Global Competency for AP World History

I am currently planning for my one section (yay!) of AP World History, which I haven’t taught since 2013-2014, and running through the various materials to make sense of everything. As I noted on my AP World blog over on Ricard Academy, this course is a bit of a monster and requires some wrangling to make sense of it.

After you get past the scope of the course (a history of the entire world!) you then have to sort through the stereo instructions that is the Course and Exam Description (CED) which is supposed to help you figure out how best to teach the course. Yeesh.

Yet, having gone through the Project Zero Classroom institute this summer, I can take a deep breath and apply some tools to simplify things. Reading the aforementioned blog post, you can see that I created my throughlines or overarching understanding goals from the CED’s disciplinary practices and reasoning skills (p. 9 of 2017 CED). That alone is going to save my life and help me transition from “busy” to “productive”.

At PZ, I was struck by the notion about “global competency” that Veronica Boix Mansilla was presenting on and attended her session. I wanted to get a handle on what it was so that I can look into applying it into my courses, namely AP Art History and AP World. I took her working definition and turned it into my first overarching goal, hoping to make it a primal focal point for both myself and my students in our study of the history of the world.

Boix Mansilla’s definition, once again was:

  • Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.

What I really enjoyed about this definition is the focus on a disposition or development of a mind set. In today’s world, we need more awareness but we also need to temper our actions – or inaction. Most of today’s tension portrayed through the media lens is due to a lack of acknowledgement and a need for quick judgements formulated around labels. If we can not only be aware of what others are thinking and concerned about in other parts of the world, and acknowledge what they are thinking and feeling, we can take a step closer to diffusing any potential conflict. At least, its a working theory of mine.

To take it one step further, acknowledgement does not mean agreement. We should be able to make up our own minds despite the input of information. In other words, we need more listening and less talking at or about each other.

So, in order to help bring this awareness about, and develop this disposition towards global competency, I rephrased the definition into the following overarching understanding statement and question:

  • Am I globally competent?┬áStudents will develop the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.

By offering this constant opportunity for reflection, students can self-evaluate their growing state of global competency. When an important issue arises in today’s context, hopefully they will be able to apply it to their study of the past to help flesh out what is going on and then consider what the proper course of action will be.

Five Superpowers of Implementation of Project Zero

Tina Blythe left us with a final, inspirational message as we all began to stir for home with minds filled with ideas.

What have you found? Was it strategies or a mindset?

What will you do with it?

She reminded us that adaptation is not easy. Nothing works “out of the box”. The question became, how do you adapt with integrity? The ideas themselves should be what is essential about the framework (and don’t get hung up on terminology). Heading back to your context, what questions are people asking that you think PZ is the answer to? What needs are you addressing?

There are 5 Superpowers that we are now armed with as we venture back home.

  1. Professional Friendship – the contacts that we have made offer support, respect, and patience. We can always lean on others to gain perspective.
  2. Power of Failure – any complex system means it won’t be acquired easily and will take multiple drafts and attempts. Get comfortable with failure and ambiguity – as you should be modeling it for your students as well. Try at least one new thing, don’t go crazy, and fail “spectacularly”!
  3. Power of Wonder – we need more wonder in our classes and practices! Avoid being busy! Let things linger, use silence (W.A.I.T.) effectively, not everyone will agree! Slow down and absorb – we are born with a sense for wonder!
  4. Power of Questions – What do you think? What makes you say that? Could you please help me? Opt for inquiry over advocacy! Invite others to observe your class and invite feedback. Questions lead to process over product as the quality of the questions become more important than the answers. Open ended questions do not necessarily have straight forward answers – and complexity is not acquired easily.
  5. Power of One – when asked who is the most influential person in their life, 78% of people polled refer to a teacher. Students will experience relationships and will recall those more than the content they learned. Work on forming relationships with those around you.

Project Zero Plenary: Creating a Culture of Thinking Right From the Start

Thinking routines, habits of mind. These are structures that lead towards dispositions – something that was often repeated here at Project Zero. We want to shift away from the occasional behavior and move more towards ways of being. Dispositions are predictable behaviors that encompass values. In order to get to this point, we teachers need to create the culture in which our students will grow into these dispositions.

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The Art and Practice of Slow Looking at Project Zero

Shari Tishman presented a plenary on the concept of slow looking and its potential benefits. Needless to say, as an art historian and teacher, I was intrigued.

The concept of looking was introduced as a habit; and all habits can be improved with time and repetition. As such, looking requires us to be present – this is something our students today, pulled in various directions with many tools of distraction, are having a heck of a time doing.

Most importantly, looking is a prime method for information gathering. The better we are at it, the better the information that can be sourced from an object. Being present also allows us to notice more than at first glance. This behavior builds on our intention, and slow looking helps develop what Tishman referred to as “philosophical well-being”. There is a lot of talk about mindfulness, she reminded, but this is specifically a character virtue. Slow looking, she differentiated, has epistemic value and helps us develop how we learn about the world. By slowing down and looking more closely, we can find more meaning.

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