comparison of the Globally Competent Teaching Continuum Twelve Components and the Four Factors of the Global Teaching Model.

3.2. Global teaching model

Kerkhoff’s (2017) GTM is based on a mixed methods study with K-12 educators. Because global teaching is contextualized within a nation ( Fujikane, 2003 ), the model was developed for and validated specifically in the U.S. K-12 context. The GTM comprises four factors: situated, integrated, critical, and transactional. These factors served as the conceptual framework for both the course and this study, and provided teachers a heuristic for implementing global teaching. When placed side-by-side, as in Table 1 , all but one (i.e., communicate in multiple languages) of the GCTC’s twelve elements aligned with the four factors of the GTM.

GTM’s first factor is situated practice, meaning teaching is culturally relevant to both students in the class and socio-political issues in the local community. Situated practice includes the dispositions of valuing diversity and students’ voices. Situated practice is culturally relevant ( Ladson-Billings, 2004 ), helps break down stereotypes, and works against essentializing people, places, or times in history ( Apple, 2011 ; Mikander, 2016 ). Situated practice acknowledges local and global connections: Teachers stay current on local and global events and consider multiple perspectives (even those that challenge their own beliefs). Teachers also reflect on their own cultures, assumptions, and biases ( Hull & Stornaiuolo, 2014 ). Most importantly, teachers guide students in doing all of the above.

Integrated, the next GTM factor, means global learning is not a one-off but incorporated across grade levels and disciplines. Teaching and assessment of global learning are part of course objectives. Teachers build a repertoire of resources related to global issues in the discipline/s they teach. Teachers understand how the world is interconnected, and can analyze global challenges and inequities through a disciplinary lens. Integrated global learning requires students to construct knowledge about the world through authentic inquiry and experiential learning ( Choo, 2017 ). Students understand how their actions affect people in other countries and vice versa ( Mikander, 2016 ). Through situated and integrated global learning, teachers show students how both their lives and their studies are already globally interconnected.

The third dimension is critical. Global teaching through a critical frame considers issues of power, privilege, and oppression so that teaching does not recreate hierarchies found in the world ( Delpit, 2006 ; Freire, 1970 ). Critical includes the critical literacy practices of analyzing source reliability and bias, and constructing claims based on evidence from wide-ranging authors. Teachers involve multiple, international, and traditionally marginalized voices and encourage perspective-taking and empathy-building ( Pashby, 2008 ; Tichnor-Wagner et al., 2019). Students listen/read first to understand different perspectives ( Freire, 1970 ) and then write/speak their perspective in ways that demonstrate intercultural and global consciousness ( Pashby, 2008 ). Part of critical framing is reflexivity, or what O’Connor and Zeichner (2011) referred to as “sociocultural consciousness,” where teachers acknowledge they are cultural and political beings and examine their biases. The development of critical literacy is one way to raise sociocultural consciousness.

Fourth, transactional experiences involve international partnerships, through which students engage in intercultural dialogue and construct knowledge about the world ( Kerkhoff, 2018 ). Transactional experiences mean learning with other people through active listening and critical thinking. It also means problem-solving with others in solidarity, rather than solving others’ problems in ways that reinforce colonial power relationships. Transaction means there is an equal give-and-take, and global teaching requires equitable partnerships with global communities ( Wahlström, 2014 ).

The first two factors, situated and integrated, describe how global teaching can be connected to existing curricular structures and instructional practices. The last two factors, critical and transactional, explain how teaching about the world can be approached from a critical frame and commitment to equity.

This article describes a mixed methods self-study of a graduate-level teacher education course called Learning through Inquiry. Self-study involves systematic analysis towards both the improvement of one’s practice and contribution to the field ( Hamilton & Pinnegar, 2000 ). Research questions were: (1) To what degree do participants report implementing global teaching practices in their K-12 classrooms? (2) How do participants understand the role of global competence? (3) According to participants, what influenced how they employed globally competent teaching? With these research questions as the hub ( Maxwell & Loomis, 2003 ), we used concurrent nested mixed methods by collecting both qualitative and quantitative data simultaneously, embedding the quantitative within the qualitative ( Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003 ).

4.1. Context

The study took place during an online masters’ level education course at a U.S. urban university. The course (Learning through Inquiry) was organized into eight modules, including modules on collaborative learning, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and global learning. Each module contained readings on education theory, discussion boards where students interacted, and assignments where students were tasked with translating theory into practice. Instructional plans for the global learning module can be found in Appendix A . The first author was the course instructor, and the second author was the research assistant.

4.2. Participants

All participants were enrolled in the university’s masters of education program. Every student in the first author’s course was invited to participate; 19 consented to analysis of their coursework and four agreed to follow-up interviews. Consent was also obtained from 56 students (focal group = 28, comparison group = 28) for anonymous completion of the Teaching for Global Readiness Scale (TGRS). The focal group consisted of students in the first author’s course, and the comparison group (recruited from a separate online masters education course) consisted of students with no known prior exposure to globally-focused teaching curriculum.

The focus course served both the masters in curriculum and instruction degree and the alternative teaching certification program, so at the time of the study, all participants were inservice teachers, but not all were yet licensed. Years of teaching experience ranged from one to 18. Participants’ schools were spread across the state and spanned the spectrum of public, charter, and private, as well as rural, suburban, and urban. Five participants identified as African American, two as Asian American, one as Latinx, and 12 as white. Grades and subjects taught varied (see Table 2 ).

Profile of Focal Participants.

4.3. Data sources

Self-study requires that the researcher/teacher provides convincing evidence ( Hamilton & Pinnegar, 2000 ). In order to provide copious evidence, we utilized both qualitative and quantitative data sources. Focal group participants contributed both qualitative and quantitative data; quantitative data alone were collected from the control group ( Table 3 ).

Table of data collection.

Qualitative data were collected via course artifacts, i.e., discussions, self-reflections, and lesson plans from the global learning module in Canvas. Students completed lesson plans and personal inquiry projects on topics related to global education and wrote reflections upon completion of each. Focal participants completed the TGRS at the beginning and end of the semester and reflected on their growth, facilitating self-reflection on TGRS-related teaching practices during their qualitative interviews.

One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with four participants the semester following the course. Due to the participants’ geographic spread, interviews were conducted face-to-face when possible and using Zoom when not. All were recorded and transcribed. The protocol can be found in Appendix B .

