Engaging students through global competence

All learners make assumptions. But we can challenge them to investigate their perceptions. And this work presents an opportunity to acknowledge the perspectives of others. Educators who understand the international connections within their career fields can help students begin to develop global competence.

Engage in globally significant conversations, and watch as students’ interests in the world around them grow.

Integrating global competence throughout career and technical education (CTE) programs of study can have a widespread cultural impact. It fosters a culture of learning and respect, wherein all stakeholders learn to think critically about the world, challenge their perspectives, communicate with diverse others, and take action when necessary. Becoming globally competent first means understanding what global competence means.

What does it mean to be globally competent?

Possession of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to understand and act creatively on issues of global significance (Boix Mansilla, V. & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for global competence: Preparing our youth to engage the world. Asia Society & Council of Chief State School Officers.)

Investigate the world.

Globally competent CTE students are engaged and curious. And they want to learn about how things work in the world and within their career fields. They ask and explore critical questions and research solutions for complex problems. Their questions are globally significant. In other words, they consider important phenomena and events happening in their own communities and in communities across the globe. Students work on identifying, collecting and analyzing credible information from a variety of local, national and international sources, including those in multiple languages.

Recognize others’ perspectives.

Globally competent students recognize that they have a particular perspective that others may or may not share. They articulate a diverse set of viewpoints and discuss how differential access to knowledge, technology and resources can shape people’s views. Further, they should be able to weigh all sides of an argument. And from that skill, they learn to incorporate different perspectives within their own points of view.

Communicate ideas.

Globally competent students understand that audiences differ on the basis of culture, geography, faith, ideology, wealth, and other factors and that they may perceive different meanings from the same information. Effective communication — verbal and nonverbal, and across a range of media — with diverse audiences is key. Because the process of communicating ideas occurs in culturally diverse settings, and especially within collaborative teams.

Take action.

Globally competent students see themselves as team players, not bystanders. They tune in to the world, and they recognize opportunities for growth and change. These students are ethical and creative, and they weigh options to act based on evidence and insight. They can assess the potential impact of choices they make, taking into account varied perspectives and potential consequences. And they show courage to act and reflect on their actions.

Get to know your students.

Getting to know students is an important classroom management strategy. Your students backgrounds, cultural experiences, hopes and values can provide strong context for learning about the world. Further, investing time in your students as individuals will help them to feel like valued members of the learning community.

Educators work hard to determine where students need to be at the end of a course or program, and to design curricula to get them to that point. Time spent discovering where the students are now and what they bring to the educational experience is equally important. Thus, when students are helped to achieve program goals as well as personal goals, they feel heard and become more invested in the learning experience.

Emphasize employability skills.

Students are preparing to work in a globally connected world, which means they will be called on frequently to communicate across cultural boundaries. So educators must consider how career readiness and global competence fit together. Can your CTE students communicate clearly, effectively and with reason?

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to know everything about the world to teach through a global lens. But rather you should be open-minded to learning new things. Start small with one or two ideas. Then simply talk to your students. Ask them what they think and how they feel about the world. No matter how large or small your steps are, this work will foster more meaningful relationships with students, more equitable learning environments, and ultimately, a stronger workforce.

by Michelle Conrad and Larae Watkins

Read more in Techniques: Global Education.