Nurturing Global Competence in a Connected and Disconnected World at Project Zero

How connected is our world, really? When you touch the seams of your clothing, who touched them first? What are their lives like? Does having internet access really connect us to one another? Our digital “connections” seem to mimic tribal patterns and echo chambers more than avenues of exploration. This is the context of our world today and on in which Veronica Boix-Mansilla establishes for our exploration in our mini course.

What is global competence and what kind of learning does it call for?

In short, what is a globally competent person? We brainstormed a list of adjectives: empathic, adaptable, aware, fluid, openminded, tolerant, engaged. What jumps out from this list is that these are ways of being, these are conditions, these are dispositions. An official definition is “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.”

As a disposition, this means that our students should be curious and inquisitive, they should be participatory, and they should be having an open dialog. This means that students will investigate, take a position, communicate ideas, and then take action. They will formulate a hypothesis, experiment with it, and share their results. It all boils down to having the capacity to take on a perspective which will help increase understanding for learners and how they fit into the world.

How does global competence develop throughout childhood and youth?

Boix-Mansilla gave several examples from elementary, to middle, to high school.  She asked two questions: In what ways are students revealing a growing capacity to take perspective? What may be challenging about taking perspective at this time in their lives and in this context?

In the first example, students from the US were communicating with students from Japan. They made observations of each other and also had cultural exchanges with one another.

The second example was a student who was tasked with writing a story about her family and initially, she didn’t think she had a story of interest. As it turns out, one of her relatives was a “lost boy” from Sudan, and it led her on an unforgettable path. Writing the story helped her understand perspective and an interview with her several months later revealed how much she had learned and gained from this assignment.

The last example was a student project for creating a memorial around a genocide event. The student example was a “Nuclear Bomb Victim’s Memorial” and its sophistication revealed depth on several levels. It was “victimless” in the sense that it didn’t target anyone in particular but everyone could potentially be affected. It was foreshadowing an event in the future. The message was simple and haunting.

There were several ways students showed a capacity for taking perspective in their work. For the first example, the students made comparisons to each other’s cultures with no value judgments. It would seem the kids work like anthropologists, they are trying to understand their world and culture. The second example, there was a shift towards openness and curiosity. In the final example, perspectives used removed judgement but encapsulated direct observations.

How can we best nurture global competence among our young and what practical tools might prove helpful in our own practice?

So how were these students encouraged and coached towards being globally competent? Through modeling, language, usage, and establishing a culture of creativity, these students emerged globally competent with long-lasting, impactful, and empathic views of the world around them. In other words, the activities were relevant and directed by self-interested projects while interacting in a culture that allows for creative thinking and opportunities for reflection. As noted in previous posts, teachers enact the curriculum (not “cover” it) by establishing a culture of creativity and critical thinking. With this in place, teachers will use global thinking routines to change from occasional behaviors to a disposition.

What are some examples of global thinking routines?

The 3 Ys

This global thinking routine (GTR) helps establish a local-global connection with students and forces them to think about their place in a global context. For a given topic, students should ask themselves:

  1. Why might this topic matter to me?
  2. Why might this topic matter to people around me (family, friends, community)?
  3. Why might this topic matter to the world?

Unveiling Stories

This GTR helps students gain insight from a given stimulus (image, text, etc.) on multiple levels.

  1. What’s the story? – main idea, most visible story
  2. What is the human story? – how does the story help us understand the lives of our fellow human beings
  3. What is the world story? – how does the story address global systems and issues
  4. What is the new story? – what is new about the topic explored
  5. What is the untold story? – what is left out, omitted, or unreported

Step In, Step Out, Step Back

This routine invites students to take on perspectives and call attention to the process of understanding others – a key ingredient in developing global competency. It provides opportunity to identify various perspectives in a given situation, provides evidence for thoughts and values, and how various societal forces shape their own perspectives.

  • Step Inside – Identify a person or agent in the situation you are investigating. Given all of the information you have at this time, try to step inside this subjects perspective. What do you think he/she might experience, know, believe, feel, and why?
  • Step Out – What else do you need to find out about? What questions might you ask?
  • Step Back – What did you notice about yourself and the perspective you bring to understanding others in this process?