Quantitative data were collected anonymously via a knowledge inventory and the TGRS. The knowledge inventory measured participants’ self-reported knowledge level of concepts covered in the course, including the concept of global learning. The survey comprised 21 questions adapted from TGRS, which measures teachers’ attitudes about and frequency of teaching practices that promote global readiness. The original scale ( Kerkhoff, 2017 ) was found to be a reliable and valid measure of global teaching (χ 2 (143) 246.909, χ 2 to df = 1.73, CFI = 0.960, TLI = 0.953, SRMR = 0.061, RMSEA = 0.051, α = 0.88). Cronbach’s alpha showed good reliability of the adapted TGRS ( α = .89). A list of scale items can be found in Table 4 .

Group Means by Teaching for Global Readiness Scale Item.

Note : Parentheses around subscales indicate items that have not yet been validated.

4.4. Quantitative analysis

To inform instruction, the knowledge inventory was given to participants at the beginning of the course. Descriptive data are reported to show participants’ knowledge of global learning before engaging in course material. TGRS was administered to two groups (i.e., focal and control). Group means from individual scale items were analyzed using two-sample independent t -tests. The TGRS was anonymous in order to mitigate instructor’s influence and promote honest self-reflection. Because the TGRS was anonymous, we could not conduct a paired t -test or compare individual’s pre and post tests; instead, we utilized a two-sample independent t -test to compare post result means against a control group. To contribute to validating and operationalizing the GTM model, TGRS post-course responses were then quantitatively compared between the focal and control groups.

4.5. Qualitative analysis

Qualitative data sources were analyzed using a priori and open coding. For a priori coding, we used the GTM four factors, paying particular attention to statistically significant items from quantitative analysis (i.e., using texts written by authors from diverse countries , guided students to examine their cultural identity , constructed claims based on primary sources , and built a repertoire of resources related to global education ).

After coding individually, we met to discuss and reach consensus about coding parameters. We ultimately agreed valuable data were not captured solely by a priori codes; therefore, the next round included a priori as well as open coding. We determined that a hierarchical process was most appropriate for the next step. We converted the four a priori codes into themes and placed related codes under each theme looking for patterns within to create categorical codes.

Within each code, we looked for illustrative key statements (i.e., participant quotes in the data) that answered the research questions. Codes were triangulated by looking at multiple data sources and multiple participants ( Yin, 2014 ). Counter examples were also coded to increase trustworthiness of the findings.

4.6. Ethical considerations

Given that the first author was also the course instructor, we took great care to conduct research in an ethical manner. Institutional Review Board approved protocols were followed for all aspects, including gaining participant consent. Surveys were completed anonymously and, as such, not graded. In addition, one-on-one interviews took place after grades were submitted. These methods were enacted to protect the participants; yet we acknowledge these data cannot be separated from a contextual power difference between the researcher (as professor) and the participants (as her students). It is possible that participants reported what they believed the professor wanted to hear rather than their honest perceptions.

5. Findings

We sought to investigate three research questions: (1) How frequently do participants report implementing global teaching practices in their K-12 classrooms? (2) How do participants perceive the role of global competence? (3) According to participants, what influenced how they enacted globally competent teaching? Quantitative results addressed RQ1 and are reported first, followed by qualitative findings concerning RQ2 and 3.

5.1. Quantitative results

Quantitative results were derived by statistical analyses of data from both the knowledge inventory and TGRS.

5.2. Knowledge inventory

At the beginning of the course, participants complete a knowledge inventory on instructional concepts. Using Google forms, we gave the following instructions: On a scale of 1–5, how well do you know the following instructional concepts? For the item on global learning, only one participant believed that global learning was a current part of their instructional repertoire ( Fig. 1 ).

Fig. 1

Participant responses to the knowledge inventory item on global learning.

5.3. Teaching for global readiness scale

Descriptive data are reported in Table 4 . Participants responded to 21 statements. The first 16 inquired about frequency of implementation over the past two weeks using a 1–5 scale (i.e., Never, Once in two weeks, Once a week, 2–3 times a week, Daily ), and five addressed attitudes about practices across a typical semester (i.e., Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither agree nor disagree, Agree, Strongly agree ).

Focal participants (i.e. teachers exposed to global competence via their graduate teaching course) reported implementing 81 % of TGRS practices more than once over two weeks (control group: 56 %), with statistically significant greater frequency in these specific practices: (a) Using texts written by global authors ( M = 2.68, SD = 1.12; M = 1.86, SD = 1.13; p = .0142); (b) Guiding students to examine their cultural identities ( M = 3.32, SD = 1.12; M = 2.43, SD = 1.50; p = .0197); and (c) Asking students to construct claims based on primary sources ( M = 2.68, SD = 1.25; M = 1.96, SD = 1.22; p = .0434). When reporting on five additional practices used over a typical semester, significant difference was seen between group attitudes on the following item: Focal teachers believed they “[built] a repertoire of global-education resources” more strongly than control teachers ( M = 3.32, SD = 1.02; M = 2.43, SD = 1.31; p = .009). Of the four subscales, significant difference was seen within situated, integrated, and critical, but not within the transactional subscale.

5.4. Qualitative findings

Our qualitative analysis focused on patterns across participants. Key statements that illustrate those patterns are described below, organized around the four dimensions of the GTM (situated practice, integrated global learning, critical framing, and transactional experiences), and followed by challenges related to global teaching that participants perceived.

5.4.1. Situated practice

The factor of situated practice was a frequently coded theme. Under this theme, we noticed two categorical codes: cultivating students’ cultural identity and expanding the definition of relevance. Cultivating students’ cultural identity

Cultivating cultural identity begins with understanding that teaching and learning are cultural practices. Teachers understand themselves to be cultural beings and help students to build the same understanding. For example, after studying the global module, a science teacher created an enduring understanding for a lesson plan: “Students are aware of how differing cultural contexts may affect how a certain mutation can be viewed in society as beneficial or harmful.” This understanding went beyond scientific knowledge of mutations to an understanding of how culture shapes one’s perceptions of scientific concepts. This particular lesson plan involved readings on congenital twins in India and the U.S. and, based on the news reporting, having students consider cultural assumptions regarding the mutation (i.e., beneficial, neutral, or harmful?).

Another participant mentioned she had taken for granted that students would develop cultural identities outside of school. Before the course, she had not utilized reading and writing to support the positive development of her students’ cultural identities. She said:

My classroom is full of diverse learners who speak different languages and come from different cultures. Through this course, the importance of embracing students' cultural identity has become clearer. Before, I was guilty of believing that their cultural identity was examined on their own. However, I am now understanding that a teacher can have a crucial role in encouraging students to celebrate their own and their classmates’ cultural identities.

A different participant noted that, although they had discussed culture in class, they had not connected discussions to their students’ cultural identities. This participant felt that learning about students’ cultures, and linking teaching to those cultures, helped them better connect.

