Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Educational leaders implement and support curriculum, instruction, and assessment that incorporate and promote the development of each student’s global competence. This involves supporting courses, instructional programs, extracurricular programs, and special events that embed global competence; providing resources and ongoing training to help all staff integrate global competence and student diversity into daily instruction across all content areas and grade levels; and providing staff with summative and formative assessments to monitor student global competence development and improve instruction.

School leaders can help embed global competence across curriculum and instruction in many ways: providing books and classroom resources that represent the diversity of the student population and cultures and countries around the world; supporting critical world language and language immersion programs; promoting extracurricular activities such as Model UN, world language clubs, and international clubs; and working with external partners who offer professional develop on integrating global competence, to name a few. Because assessing global competence strays from multiple-choice tests, school leaders can provide the infrastructure and supports for teachers to use authentic assessment—for example, project rubrics within the content areas that embed global competence, digital portfolios, performance outcomes, and global competence certificates.

Tenet in Action

Educational leaders implement and support curriculum, instruction, and assessment that incorporate and promote the development of each student’s global competence. Globally competent educational leaders:

  • Support courses, instructional programs, extracurricular programs, and special events that embed global competence 

  • Provide resources and ongoing training to help all staff integrate global competence and student diversity into daily instruction across all content areas and grade levels 

  • Provide access to summative and formative assessments that monitor student global competence development and improve instruction

Suggested Activities: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

First Steps 

  • Work with staff to align current standards, curriculum maps, and assessments with global competence outcomes

  • Make digital and print resources easily accessible to staff to incorporate into classroom instruction 

  • Incentivize teachers to develop global courses and classroom resources 

  • Host events that promote global learning (e.g., an international night or world culture day to celebrate local and global diversity, a global career fair) 

  • Provide access to world language classes for all students in elementary, middle, and high schools

Deeper Dives

  • Use existing courses across all subject areas to embed global perspectives and themes 

  • Support staff and students in developing and implementing project-based units that focus on global topics 

  • Incorporate global competence into service learning programs, by encouraging opportunities for students to identify local examples of global issues and take action with community members to solve them 

  • Support the creation and use of rubrics to assess content areas with a global competence lens 

  • Support the creation and use of assessments that measure global competence 

  • Invest in world language instruction as a core content area required for all students

Full Immersion

  • Support staff in implementing interdisciplinary project-based units that focus on global topics 

  • Develop and implement a schoolwide global scholar recognition (e.g., diploma, microcredentials badge) that includes global coursework, service learning, and an inquiry-based capstone project

  • Support student participation in global experiential learning, including virtual and face-to-face school exchanges and trips, to support content area and interdisciplinary instruction 

  • Use global competence assessments to identify learning gaps and create learning plans for filling those gaps

Case Studies

Supporting courses, instructional programs, extracurricular programs, and special events that embed global competence.

Dr. Tom Buffett, Principal, Lewton Global Studies/Spanish Immersion Magnet School, Lansing, MI
Dr. Buffett sees global competence habits of work and habits of mind as a lens through which to look at curriculum, and supports teachers to incorporate these global competence habits into instruction through project-based learning. His elementary school students learn through projects with a global theme. This school year, the students’ first project focused on the schoolwide theme of global citizenship. For the second project, teachers picked the theme their class investigated individually or as grade-level teams. To showcase students’ projects, Dr. Buffett orchestrates “World Wednesdays” on a quarterly basis. He emphasizes that there is not one right way to incorporate global projects into classroom instruction: “Leaders have interesting choices to make around this. This year we shifted from four to two projects to do deeper work. You can choose between schoolwide and/or year-long versus quarterly themes that vary by individual classrooms and/or grade levels. We used to have overarching questions for each grade level that helped shape the projects—fourth grade was ‘Who am I?’, fifth grade was ‘Who are they?’, and sixth grade was ‘How do I show up in the world?’ Global themes will look different in depending on the context.”

In addition to embedding global project-based learning in the curriculum, Lewton offers Spanish immersion, where half of the day, students are taught exclusively in Spanish. All of the school’s preK–3 classrooms are Spanish immersion, as are three of the upper elementary school classrooms. Dr. Buffett shares, “There’s no better way to learn about culture than through language. Spanish immersion has been amazing in helping students understand culture and cultural perspectives. Language learning is the jet fuel of global citizenship.”

