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Blog post: What is global learning? A quick reference guide

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Blog post: What is global learning? A quick reference guide

23 March, 2017

By Anna Grindle, GLP Schools Outreach Officer

Global Learning, by its nature, can relate to any number of aspects of educative practice. A topic area, project or even competition may particularly lend itself to global learning. A teacher might decide to celebrate an important Global Date with pupils, such as Human Rights Day or International Women’s Day. Some of the best opportunities for global learning can be in the spontaneous, such as when pupils reflect on news stories or pose questions. Often, global learning is already part of what we do; it simply hasn’t been framed as such.

So as an educator how exactly can you tell if what you are doing represents good global learning practice? We’ve come up with a three-point quick reference guide to help you determine this in any situation.

1. Fairness and sustainability

Is there something in this topic that relates to fairness and sustainability?

Global learning is essentially about education for a fair and sustainable world. Fairness embraces all relational aspects of our global society – how our needs, actions, policies and demands impact others. People rarely question the outcome of a race, as long as it was fair. Fairness is a baseline. When we conceptualise many themes and issues through a lens of fairness, many critical and reflective questions emerge.

Sustainability makes us think of preservation and consumption and frames our minds beyond the present to our relationship with others in the past and future. It opens up themes of responsibility and introduces a notion that we work in partnership with others. It is also about the skills needed to work with, manage and plan how resources are used.

2. Critical thinking

What skills, values and attitudes are pupils developing?

The values, attitudes and skills young people develop to work effectively with other people will pervade all aspects of their lives. We cannot define how exactly young people will develop, but we can present them with opportunities to explore their own value-base and to name, understand and frame values and attitudes that are important to them.

Young people need to recognise and process their emotions for their own personal development and wellbeing. By exploring themes and issues young people will develop base-lines and comparatives for their own value systems. How they interact with the world is emotive and being cognisant of this will lead to well-considered action.

Through active, process-led learning, young people will develop skills that will help them interact with others who have a different value-base or interests to themselves. They will learn how to appreciate the expertise and competences of others. Due to their wide, critical understanding of issues, they will also understand their role as a part of a whole, know how to work to ensure their principles and values are recognised, and appreciate when to defer to others. 

3. Empowerment

Is the process of learning empowering for pupils and for other people they are studying?

Global learning will explore concepts and themes such as poverty, inequality, justice, conflict and power. All have elements which are challenging, sensitive and at times controversial. Engaging young people in active, questioning and exploratory learning in relation to quite emotive issues needs to be empowering.

The process of learning in itself needs to be empowering for pupils. Pupils can be asked to have input into what topics they are interested in studying. Their prior knowledge and assumptions can be sought and incorporated into the planning process. Pupils posing their own questions can drive learning forward. Active and participatory learning methods, accompanied by opportunities to collaborate with others will engage pupils, actively develop their skills and allow vital conversations to take place. Pupils need to be given the chance to act on their learning, to evaluate a range of actions with varied purposes and audiences, and to consider which actions are relevant in any given context.

The process of learning also needs to be empowering for others. In particular, for the people from around the world who young people might be studying. Critical thinking is essential to this, as pupils consider the lenses and viewpoints through which they approach learning. Approaching study from multiple perspectives, plus using first-hand and credible source material allows the voice of others to be considered. If pupils reflect on solutions or actions in response to problematic issues, are these actions quick-fixes or are they beneficial, empowering and sustainable for the those people who will be most affected by them? 

Resources to Support Classroom Practice and a Whole School Approach

Global Learning is supported by a wide range of organisations and initiatives:

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