Every unit, my students are analyzing primary and secondary sources from people all around the world. But this course made me think more about my students’ cultures. I am able to communicate better with students from other cultures because I am more aware of it. I never thought about how that could affect a student until now.

Overall, participants perceived the connection to their students’ cultural identities as an important component of global teaching. In addition, participants expanded their capacity to make connections in the classroom by connecting cultures outside of U.S. subcultures and connecting current issues. Expanded definition of relevance

Participants studied culturally sustaining pedagogy during a course module. Our readings addressed diverse racial and ethnic identities within the U.S. While studying global learning, participants expanded their definition of cultural relevance to include the intersection of national, racial, and ethnic identities‒–for example, exposing students to black scientists from the U.S., Brazil, and Nigeria. A science teacher commented:

My students enjoy reading about scientists that look or come from places like them, but it would also be special to hear about other scientists that might not share as obvious similarities. My students are comfortable sharing their experiences and perspectives, so to take their global consciousness to the next level, they would benefit from more global lessons.

In his reflection about TGRS, a different science teacher shared his desire to move his teaching away from a Western-centric education in order to better serve his diverse students.

Participants also expanded their definition of relevance to include timeliness. In a discussion board, an English teacher remarked how two teachers found their students enjoyed studying international current events: “I think we often forget that relatable instruction does not have to be about what is going on in our specific communities, but what is going on in the world.” In this way, international current events became relevant because of the time aspect. Students connected to the events because they were happening now.

As mentioned above, participants reported embracing culturally relevant pedagogy before taking the course but found the expansion of social justice to global issues a welcomed addition. One participant immediately implemented a strategy from the course: She began pairing current events with perspective-taking discussion protocols (e.g., this issue matters to me because , to my friends and family because , and to the world because ) in her classroom. She believed perspective-taking was an important component of critical literacy, and using international current events expanded students’ critical analysis to include global viewpoints. A different teacher self-reflected:

I am constantly thinking about how I can empower students to be agents of change within their community. This module has me thinking about the need for my students to widen their perspective even more in order to include the entire world in their thoughts.

Designing situated practice inclusive of global cultures and international current events was a pattern noticed across grade levels and content areas. Participants perceived that situated practice and global learning could be integrated with their current responsibilities, as described in the next section.

5.4.2. Integrating global learning

At the beginning of the semester, all but one teacher reported that their curricula did not integrate global learning. However, participants came to the course believing that global learning was important, were easily persuaded of its importance, or, at the very least, did not actively resist the idea. As a representation of what most participants shared in the discussion post about global competence, a high school teacher stated: “It is important for them to learn how to inquire about the world, understand cultural and global perspectives, and most importantly interact with their world in a respectful way.” Overall, patterns related to integrated global learning included three codes: navigating tensions, focus teacher education on “the how,” and infusion with current pedagogies. Navigating tensions

At the end of the course, a science teacher shared his perception of the tension between the local and the global: “The heavy focus we get on culturally relevant pedagogy, we have been groomed to prioritize locality, and we still should…but our students need to also see and experience beyond because that is what the world will demand of them as they exit high school and continue into universities, trade schools, and the workforce.”

In addition to the tension between local and global, participants also discussed tension between tested and not-tested content. A charter school beginning teacher articulated the pressure she felt to focus on tests. In response to a peer who was able to integrate global literature because she could choose what her students read, this teacher posted the following:

I certainly understand global readiness and can articulate its value, but I'm actually supportive of my district’s control over what is taught. My students achieve higher than their counterparts. ALL of my students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and I don't think that as a privileged white lady, I should be deciding what my students "need". I think global learning is AWESOME, but I'm not able to implement it any time soon. (capitalization in original)

In response to the same discussion thread, another beginning teacher replied:

Implementing global readiness into my science curriculum is going to be quite challenging—given the breadth of topics I need to cover before End-Of-Course testing. Regardless, if I do so intentionally, I can get students to expand their depth of content knowledge to the levels they need for the questioning and reasoning that an End-of-Course exam can throw at them.

As evidenced by the two quotes, participants felt that global learning is important because of the globally interconnected nature of career, college, and community and because students come from diverse cultures; however they did not feel confident in implementing global learning due to tension with tested content. Focus teacher education on “the how.”

Overall, participants reported that the course’s focus on how to integrate global learning was helpful. For example, a high school teacher stated: “Where I see growth is having a better understanding of HOW to implement global readiness into my classroom. I knew the theoretical importance of doing so but really didn't know exactly HOW to go about it effectively” (capitalization in original). Another participant said: “[Teachers] need to learn a framework of how to make sense of … the unfamiliar.” She perceived that a framework was needed for how to enact global teaching. Infusion with current pedagogies

The two most common ways that participants reported uptake of global teaching were infusion with current curricular activities or with a desired pedagogy. For example, in her final project, an elementary teacher explained how she infused global learning with a webquest, a pedagogy that she had desired to bring into her practice:

Because of this course, my 5th grade science students researched natural disasters to complete a webquest that modeled how the Earth spheres interact. During that webquest, I provided my students with articles and videos about natural disasters across the world. This has helped my students learn global competence.

Since webquest was a new pedagogy she had wanted to use, it provided an opportunity to infuse global learning in the instructional design.

Another way participants reported integrating global learning was through the pedagogical practice of students’ reading texts. Incorporating diverse texts from international authors into their classes was seen across grade levels and disciplines, and as reported in the quantitative results, was significantly higher than the control group. Reflecting on the comparison between beginning and end of the semester TGRSs, one teacher said, “One major change has been the sources that I have incorporated into lessons.” A mathematics teacher reported, “I have changed how I use text and global learning within my classroom.” An English teacher said, “I grew the most in incorporating global texts and authors into my teaching.”

By the end of the semester, participants, with the exception of three math teachers, were able to create global lesson plans that infused global learning with their curricula. One math teacher wrote a lesson plan for a government course; the other two math teachers asked to complete a comparative inquiry on mathematics in other countries in an effort to build more globally connected content knowledge. As one participant stated, “I think creating a stockpile of potential global issues related to math over time could be a way to make integrating global readiness easier in future years.” She perceived that gathering global resources would help her integrate global learning in future lessons.

