Globally Competent Teaching, Learning, and Leading

What is a global-ready student? A number of frameworks have identified various attributes that comprise global competence. (See, for example, Asia Society, OECD, P21, UNESCO, and World Savvy global competence frameworks). All coalesce around a combination of cognitive, social-emotional, and behavioral attributes. Cognitive attributes include critical thinking; problem solving; and an understanding of global conditions, events, cultures, and interconnectedness.

Social-emotional characteristics include empathy, valuing multiple perspectives, awareness of one’s identity and culture, appreciation of diversity, openness, and adaptability. Behaviors include collaboration, cross-cultural communication, and agency to act on issues of local and global importance.

For students to develop global competence requires a paradigm shift in how learning takes place in schools. Rather than having educators transmit knowledge to students, globally competent teaching asks that students, alongside educators, actively construct knowledge through pedagogy that engages learners with authentic audiences addressing real-world concerns. Global learning, or the act of developing global competence, draws upon models of student-centered and inquiry-based pedagogy. This includes approaches such as project- and problem-based learning, culturally responsive and sustaining teaching, and service learning. Importantly, global competence should be integrated into, not added onto, existing curriculum and instruction, so that each student in every grade level across the K–12 pipeline learns content through a global lens.

Students experience social-emotional and academic benefits when educators intentionally integrate global learning into their school experience. For example, culturally responsive practices engage students of color whose identity and experiences may otherwise be marginalized from the curriculum, breaking down barriers for students to access the curriculum and providing students positive identity affirmation (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 1995). Research has proven that dual immersion programs, which promote biliteracy and bicultural development, have positive cognitive benefits for both native and nonnative English speakers (Collier & Thomas, 2004; Steele, Slater, Zamarro, Miller, Li, Burkhauser, & Bacon, 2017). Project-based learning has been associated with increases in student engagement, language growth, content knowledge, and academic achievement (Duke & Halvorsen, 2017; Holm, 2011; Kokotsaki, Menzies, & Wiggins, 2016). In sum, when educators infuse instruction with real-world contexts that resonate with students’ lives, interests, experiences, and future goals, students see value and engage in what they are learning. Student engagement translates to higher grades, academic achievement, and graduation rates (Klem & Connell, 2004). Beyond scholastic success, global learning further empowers students to be change agents who make a positive difference in the world (Tichnor-Wagner, 2017).

Educational leaders play a crucial role in creating and cultivating the environments that facilitate deep, sustainable implementation of global teaching and learning. By educational leaders, we include all of those whose work pertains to leading schools: principals, assistant principals, and those holding other formal and informal school and district leadership positions such teacher leaders, instructional coaches, school coordinators, and curriculum specialists. When leaders take actions such as building collaborative organizational structures, distributing leadership across school personnel, setting a vision that emphasizes high expectations for success, creating a range of learning opportunities for all staff and students, using data for improvement efforts, and building trust and respect across the organization, they positively affect student learning and success (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006; Tichnor-Wagner, Harrison, & Cohen-Vogel, 2016). Yet, educational leadership preparation programs and professional development rarely address global competence as a critical aspect of 21st-century learning (Brooks & Normore, 2010; Jean-Marie, Normore, & Brooks, 2010).

The Global Competencies for Educational Leaders Framework responds to the need for educational leaders to receive guidance and professional learning on what it takes to lead global learning in their schools. It explains how educational leaders can cultivate global competence in students and school staff so that each child is prepared for college, career, and citizenship in our diverse, interconnected world. We believe that if educational leaders create an environment that facilitates student learning and builds globally competent teaching capacity in staff, students will develop the academic, social-emotional, and behavioral outcomes that lead to individual success and a peaceful, prosperous future for all.