Dr. Kimo Carter, Principal, Watertown Middle School, Watertown, MA
Dr. Carter and his staff revamped the curriculum so that global competence, project-based learning, and inquiry learning have become a part of everyday instruction. For example, the school overhauled the humanities curriculum to emphasize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to focus on social justice issues and actions, refocused aspects of the science curriculum on environmental work, and incorporated virtual conversations with other countries into foreign language instruction. To start this work, teachers at Watertown Middle School worked together in grade-level subject teams to meet the standards in ways that simultaneously develop global competence. Dr. Carter shares, “Global competence is really integrated. It’s not its own little island. It’s a mindset more than a discipline. You can teach anything with a global competence mindset, and it will make whatever you teach richer.”

Dr. Carter also promoted a similar global realignment for special programs and events. The school adjusted the curriculum of their annual eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C., to incorporate a global perspective. Similarly, the annual sixth grade geography class World’s Fair shifted from “an understanding of other countries as American tourists understand that country” to “presentations from the perspective of a person living in that country, which addresses perspective-taking and empathy.”

The middle school has introduced new projects as well. For example, all eighth grade students complete a group capstone project where they examine a social justice issue in their community, country, and world; find and connect to ally organizations; make a presentation; and engage in an action component. The topics that students select address local and global concerns, such as male stereotyping in advertisements, water shortages in Africa, girls’ access to education, nutrition in the school lunch program, and privacy invasion with a focus on school security cameras. Dr. Carter takes a flexible approach to introducing these projects by testing out new ideas and discarding them if they don’t work.

Mr. Cliff Hong, Principal, Roosevelt Middle School, Oakland, CA
As principal of Roosevelt Middle School, Mr. Hong has experimented with different curricula as the school works towards integrating global competence into their instruction. The school has brought in globally oriented curricula such as Engage NY for humanities subjects, which includes readings on international topics like water and migration. The leadership team also brought in World Savvy programming to intentionally consider how they weave global topics into instruction in a way that helps teachers think with the students in mind. World Savvy helps facilitate staff and students to discuss topics that interest them, and supports teachers as they build units based on student interest. As Mr. Hong describes, “It’s a continual iteration around curriculum. We do want to do well on state tests, but that’s not the most important thing. Curriculum is always in flux and we’re trying to nail it down.”


Providing ongoing training to help all staff integrate global competence into daily instruction. 

Mr. Brent Wozniak, Chief Academic Officer, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima, CA
As chief academic officer, Mr. Wozniak supports schoolwide learning in global competence from elementary through high school. He states, “Global competence belongs in every content area and every grade level. It’s not a novelty, it’s not a fun project to do after the state tests are over or an international fair that you host once a year. It’s core. It’s the lens through which the learning happens.” He has applied various pedagogical frameworks for global learning, including project-based learning and Understanding by Design® framework as a model for building teachers’ proficiency with developing an essential question and using backwards planning to structure a global unit from the ground up.

To help staff integrate global competence into their instruction, his school partnered with Asia Society’s International Studies School Network (ISSN) for intensive coaching and support for both administrators and teachers. The ISSN coaches worked with teachers multiple times a year to help them focus on core instructional issues such as developing a unit of study, using a pacing planner, and considering essential questions to shift the teaching lens to weave global competence into the content areas. At first, this practice was applied at Vaughn’s high school campus, and now this opportunity is available for small teacher teams representative of the K–12 span. At the beginning, teachers simply developed one unit with one essential question and big idea that tied into a component of global competence, and added to that repertoire on an annual basis.

Dr. Tom Buffett, Principal, Lewton Global Studies/Spanish Immersion Magnet School, Lansing, MI
Dr. Buffett recognizes the importance of training and supporting teachers in project-based learning with a global slant: “Some teachers are naturally there. For others, it’s harder. There is a range in comforts of teaching through projects. It’s a different instructional approach where teachers aren’t providers of knowledge, but rather facilitators of knowledge creation and development. Students learn through inquiry focused on a global issue, a radically different learning experience than passively receiving information. Teachers also have different levels of exposure to the world, how much they pay attention to what’s going on in the world. For some teachers, it’s easy for them to identify alternative perspectives and incorporate them into projects. Other teachers haven’t had those experiences.”