5.4.3. Critical framing of teaching and learning

The next theme is critical framing. Several participants embraced a decolonizing lens. For example, the science teacher mentioned previously vowed to expand his teaching beyond a Western-centric lens. More often, the critical frame was taken up via course opportunities for reflection and lesson creation. We also found that while some participants believed that they held a critical frame, their ideas on applying global learning in the classroom reflected deficit or assimilation mindsets. Two categorical codes ultimately emerged under critical framing: engaging in self-reflexivity and teaching perspective-taking and empathy-building. Self-reflexivity

Participants demonstrated self-reflexivity when they were reflecting on their beliefs and how those beliefs affected others. The view that teachers do not know everything, and that teachers can learn from and with their students, emerged as a frequent code from the reflections data. One participant stated it was her “civic duty” to be aware of all international events, yet most participants perceived mutual teacher/student inquiry of world events to be a strength of the GTM. A special education teacher shared, “It is important to see how you fit into the equation. How your actions or lack of action impact others and how the actions of entire areas across the globe impact others.” In the discussion board, a mathematics teacher commented, “I love that you acknowledge that sometimes you lack being competent. I have also been guilty of this until … visiting Brazil and actually immersing myself in another culture. I think if people took time to investigate global issues, they would see the world in a different way.” This participant perceived her trip abroad as an integral moment in her ability to see different views and to reflect on her own cultural assumptions.

An intriguing finding was how some participants really valued reflexivity as part of teaching. An elementary teacher stated, “I do consider myself to be a pretty reflective teacher, but having an actual piece [PDF of TGRS results] I filled out two separate times was interesting.” Another teacher reflected, “I liked … the recursive reflective nature. We were constantly absorbing new material from a variety of perspectives and this helped bring these to … my mind over and over, to the extent that I actually could try to apply the ideas and could reflect.” Similarly, a different participant shared:

This class really showed me the importance of incorporating reflective practices into my pedagogy. Being a teacher means taking the time to reflect on personal biases, strengths, weaknesses and instructional methods that can be improved to meet students’ needs.

Reflection on one’s teaching and connection to other people, both in the classroom and around the world, is an important component of global teaching from a critical lens. Once teachers engage in self-reflexivity, the next step is teaching students to examine the world with a critical lens. Some participants asked their students to investigate sociopolitical global issues from a standpoint of power, but most remained at an accommodation stance by focusing their teaching on perspective-taking and empathy-building. Teaching perspective-taking and empathy-building

Participants most commonly discussed taking up global teaching by engaging students in perspective-taking and empathy-building. In a discussion post, a few teachers lamented about the lack of empathy students displayed. One wrote: “Similar to Cecilia (pseudonym), my students take a satisfaction survey every quarter, and often most students say that they don't empathize with their peers or try to learn about their backgrounds and situations.” Another teacher in the discussion thread pushed back at the deficit views by saying:

You will be surprised how students really embrace other students’ differences when their cultural identity is exposed for something more than stereotypes. Sometimes when students are sharing a personal experience or family tradition, the other students find it interesting. This helps students get to know and accept each other. I have been doing lessons on empathy, and I have seen my students grow in this area a great deal.

This teacher taught students with social and emotional disabilities and focused her global learning lesson plan on empathy-building. As her quote above demonstrates, she perceived growth in her students. A social studies teacher said his parents from India taught him the value of perspective-taking, a value he brought to the classroom:

To solve any problem, you first must be able to understand the individual you have the problem with—because once you understand how they think and feel, finding the solution becomes easy. It is important for students to be globally competent so they too can also understand how people feel and think.

The reason global competence is important for students to learn, said a science teacher, is so that they can “understand their own and other perspectives, how to engage in RESPECTFUL dialogue, and finally how to take respectful action” (capitalization original). This teacher went on to say how empathy had become a personal mantra and a value he hopes to instill in his students. Another teacher commented, “Understanding how to listen and respond to a variety of perspectives is essential. Without those skills, we will not be able to work together to solve the problems plaguing our society.” Empathy and perspective-taking were considered important skills for communication and problem solving, not only in the context of future jobs, but also for current relationships and solving global social issues.

5.4.4. Transactional experiences

Transactional experiences involve experiential learning through dialogue and collaboration with people from different cultures and nations. This factor was the least coded in participants’ lesson plans and least reported by participants on the TGRS. Two categorical codes related to the theme are barriers to transactional experiences and bringing the world to the classroom. Barriers to transactional experiences

Lack of international and technological resources were barriers to implementation of transactional experiences. In addition, some participants found the name of the factor difficult to remember. For example, an interview participant said, “ Transactional means working with other countries, right? For sure I’m weakest on that one.” She believed her students would benefit from and enjoy working with students from a different country, but she did not personally have international contacts.

Two participants wrote their global learning lesson plans on Native Americans. One teacher chose Native American culture because she had a personal relationship that served as a resource for the transactional experience factor of her lesson. The other teacher thought Native American issues would be both new and relevant to his students. While Native American nations are indeed sovereign, they are at the same time part of the U.S. Should teacher educators encourage their students to push beyond U.S. borders?

For two different participants, the technology component made transactional experiences difficult to include in their classrooms. One said, “I struggle with technology as well but am hoping to compile a database of resources for students to use during activities. My goal is to make a connection through one of the websites that I found and hope we can have a meaningful connection with another teacher, individual or student from around the world.” The other teacher stated her issue was student access to technology: “I am still not in a place to fully carry out a SUCCESSFUL global lesson plan. My first issue is resources. The lessons I have reviewed require a lot of technology. I can barely access technology for my students to write a paper.” Although lack of resources acted as barriers to transactional experiences, participants became creative as they imagined what could be implemented in their classrooms. Bringing the world to the classroom

Connecting with students in other countries is just one way to incorporate transactional experiences. An English teacher considered bringing in experts from diverse countries to interact with her students, saying:

I hope that by bringing an expert to the classroom to discuss topics, my students will work on their speaking and listening skills, and will gain global perspectives that they have not been exposed to in the past. I plan to bring physical people into the classroom, as well as using online resources to do live interviews.

Another English teacher had a similar idea; however, she stated some concerns:

I need to get better at incorporating expert voices for my students’ projects. I get nervous about the last minute timing of multiple events at my school. On the other side, asynchronous technology would take care of this worry and allow the expert to respond to each question on their own time.

This teacher, and others, were not sure how to find experts from multiple perspectives. Another participant stated, “Without networks of people to call upon in each sub-topic, it was difficult to identify opportunities in which students could speak to a person from another culture or region of the world.” A charter school teacher shared that his school had lists of expert speakers (called Nespris) and a teacher from a culturally diverse school described how she had observed a teacher leveraging cultural and content expertise through her students’ networks. How to best utilize these experts was then negotiated by participants in discussion posts. Participants felt that experts could help students understand their content on a global scale and also give students practice engaging with people from different cultures in ways that “are respectful and celebratory of cultural differences.”

Overall, participants found transactional experiences with international partners the most challenging aspect to implement in their classrooms, and admittedly, we were also unable to include a coveted discussion with international partners during the graduate course. However, participants believed such interactions would be valuable in learning about different perspectives and practicing civil discourse.

