8 Connected Concepts of Global Learning

Global competence is as important for children as understanding math, language arts and science. As teachers, it is critical to examine key concepts that support global learning, consider how those concepts are connected and to experiment with ways of introducing them in the classroom in order to successfully teach students about the world.

Concepts of Global Learning

1. Global Citizenship: While specifics often vary, people tend to consider themselves global citizens based on life experiences and exposure to different perspectives. For some, global citizenship is exercised at home through engagement in global issues or with diverse cultures in local settings. For others, global citizenship means firsthand experiences in foreign countries and with various cultures.

2. Interdependence: Interdependence refers to relationships in which members of a group are mutually dependent on fellow group members. Group members may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant on and responsible for one another.

3. Social Justice: Social justice in a society implies fairness, mutual obligation, responsibility for fellow citizens and assurance that every person — regardless of race, social class or gender — has an equal chance to succeed in life.

4. Conflict Resolution: Conflict resolution is the process of ending disagreement between two or more people or parties in a fashion that is constructive for all involved. While conflicts arise in many scenarios (e.g., in the classroom, at home and between countries), it’s important to consider that conflicts can be barriers to social development and how conflict resolution promotes harmony.

5. Diversity: The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance, respect and understanding that each individual in the world is unique and equal despite race, gender, ethnicity, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs and ideologies. In the classroom, exploring human differences in a safe, positive and nurturing environment will encourage students to embrace diversity around them.

6. Values and Perceptions: Values are principles or standards of behavior that guide individuals to understand what is important in their lives. Perceptions, as they relate to global learning, are developed with individuals learn to critically evaluate how they see the world and discover the effects they have on other people’s values.

7. Human Rights: Human rights are inherent and belong to all people regardless of nationality, sex, religion, race or any other human characteristic. Human rights, including access to clean water, freedom of speech or access to education, tend to be interrelated.

8. Sustainable Development: Sustainable development addresses the need to maintain and improve current standards of life without further damaging the planet. Sustainable development practices encourage a view of the world as a system in which individual and social behaviors affect the entire system. For example, understanding that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

Introducing Global Learning Concepts in the Classroom

The global learning concepts outlined above may overlap with one another or stand alone as separate topics of discussion in the classroom. Here are some teacher-proven ways to introduce these topics in the classroom:

Talk About World Events

The Global Learning Network (GLEAN), a membership network dedicated to spreading global awareness in England, surveyed teachers in its training program on how confident they are in teaching global learning concepts. The survey’s results concluded that a majority of teachers believe talking about current world events in the classroom is an effective way to introduce one of or all of the eight global concepts examined.

Many of Participate’s global lesson plans focus on specific countries or regions. A global lesson plan, such as Comparing the Cultures of Cambodia and the United States, offers opportunities to address concepts like global citizenship, diversity and values and perceptions. Teachers using the lesson plan above may also introduce students to particular current events in Cambodia, for example the construction of new river dams threatening a small fishing village, to acquaint students with social justice and sustainable development concepts.

Introduce New Cultures

Presenting new cultures to students is important for encouraging curiosity about and tolerance of values and perspectives that differ from their own. The lesson plan Multicultural Multiplication asks students to look at math through a cultural lens. Students learn Egyptian and Japanese methods for multiplying, consider diversity and interdependence and look at how cultures and societies all over the world use math.

Demonstrate that Simple Actions Lead to Positive Outcomes

A favorite lesson of Sharon McAdam, a Global Gateway teacher in North Carolina, is Transportation which examines how modes of transport have changed over the years and the negative impacts transportation has on the environment. Students think about interdependence and are encouraged to think of sustainable developments to protect the future. Students learn how everyone who drives a car contributes to pollution and that regularly riding a bike or walking to school helps decrease their own carbon footprints, thus having positive environmental impacts.

Teachers agree that exploring the concept of interdependence and people’s actions having global consequences is valuable for students, but it’s also important to balance ideas of connectedness with positive solutions to encourage students to think about how they can have positive impacts in the world.