Educating for Global Competence:Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World

by Veronica Boix Mansilla & Anthony Jackson

In what ways is your school already developing a culture of global competence? How can you build on these beginnings?

The two schools I work (middle/high) in have worked hard at developing outside interest organizations. These opportunities for students will help shape future citizens. Curriculum is always is a state of fluidity, therefore, teachers and administration are making cognizant changes to address the needs of the ever changing world. Does this happen as frequently as it should? Some educators say no, and others say yes. There are two schools of thought. Many teachers I have worked with are hesitant of change. Whether it is because they are uncomfortable with changing topics or they feel that they can provide comprehensive instruction with familiar material, it is always a point of contention. I feel as if prior to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a student’s experiences were hit and miss with the assurance of examining topics of global significance. The CCSS provide teachers with a framework of expectations. I understand the complexity of implementing the standards, however, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. An area of concern for me has always been the effective use of technology. After entering this program, I believe that many of us who felt comfortable using technology really did not know the power it has on the educational world. I knew how to be “tech savvy” with devices, but not effective in the way that our future generation needs to be. Experiencing technologically adept teachers also should not be random, either.  I believe that, as a district, leaders need to work closely with those writing curriculum and see that the issues mentioned previously are addressed. Without providing teachers (who are still great teachers) direction, administrators can not expect adequate progress.

After reading the mere introduction, I do not feel as if our district has a “global” view. Or, if they do, it has not been something that has been shared through curriculum and conversations. I realize that in Chapter 8, there are more definitive ways of creating a concrete explanation/mission/vision. Our district leadership has gone through quite an influx of change. We have a new assistant superintendent and an interim superintendent. Hiring a curriculum coordinator has been put on hold. I feel as if these are key players in creating curriculum and guarantee best practices with instruction and assessment.  The foundation is there, however, I believe that those involved in curriculum writing would benefit from reading Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World by Veronica Boix Mansilla & Anthony Jackson.

A shared vision, mission and school culture will provide educators and students with a foundation of global competence within the school. Curriculum, instruction and assessment are administrative initiatives that need to be implemented from the top down. Without the guidance of central office and shared visions, bringing a community of teachers and learners together is difficult.  Relationships are vital in creating a connection and engagement in school. The creation of professional learning communities that is focused on specifically on international content and family and community partnerships that embrace the shared mission are imperative. This seems like an easy list to create, but difficult to implement on all levels.

How can your school creatively use the Common Core State Standards or state standards to promote global competence in English language arts and mathematics? Where are the key leverage points?

There are many avenues to providing global competence in the areas of English language arts and mathematics. The reading of literature, informational text and the requirements of speaking, listening and writing, all lead to a development of language around topical studies of the disciplines. Using a variety of genre in writing, students can learn how to investigate and support different claims to argue for or against. Using debate to learn how to communicate with other students, employers, co-workers will be an invaluable skill that is necessary in all aspects of employment. Common Core State Standards provides an alignment with national priorities. The speaking and listening elements of CCSS clearly set the stage for collaboration and communication for students in the work place. Becoming problem solvers, being challenged with complex text and communicating are skills that the industrial educational system can not effectively prepare future workers.

My school district can use the assurances of the CCSS to develop and connect students globally once a viable curriculum is put into place. The transition from previous standards to the Common Core is a slow process that has been displaced while waiting for new leadership. The use of technology to help comprehend the changing demands of work, our economy, migration, and climate instability via curriculum is a challenge for educators. We must help teachers learn along with the students on how to access, synthesize, evaluate and create change in an ever-changing world. I completely understand that there is a lot of kick-back with the standards, however, change is never easy. In my experience, it is not so much the change that is being pushed back, it is the time frame in which it needs to be implemented in, and many times, without support and resources.

One argument that comes to during our last revamp of the language arts curriculum is one of the core texts. Many teachers fought to hold on to a certain novel that, while thematically was appropriate, it held no global relevance whatsoever. Using The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton to teach the theme of Bonds was, by all means, effective. However, we had newer teachers who were excited about using The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.  With using the more contemporary text, teachers were able to connect the novel to current global issues such as women’s rights, terrorism and religion. The older novel, The Outsiders, had great literary elements and was high interest, it does not connect to relevant global topics. After reading sections of Mansilla and Jackson’s work, I can now defend why one text fits better into a viable curriculum than the other.

I feel as if this chapter needs to be shared with teachers who are responsible for helping to create and define our district’s curriculum. The clarity of the expectations of global competence is provided through these key concepts: engagement through global challenges, globalizing the context for learning, connecting to universal themes (disappointment, religion, sacrifice, femininity), illuminating the global history of knowledge and learning through international collaboration. These key components helped me understand where our curriculum is weak and how it can be strengthened.

How can your school create professional learning communities and other professional development opportunities to support teaching for global competence?

The new teacher evaluation system for educators has aided in the development of professional learning communities (PLCs). While seen as a necessity to bring all components of a collaborative environment together, schools need to set apart time to complete specific tasks. When working with a well-developed curriculum which embodies global competence for students, teachers can then use collaborative time to develop effective lessons. The PLCs will allow teachers time to reflect and develop engaging lessons for students to prepare to be global citizens. Throughout the text, the authors refer to the employment demand of specialized knowledge and skill. This growth (from 5% in the beginning of the 20th century to at least 70% in 2009) indicates that students need to be prepared for a global society. As educators, we have to make sure our curriculum addresses the skills needed to be taught, and not just continue with what we are comfortable in teaching to students.

Many newer educators understand the need for global competency. However, veteran teachers may not have  had the global classroom experience. In this case, administrators and policy makers need to provide opportunities for teachers to develop their understanding of lessons that will prepare students. Commonalities, such as interdisciplinary studies and content areas, are areas where teachers can begin to formulate a better understanding for their students. Having a strong curriculum will also lead teachers into groups of support for further investigations toward a more globally competent preparatory program. With a curriculum that encompasses economics, communication, security, cultural identity, citizenship and environment, educators can create learning environments for themselves. This is important to make sure we are providing students with the best practices.

The article provides a framework for the structure of a globally focused PLC:

  • Provide professional development activities that show how to integrate content and incorporate the development of global competency by investigation, recognizing perspectives, communicating across cultures and taking action

  • Bring other cultures into the school

  • Keep activities engaging (international book club, collaborative curriculum development and simulation of experiences and experiential learning opportunities

  • Develop resources

  • Offer opportunities for teacher reflection

  • Support teachers’ international travel

I feel as if these activities, if supported through administration, would provide teachers with the best opportunities to develop global competence, for themselves, as well as the students.

Mansilla, V. B., & Jackson, A. (2011).Educating for global competence: preparing our youth to engage the world. New York, N.Y.: Asia Society.