6. Discussion

This mixed methods study examined self-report data of teachers’ globally competent teaching practices and perceptions. Quantitative data showed how and with what frequency participants infused global learning into their classrooms; qualitative findings reveal successes and challenges faced by participants when implementing globally competent teaching practices. This study contributes to the research literature the voices of teachers—voices needed for deeper conceptual understanding of translating global education theory to practice ( Kerkhoff, 2017 ).

6.1. Implications for research and practice

Quantitative analyses compared teachers from a business-as-usual graduate teaching course (controls) and teachers whose graduate course specifically infused global competence with its curriculum (focal group). Results revealed that, compared to controls, focal teachers practiced more globally competent teaching strategies in their K-12 classrooms at least once in the recent past (two weeks). Specifically, the following globally competent strategies were used with statistically greater frequency by focal teachers: guiding students to examine their own cultural identities, using texts written by global authors, and asking students to use primary sources when building claims. Across a semester, focal teachers reported building a repertoire of global-education resources with statistically greater frequency than did their control counterparts.

Based on our findings, we propose that exposure to globally competent teaching in teacher education relates to participants’ frequency of global teaching practices in K-12 classrooms. However, because we did not use pre and post paired t -tests, we are unable to infer that the relationship is causal. To ascertain if differences in globally competent teaching practices are caused by course integration of global learning, future studies should use TGRS to collect, pair, and analyze pre- and post- data in students from a globally-competent graduate teaching course and control group.

As a reflection tool for global teaching, TGRS may provide teachers with practical ideas to implement in their classrooms. According to our qualitative data, teachers found GTM a useful framework for translating theory into practice, reporting their ability to implement strategies immediately in their K-12 classrooms. In summary, qualitative data showed how participants implemented global learning by internationalizing existing culturally relevant pedagogical practices or by instituting desired pedagogies that opened a space for introducing global curriculum. Participants internationalized their curricula by infusing cultural understandings of content, teaching perspective-taking, and resisting Western-centric texts. Participants found entry points into global learning through their students’ cultural identities and international current events.

Quantitative data showed the following strategies were implemented in participants’ teaching at the end of the master’s course and with greater frequency than the controls: (a) using texts written by authors from diverse countries including primary sources, (b) reflecting on one's own assumptions and biases, (c) guiding students to examine their cultural identities, (d) discussing international current events, and (e) building a repertoire of resources related to global education. Analysis across quantitative and qualitative data suggests that providing information and examples on situated, integrated, and critical practices holds potential for influencing teachers’ globally competent teaching, but that teachers need more support in order to begin practices related to the transactional factor.

Qualitative results corroborate three well-documented barriers to implementing globally competent education: (a) lack of global resources, (b) mandated curriculum lacking in global competence, and (c) teaching tied to high-stakes tests that do not assess global competence ( Ferguson-Patrick et al., 2018 ; Kopish et al., 2019 ; Rapoport, 2010 ). In addition to the pressures to bring students to grade-level, cover a mandated and crowded curriculum, and ensure students pass high-stakes tests, our participants also felt a tension between the preparation they received from a culturally relevant lens that focused on the local and their perception that globally competent teaching focused solely on the global. The course provided a space to study culturally relevant pedagogy and global teaching side-by-side. Through course readings and discussions, participants were able to negotiate the local-global tension and conclude that many of their local communities were globally interconnected and that the model connected the local with the global rather than separating the two into a false dichotomy. Recognizing opposition to global education as problematic, most participants expressed desire to implement global competence into their teaching practices but needed to learn pedagogical moves that they can employ in K-12 classrooms.

Data from this study reveal the importance of educating teachers on how to enact global competence in K-12 classrooms, corroborating Reimer and McLean finding that teachers need a nuanced understanding of global education situated within classroom contexts ( 2009 ) and providing support for the application of the GTM as a framework for implementing global teaching practices. After extensive review of the literature, Yemini et al. (2019) concluded that there is a “need for comprehensive, dynamic frameworks for [global education in] teacher education to encompass… emerging trends in the literature ([e.g.] …the use of ICTs [information and communication technologies] and political changes)” (p. 88). The GTM includes both ICTs (in the transactional factor) and political relationships (in the critical factor), filling the need assessed by Yemini and colleagues.

6.2. Continued validation of the global teaching model

Validation of psychometric instruments and empirical models is a continuous process. Because of their theoretical importance, we added back to TGRS three items that did not load on the previous factor analysis. This study contributes both quantitative and qualitative support for keeping these three items ( texts by authors from diverse countries, guided students to examine their cultural identity, and reflect on my own assumptions and biases ). The results of this study indicate the four subscales, and the scale as a whole, are reliable according to a test of Cronbach’s alpha ( α = .89).

In the quantitative analysis, participants’ lowest-scoring factor was transactional experiences. This dimension requires experiential learning with different cultures, both face-to-face and through the use of ICTs. In the qualitative analysis, this factor also did not appear frequently. A few participants found it difficult to implement interactions with diverse others and even had trouble remembering the factor’s name. While the word “transaction” was originally chosen to signify the trans formative experiences and socio-political action that are integral components of global learning, this meaning was not effectively transferred through the word “transactional.” In fact, this term has a negative connotation in some education leadership circles (see Bass, 1998 ).

By synthesizing the research literature, the theoretical framework, the Global Teaching Model ( Kerkhoff, 2017 ), and the results of this study, we renamed the fourth dimension and created Fig. 2 as a heuristic for global teaching that works to decolonize curricula and raise sociocultural consciousness.

Fig. 2

The Global Teaching Model with four factors: situated, integrated, critical, and intercultural.

The fourth dimension is renamed intercultural collaboration for transformative action. Intercultural means an exchange between two cultures. Transformative implies that the action does not reinforce hegemony. During intercultural collaboration, students engage in egalitarian transactions of different perspectives in order to learn with diverse others ( Wahlström, 2014 ). Teachers, students, and partners work together to critically analyze global issues exposing how inequities occur and then advocate for equity. Students take action towards social justice in both their local and global communities and in solidarity with people who have historically been marginalized by globalization ( Apple, 2011 ; Choo, 2017 ; OöConnor & Zeichner, 2011 ).

Freire (1970) considered praxis, or action based on theory, to be an essential component of critical pedagogy. As O’Connor and Zeichner state, “Merely heightening students’ awareness of global problems without cultivating in them a sense of efficacy to take part in transformative action might in fact make students less likely to become empathetic citizens” ( 2011, p. 532 ). Empowering students to take action on global and sociocultural issues provides space for hope in the curriculum. Without transformative action, students may feel powerless against systematic oppression around the world. Because our data show that intercultural collaboration was difficult for teachers to implement, one implication of our study is that teacher education programs could leverage their university’s international partnerships to introduce teachers to potential partners.

