Globally Competent Students Require Globally Competent Teachers

Garrett Tomlinson, Manager Instructional Services, VIF International Education
The last part of the U.S. Department of Education’s mission  — to ensure “equal access” — is often perceived as a hurdle for educators and school systems. Common concerns for not being able to deliver equitable education to all students include lack of funding or resources, pressures to adhere to district requirements and standardized assessments, and lack of support for education initiatives in school communities — sometimes including bias against student populations.
Article 3_Definition 1But, what if I told you global education is at the forefront of equity, by improving the ever growing issue of equal access in education. Integrating teaching strategies that build students’ global competence is not inherently expensive, nor do these strategies deviate from standards-based instruction. Global education approaches engage with, rather than isolate, the cultural and intellectual experiences of all students in a classroom so that no single perspective is presented as “normal.” These approaches do not assume that certain students are starting from a deficit — instead the inherent diversity of any classroom becomes an opportunity for learning and connection.
Agreement on the need to prepare globally competitive and competent students is one thing, but how do schools provide equitable opportunities for students to get there?
To efficiently and equitably develop globally competent students you must first develop globally competent educators.
When VIF started working with secondary schools to support global learning, we offered units of study implemented by individual teachers as elective “Global Connections” courses that provided opportunities for students to study the societal, geographical, environmental, educational, economic and political dimensions of global issues. These courses were successful, but only those students who elected to participate in the courses had the opportunity to develop global knowledge. We were forced to ask ourselves, “What about the other students?”
In the last several years we’ve concentrated on developing a school-wide model in which all teachers participate in professional development to incrementally build skills in globalizing instruction, project-based learning, conceptual learning and social entrepreneurship. Enhancing the expertise of all staff at a school supports a school culture where global education is not something added to a teacher’s plate – it is the plate.
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New Century International Middle School is an example of a school-wide global education approach. All teachers — regardless of subject area — integrate global themes into their lessons whether it’s through world music, international art projects, climate change debates, using global numbers for scientific notation, consideration of gender issues or the geographic setting of a novel. New Century teachers complete global education PD and then meet in their interdisciplinary grade-level teams to discuss how to apply what they’ve learned into the standards-based lesson plans they create.
During designated school-wide global times, New Century students have opportunities to connect with international peers through email or virtual hang-out sessions. Teachers partner with educators in other countries to coordinate curricular projects in which students collaboratively investigate specific topics. New Century’s principal maintains a blog on global topics which she shares with students, teachers and parents for their input. The school also has Spanish and Mandarin language programs that further promote students’ knowledge of different cultures.
All New Century teachers and students are building awareness, empathy and knowledge about global issues. Their learning transcends the walls of the school building, and students bring to school thoughts about global issues they want to investigate and help address. At schools like New Century, no one has to ask, “What about the other students?”
This post is part of a blog series on global education and equitable preparation in the classroom produced in partnership with VIF International Education (@vifglobaled). Join the conversation on Twitter using #globaled. For more, check out (Global Education and Equitable Preparation).

Garrett Tomlinson is the Manager of Instructional Services at VIF International EducationFollow Garrett on Twitter, @GarrettTomlins.

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1 Comment

Ed Gragert

One of the best resources for teachers wanting to be globally competent is the "Teachers Guide to Global Collaboration" ( produced by iEARN ( Has practical examples from numerous networks and programs that can be implemented immediately in the classroom.


Erik Day

Thanks for sharing Ed!

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