Global Education and Competencies

Teachers for Global Classrooms Resources

How to Use this Guide: An Introduction
Digital Learning Inventory
Standards-based Global Education Updates
International Project-based Learning Opportunities List
Local Community Resource List
Global Education Student Assessment Tools Inventory
Essential Question and Guiding Questions for International Travel
Global Education Unit

Why a global focus? The 21st Century, for all of the hype, really is a different sort of animal. While we are rushing toward that tipping point in online learning referenced by Christensen in his book Disrupting Class, we are still balancing on the cusp of a potential revolution in the education system. I say potential because there is a great deal of push back when it comes to digital learning, Common Core, and student-centered learning.

In the 21st century, learning is not about acquiring knowledge but about knowing where to access it. Learning is not about parroting back information but about applying what you’ve learned. Thus, in order for students to be able to apply new knowledge in authentic ways, they need to be guiding the focus of their own learning. This transition from a teacher-centered class to a student-centered class is a significant change. And, like any change, it is difficult, fraught with challenge, frustrations, and bumps in the road. It’s also entirely worth it. As we teach and live and use technology in our every day lives, we must fully immerse ourselves in the experience — and then spend time to deeply reflect. We must engage in writing, engage in thinking, engage in analyzing what works and what doesn’t work. And we need to bring this experience, this reflection, and this process into the classroom.

Back in 2005, Thomas Friedman published The World is Flat, reminding his readers that in this new digital age, boundaries are smudged, historical and geographical boundaries are becoming irrelevant, and that in order to stay competitive (and, indeed, a viable presence in the global dialogue), it’s important to make several purposeful and intentional perceptual shifts. This isn’t new. But it’s a reminder.

Why a global focus in the K-12 education system? When students are aware of the world about them and curious about how the world works, they are able to take on significant problems for research and exploration. Globally competent students are not only able to recognize perspectives other than their own but that they are able to articulate them with respect. Thus, as educators we bear a great deal of responsibility for crafting opportunities for our students to learn deeply, wonder fiercely, and experience the world around them.

Globally competent students understand that others may not share their views or perspectives and that this difference can often be attributed to economic conditions, religions, or access to education, knowledge, or technology. By recognizing one’s own perspectives and being able to compare them with others, one can identify the influencing factors. This allows one to craft a sort of “comprehensive perspective vital to addressing complex global issues” (p. 31).

In the Classroom: As a 9th grade English teacher, I assigned a social awareness multi-genre research project. We have students take on a topic of interest that has global significance, something that has meaning beyond the borders of our region, state, and nation. Students research their topics (integrating this year!), write the obligatory essay, and then provide various artifacts that provide additional researched “views” into the topic. We also have students participate in Service Learning hours, where they are volunteering in some form or fashion that relates to the topic they’ve chosen. Through this, they are taking “action to improve conditions” (p. 11).

What are some of the terms associated with global education? In the myriad of conversations I’ve engaged in regarding global education, several terms have come up. It makes sense to define them so that there is less room for confusion. Of course, you may define or see these differently,  and I look forward to hearing from you!

  1. global intelligence: the habits of mind, strategies, flexibilities, and skill-sets that allow cultures, nations, and peoples to dialogue, cooperate, collaborate, and live peacefully with one another.
  2. global perspectives: through exploring various ideas, histories, and ways of thinking and experiencing these different mindsets, we can grow to appreciate our diversities while understanding that decisions made in one area of the globe impact the peoples of another.
  3. international education: an education that familiarizes students with other countries, cultures, and nations, focuses on multi-language acquisition, emphasizes global issues, and provides skills in working in cross-cultural environments.
  4. global competencies: those competencies that best prepare our students to be successful in a global society: international knowledge and awareness; appreciation of cultural diversity; proficiency in multiple languages; high level critical thinking and creativity (I address this more in depth further on.)
  5. trans-nationalism: understanding that not all cultural groups are represented by national lines, maps, and/or political decisions.
  6. cosmopolitanism: being at ease in various cultures, groups, settings
  7. global literacy: understanding global issues, how those issues tie into one’s own life, and the role and responsibility one has within the larger world
  8. globalization: the spread of something (culture, language, trade) beyond borders, across the world
  9. college and career readiness: those attributes necessary to be successful in the workplace, higher education, or vocational/training settings. Most recently addressed by the Common Core. I would argue that students must be globally competent in order to be college & career ready.

What are global competencies? Delightfully, there are many thoughts, opinions, and views of global competence — probably as varied and as diverse as the world around us. I’ve chosen to adopt my guiding principles from the Asia Society’s Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, I highly recommend it.

In a nutshell, Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance (p. xiii).

In preparing our students for a flattened world and for interacting with peoples from around the world in positive, collaborative, and productive ways, we must provide them with a set of global competencies.  For more information on each of the four competencies, explore the aforementioned book!

  • Globally competent students investigate the world;
  • Globally competent students recognize perspectives;
  • Globally competent students communicate ideas;
  • Globally competent students take action.

Through my professional collaborations with educators, students, and school systems around the globe, I have found my own learning and thinking evolving, changing, and growing. I have learned deeply, laughed much, and forged invaluable friendships. I have also found that being globally competent does not necessarily encompass those key features that make international travel enjoyable. It’s not just about flexibility, go-with-the-flow attitudes, and being in the moment. Global competence is much, much more, and, in some ways, much more difficult. I hope to explore this more in the days to come.

Educational Contexts for Global Education Conversations

Insight: Focus on Kazakhstan
Insight: Focus on Taiwan
Insight: Focus on China
Insight: Focus on Japan


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