7. Conclusion

Gorski (2008) and Hauerwas and Creamer (2018) warn that, even when global partners or issues are introduced in the classroom, more often than not, schools reinforce rather than dismantle existing hierarchies. Teacher education must not only explain the theoretical reasons why global education is important, but must also model how to implement decolonizing practices and consciousness-raising in ways that teachers can replicate in K-12 settings. Without decolonizing and consciousness-raising, global education may emulate colonial power structures of domination and oppression. It is therefore essential to bring critical theory to the forefront of globally competent teacher education.


This work was supported by Longview Foundation, US.

Appendix C Supplementary material related to this article can be found, in the online version, at doi: .

Appendix A. 

Going Global Module 6 Instructional Plan

Appendix B. 

Interview protocol.

  • 1) What kinds of knowledge and skills are important for being a globally competent person?
  • 2) How did the global learning experiences in our course impact you personally?
  • 3) Communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences was an important learning outcome for the course. What aspects of the course contributed to your working towards this objective?
  • 4) In what way has our course helped awaken, expand or strengthen your vision for education for all students? What new ideas do you have for promoting global communication and learning?
  • 5) What recommendations do you have to enrich, improve or continue this global learning among future students who are taking education courses?
  • 6) Do you think your pre- and post self-assessment on Teaching for Global Readiness was accurate? Explain why or why not.
  • 7) Select at least two items in which you feel you made the most progress during this semester. What course experiences and class materials contributed to these changes and learning and why?
  • 8) Select at least two items in which you feel like you didn’t make gains or that perhaps you need more work on. For each item reflect on: Why you feel you didn’t show growth in this area?

And any needed follow-up questions for clarification or further information.

Appendix C. Supplementary data

The following is Supplementary data to this article:

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A Global Perspective: Bringing the World Into Classrooms

—Image by Flickr user ricardo. Under Creative Commons.

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The need for students to be able to empathize with others, value diverse perspectives and cultures, understand how events around the world are interconnected, and solve problems that transcend borders has never been greater. Just consider the recent attacks inspired by hate and terrorism in Orlando, Fla., San Bernardino, Calif., Brussels, Paris, Tunis, Istanbul, and Yemen, or the unparalleled flow of migrants—many of them children—from war- and violence-stricken regions in the Middle East and Central America. Then there’s threat of damaging and deadly viruses such as Zika and Ebola hopping across people and countries.

The quick tick of news headlines exemplifies just how interconnected the world is today. It also points to the intercultural collaboration and problem-solving skills necessary to thwart the hatred that spawns terrorist attacks, successfully integrate culturally and linguistically diverse populations into classrooms and communities, and solve health and environmental crises.

Engaging students with the world is one step toward one day accomplishing such objectives. But what should educators teach to ensure that all students are prepared to successfully engage in the globalized world in which they already live? Furthermore, what steps can educators take to effectively foster globally minded knowledge, skills, and attitudes in students?

As part of the movement to educate the whole child and ensure students are challenged academically and prepared for participation in a global environment, the organization for which I work, ASCD, has launched an effort to focus on answering these questions. The place to start, I believe, is with some definitions on what global engagement means in a practical sense.

More Than a ‘21st-Century Skill’

For students to participate effectively in the global community, they will need to develop global competence: the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to live and work in today’s interconnected world and to build a sustainable, peaceful, inclusive world for the future. Global competence is often, and rightly, labeled a “21st century skill” needed for employment in today’s global economy. Yet global competence is so much more than a ticket to a competitive job. Students also need global competence to participate as empathetic, engaged, and effective citizens of the world.

What exactly does global competence entail? Many organizations have devised specific frameworks that define the term (see examples from the Asia Society , the OECD , World Savvy , and the Globally-Competent Teaching Continuum ). These frameworks tend to coalesce around the following attitudes, knowledge, and skills:

• Attitudes : This includes openness, respect, and appreciation for diversity; valuing of multiple perspectives, including an awareness of the cultural and experiential influences that shape one’s own and others’ perspectives; empathy; and social responsibility, or a desire to better the human condition on a local and global scale.

• Knowledge : This refers to the ability to understand global issues and current events; global interdependence, including the impact of global events on local conditions and vice versa; the processes of globalization and its effects on economic and social inequities locally and globally; world history; culture; and geography.

• Skills : These includes the ability to communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries, including the ability to speak, listen, read, and write in more than one language; collaborate with people who have diverse cultural, racial, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds; think critically and analytically; problem-solve; and take action on issues of global importance.

Connecting Educators Across the World

Just as teachers of algebra know how to solve equations and music teachers know how to play scales, educators should also strive to develop these global competencies in themselves so that they can foster them in their students.

Engaging with the world is one way educators can develop global competence. Traditionally in the United States, educators as a whole have experienced limited training around global diversity. For example, very few teacher-preparation programs provide opportunities for preservice teachers to study abroad or require coursework in global topics. Therefore, connecting practicing teachers, principals, and district leaders across communities and continents through summits, conferences, exchanges, and virtual meetings geared towards common professional learning needs can provide experiences that help develop a globally oriented mindset, knowledge base, and skill set. Furthermore, when provided a platform to network, educators can lead the way in changing the broader education system locally and globally to better support the whole child and elevate the teaching profession.

A number of opportunities already exist for teachers to connect with one another across the world. There are an array of exchange programs run by the U.S. State Department and NGOs (e.g., American Councils for International Education , EF Tours , Teachers2Teachers-International ) that provide educators with opportunities for meaningful cross-cultural interactions. And if travel is not always feasible due to financial or familial obligations, teachers can still engage with the wider world through virtual exchanges that connect classrooms across the globe as partners in learning activities that prepare students to be productive, engaged citizens of the world (for example, iEARN , Global SchoolNet ).

Classroom Strategies

There are plenty of steps that educators can take today to put students on the path towards creating a better world for tomorrow. This doesn’t require legislation that mandates a change in the curriculum, the introduction of a global studies course for graduation, or a line item from the state or federal budget. In a recent study of teachers committed to globally competent teaching , researchers found that the educators used the following common strategies to foster global citizenship and competency:

• Integrating global topics and perspectives across content areas. Globally competent teaching does not require a separate course or unit of study. Instead, teachers infused global content into the required curriculum, regardless of subject area. For example, math teachers used real-world global challenges as contexts for introducing new concepts (e.g., using word problems on population growth as a way to teach the rules of exponents) and language arts teachers used texts that represent diverse cultural perspectives and that take place in settings around the world to teach literature and informational texts.