Therefore, Dr. Buffett enlisted the Buck Institute for Education as the foundation for summer professional development and ongoing training on project-based learning. He also connected with nearby Michigan State University, where professors in the college of education were researching project-based learning to better understand what makes such programs successful. He realized that leaders have to build that time into teachers’ ongoing training and planning to thoughtfully scaffold the development of global project-based learning units. He shares, “Projects are key to incorporating global competence. We’ve learned a ton about the importance of scaffolding teacher learning and support with our plan for implementing projects, which includes connections to a global issue, an entry event to engage students, and authentic audiences to engage students with. Yet those plans are still short of ‘So, what do I do on Monday?’ Answering this question is critical. Because there’s not a global project catalogue, it takes a lot of time and energy for teachers to develop curriculum they can implement in the classroom on Monday morning.”

To fill the implementation gap, he and his team developed a lesson plan template, which has evolved over time to ask teachers to connect one or two core science, social studies, or writing standards to a global project. To get teachers on board with developing these lessons, he begins with the simple questions: What are you excited to teach? What are students excited to learn? From there, teachers identify a global issue that they’re interested in learning more about and connect that issue with the content area they’re teaching.

Providing access to summative and formative assessments that monitor students’ global competence development.

Mr. Brent Wozniak, Chief Academic Officer, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima, CA
Middle school and high school students track their growth in global competence through a digital portfolio developed by the Vaughn leadership team. Mr. Wozniak explains, “It’s a compendium of the work they’ve done.” Each semester, students create a presentation that demonstrates how they have grown as a global citizen in one or more of the four key pillars of global competence. All prospective Vaughn graduates are required to defend their portfolio, and each 12th grade student invests time throughout the spring semester developing a High School Retrospective speech. Through this speech, each student reflects on their growth through the lens of global competency while presenting their findings, backed by artifacts (e.g., projects, experiences, and other evidence of growth), to a public audience.

Additional Resources

Books and Articles

Jacobs, H. H. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J., & Boss, S. (2015). Setting the standard for project based learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Mansilla, V. B. (2016). How to be a global thinker. Educational Leadership, 74(4), 10–17.

Reimers, F. (2017). Empowering students to improve the world in sixty lessons. Seattle, WA: CreateSpace Publishing.

Westerberg, T. (2016). Charting a course to standards-based grading: What to stop, what to start, and why it matters. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. (2nd edition). Alexandria, VA.

Classroom Resources

Framework for High-Quality Project-Based Learning. Describes six criteria of a project that must be present in a project to equip educators and organizations to provide all students high-quality project-based learning experiences.

International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP). Nurtures and develops students ages 3–12 as caring, active participants in a lifelong journey of learning and challenges them to explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts.

Project Zero Global Thinking. Describes thinking routines that foster understanding and appreciation of today’s complex globalized world that can be implemented in preK–12 classrooms.

Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) Global Education Guides. Offers curriculum and resources developed by TGC fellows, organized by state and subject area.

Global Certificate Programs

Global Education Certificate. Toolkit to help establish new and strengthen existing global education certificate programs at the school, district, state, and community levels.

Hingham High School Global Citizenship Program. Example of a schoolwide certificate and club program that increases students’ global competence through interdisciplinary academic study, community service, and international travel.

Illinois Global Scholars Certificate Program. A statewide program that allows districts to recognize high school students who demonstrate global competence through coursework, service learning, global collaboration, and a capstone project.

Professional Learning on Global Integration

ASCD Teaching for Global Competence Videos. These videos take viewers inside elementary and secondary schools to observe how teachers integrate global perspectives and themes into standards-based lessons and daily classroom discussions. Videos include closed captioning and study guides. 

Asia Society ISSN. The ISSN offers professional development, tools, resources, and coaching to support performance-based and globally focused instruction, curriculum, and assessment.

World Savvy. A nonprofit that partners with educators, schools, and districts to integrate global competence and project-based learning and teaching and learning into K–12 classrooms.

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