• Providing opportunities for authentic engagement with global issues. Teachers provided real-world audiences for students to engage with around global issues. This took the form of pen pal and Skype exchanges with schools in other countries, service-learning projects emphasizing issues of global concern (e.g., access to clean water), or working in teams to devise and debate solutions to real-world problems, such as climate change, and sharing those solutions with government leaders. Notably, these activities were student-centered and inquiry-based.

• Connecting the global experiences of students and teachers to the classroom. Teachers adopted culturally responsive teaching practices that incorporated the cultures, languages, perspectives, and experiences of diverse students into curriculum and instruction. Teachers also incorporated their own cross-cultural experiences into the classroom through informal conversation, discussions around artifacts and photos, and lesson plans that incorporated knowledge gained and relationships built through their global experiences.

With these strategies in hand, the time is now for teachers to engage themselves, and their students, with the world. The lives of all students, no matter their zip code or their cultural, racial, linguistic, or economic background, are in some way influenced by the wider world. They too have the potential to shape that world. Their future, and the future of our world, depends on it.

What does global engagement mean to you? Why do you think it is important? Join the conversation by posting your reflections in the comments section.

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Teachers and the Teaching Profession in Global Education Policy Theory: A Commentary

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2021, Comparative Education Review

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Why I Became a Teacher – An Essay on Global Citizenship

essay about global teacher

Beth Marshall is a French Teacher and World Languages Dept. Chair at Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia. As a world languages educator, she is passionate about not only teaching her students languages but helping them evolve as global citizens in order to help a more globally conscious world and society.

“Why would you want to be a teacher?” is a question I’m asked often when I say I teach high school French. Many adults can’t fathom the idea of standing in front of thirty or more hormonal teenagers every day. It’s also a question I ask myself particularly often during those last long weeks of the school year in May, during those final exams and standardized tests. I also am reflecting on this again I prepare to go back to school in a few days. I definitely know the overall purpose of my French class is NOT for them to have memorized the verb “to be” in nine tenses by the end of the year, to be able to list the capitals and countries of the francophone world or to identify all the colors…it’s much more than that.

My purpose as a teacher is to give students the tools to communicate with others and connect in a positive way in the target language in our world today. It’s using current events articles, literature, and videos to open their eyes to a new perspective of the global world. Frank Smith said, “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” Good teaching is challenging them to think of themselves as citizens of the world, and the understanding that they’ll grow up in a world that is more connected than ever. Woodrow Wilson said “We are citizens of the world. The tragedy of our times is that we do not know this.” My goal as a teacher is to not repeat this with the next generation. If my students walk out of my classroom in 180 days and have a better awareness of who they are as global citizens of this world and have the tools to make positive connections in a second language, then my teaching has been a success.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Global Citizens

When I decided to talk to my classes about global citizenship this past year, one of the most powerful moments was brainstorming what the word “citizen” meant to them. Many explained to me the word citizen represented an obligation, or an expectation to be an important part of a group, thereby calling them to be aware of how important their actions were in our world today. If I was to create a chocolate factory here in Virginia (one of my own personal dreams!) and I dumped all the waste from my factory into the water, this would not only have a horrible impact on the town but also our Canadian neighbors to the north, our Mexican neighbors to the south, and eventually oceans across the globe. It is my calling as a global citizen to understand the impact of my own actions. The boundaries written on a map between our countries do not stop at that border with what we say or do. As our discussion evolved, I saw many heads in the class nodding in understanding. This was a powerful conversation, and probably much more interesting than when to use the imparfait versus the passé composé!

Another powerful discussion centered around a video we watched in which people across the globe were interviewed as to what rights we all have as citizens of the world. Some of the rights given to everyone on this earth just by being born included the right to live in a tolerant world with clean water, lack of poverty, a sustainable environment, and justice for all citizens. What an amazing thought…that everyone, just by being born, has rights. The sad fact is that some people are denied these rights depending on where they were born. We, as global citizens, have an obligation to fight for these rights. Many students also noted that even in the most remote and poverty-stricken parts of the world, kids their age were playing soccer. No matter where we come from, we enjoy some of the same things. We are all human beings, and we all belong to the human race. These were some powerful conversations!

Some students asked me “Pourquoi est-ce qu’on fait cela dans notre classe, Madame?” Why are we doing this in French class, Madame?” Obviously the idea of global citizenship can be a powerful discussion in science or social studies class as well, but how does this tie into a language class? As a French teacher, it is extremely important for me to show how learning a language ties into being globally aware. For me, it is connecting every lesson I do to our global world. It is bringing the French-speaking world into our classroom, where we can play with the language, explore the visual and culinary arts, and we can talk about how history has shaped the people of the francophone world.

Forging Connections

When we do listening comprehension, sometimes I use music videos to introduce new vocabulary. Students are sometimes shocked to hear that rap from Stromae, a Rwandan-Belgian singer, can be just as interesting as the music that they are listening to at home. To practice their speaking skills, we sometimes Skype with a classroom in France. We take writing assignments and give it a real-life purpose by making them pen-pal letters to our sister school, using vocabulary about their leisure time activities for them to compare and contrast life as a teen in the United States to life as a teen in France. These meaningful connections make current events so much closer to home; it becomes personal to them. When the attacks happened in Paris this past November, the first question that the students had was if our sister school was safe. When they wanted to make a sign to share their sorrow with their pen pals, I knew that we had achieved interconnectedness.

After talking with my classes about what issues we face in today’s world as global citizens, we then moved on to the last topic of what can we do to face these challenges. Travel was mentioned as part of many students’ action plan, which warmed my heart. To me, taking students abroad is the pinnacle of why I teach. It was on a student trip almost thirty years ago to Europe that opened my eyes to the world outside of my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. This curiosity led me to study abroad at the University of Paris in college and lastly to become a language teacher, leading my own trips with students.

There is no greater joy for me as a teacher than to watch my students use the language skills we have practiced daily in class to order a sandwich, to ask for directions to the nearest restroom, or to read a sign on the streets of Paris. As much fun as travel can be, (because who doesn’t love a Paris sunset?) there is more to travel than fun. It is to open the students’ eyes to possibilities, to show them how another culture can be so different yet so similar to their own all at the same time, to show them they can get on that plane, waving goodbye to their parents, and come back a more confident young person 10 days later. It is to start a small fire of a passion for travel that you hope leads to them either studying abroad in college, or even moving to another country in the future. It is giving them the confidence to try to communicate for the first time. Most importantly, it is showing them that they are connected to the world around them, and that it is going to be imperative in the 21st century that they understand how to communicate in a respectful way with others in order for our world to continue.

The World in Their World

What about those students who will never leave their hometown? (or their parents’ basements, for that matter?) Why would they need to learn a language? Will they ever use the French language that I have taught them? It is almost more important that this group who will not have opportunities to travel be able to understand the concept of “It isn’t weird; it’s just different” in regards to cultural differences. This group will more than likely still communicate in another language…some without ever leaving their own homes. Our computers and cell phones allow businesses to communicate with our global world, and it is going to be an important skill to be able to make connections with business partners and be respectful of their differences as our students navigate through their careers. It is my hope that these students will remember to use “vous” instead of “tu” and maybe get rid of the stereotype that all Americans only care about their own culture.

So, now we have educated the students, and they walk out our doors at the end of their four years of high school …what can this knowledge and understanding do for the world of tomorrow? It is my personal hope that I have planted an idea of “what if” within them that will lead them to helping our world become a better version of what it is now. Maybe some of them will join the Peace Corps, or become active in social reform in our own country or abroad. Perhaps even a few will inspire others to change the perspective of American citizen to a global citizen. If I have inspired students to seek out ways to make the world a better place, then I have done my job as a teacher.

This past week, I received a Facebook message from a family who was involved in an exchange with our sister school this past year. It was a ton of work, and I questioned myself “Why am I doing this?” many times during the exchange. After one of my student’s families at our school hosted two French girls this past fall, her American family traveled to France this summer to visit both girls. After the American family returned back from their visit to France, the mother of my student wrote: “Having just returned from our reciprocal visit, it’s very clear why these two (French students) are such a joy…their families are just wonderful! They took such good care of us and although (some of) our French is non-existent, communication was not a problem. We loved every minute…Thank you again, and in the future, if you get overwhelmed or feel like it is not worth it to go through the hassle of arranging something like this again, remember that although it might not be the same for everyone, relationships are built and lives are enriched through your efforts. At least ours were and continue to be.” This week when I start back to school, I will be working to create global citizens…one relationship at a time. So, next time I am asked “Why would you want to be a teacher?”, I have an answer.

This week when I start back to school, I will be working to create global citizens…one relationship at a time. So, next time I am asked “Why would you want to be a teacher?”, I have an answer.

What drives you as a teacher and inspires you to keep on going? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Ramstad: twin cities' charter global academy is still run by teachers.

Evan Ramstad

When school started last fall, University of Minnesota student-teachers working at Global Academy, a K-8 charter school in New Brighton, asked Global's teachers to list their hopes for them.

"I said 'I want them to stay in education,' because there's such a shortage of teachers," said Rachel Enderlein, who has taught kindergartners and first-graders at Global since graduating from the U 16 years ago.

"They were kind of shocked when I said that to them," she added. "I just said, 'I want you to see what is doable and to find that love of teaching that we have found.'"

I've visited some charter schools in recent months to learn how they sparked competition in public education, and how they affect Minnesota's economy. I'll write more about them in coming weeks. Global stands out because of how it is run.

A distinctive element of the 1991 law that created charter schools in Minnesota was that a majority of seats on their governing boards had to be given to licensed teachers working in the school. That changed in 2009, and many charter schools are now led by boards with a mix of administrators, parents and community members, looking more like the elected school boards of public school districts.

Global's nine-person governance board is still controlled by its teachers.

"You can't replace a teacher's knowledge for knowing what's best for a school. So we stay as a teacher-majority board and will always be that way as far as I'm concerned," said Melissa Storbakken, who co-founded Global in 2006, worked for many years as a teacher and became its executive director last fall.

Second-graders play a rousing game of beach volleyball during gym class at Global Academy in New Brighton on Tuesday. From left is Mohamed Gomma, Osman Gass, Abdurrahman Al-Warraky, Yassin Elmetwalli and Idris Selby.

Each summer, Global's teachers meet to revisit and reconsider what they call the "essential agreements" for running the school. They cover not just big things like the curriculum but smaller details like how students move through the building, which is quiet with teachers using hand signals and signboards to direct them.

"Everything's thought out, even the routes in the hallways," said Lauren Greiner, who joined Global last fall as a fourth-grade teacher. "If I have a new idea, I feel comfortable bringing it up and they tell me go ahead and try it."

Many charter schools find a niche of families to whom they appeal. Global's sprung from the desire of Storbakken and co-founder Helen Fisk to start a school with an international baccalaureate curriculum. They were teaching at another charter school with a sizable number of Somali students, and it was some families from that school who initially signed up when they opened Global.

"We didn't open the school thinking we would only be serving East Africans. The school is open to anybody who wants to come," Storbakken said. She added that the Somali families they knew "were gracious and trusting and very much accepted us for our all of our mistakes that we made."

About 85% of Global's 450 students are children of Somali immigrants or themselves are Somali immigrants. The school provides uniforms and transportation for them. The waiting list to get in has 600 names on it. As with all charter schools that are in high demand, admission is determined by lottery.

Ayan Barre, who has been the school's office manager from its start, has the difficult task of managing parents' expectations. "They call us two years prior" to enrolling students, she said. "I tell them 'OK, you're on the wait list.' They say 'What?'"

Middle-schoolers transitioned to their next class at Global Academy in New Brighton on Tuesday. From left are seventh-graders Mehveen Fatima, Jamila Hashi and Hanan Ahmed.

Global has consistently appeared on the Star Tribune's list of schools that "beat the odds," which compares test outcomes against estimated income of students' families . While having one of the highest rates of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, Global also had the highest reading scores, with nearly 60% of students at grade-level proficiency.

Its math scores are not as high, though still higher than most schools with a similar economic makeup. Charise LaVelle, who is the assistant director in charge of the middle school at Global, said teachers are feeling pressure from parents to improve math skills. She provides email updates about curriculum changes underway.

"We're pretty responsive on what's not working and what we need to do about it," LaVelle said.

The Star Tribune profiled the school in 2013 when it was achieving similar results while occupying a portion of a strip mall. Today, Global operates in the building that for years was home to United Theological Seminary. The seminarians' apartments are gone and there's now a playground and two gymnasiums for Global's students, who have physical education classes daily.

When I asked Storbakken why — when there's such demand — Global hasn't expanded, she referenced research showing the most effective schools have fewer than 500 students. Smaller size allows students and their families to develop stronger relationships with teachers, she added.

"Really what it comes down to is good teachers in the classrooms who have a lot of professional development, a lot of autonomy and agency and that makes them happy," Storbakken said. "If a student sees their teacher is happy, they want to come to school. Kids in seats, you educate them. That's how you get it done."

Fifth-graders studied math at Global Academy in New Brighton on Tuesday.

Evan Ramstad is a Star Tribune business columnist.

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