Fostering global competence

Globally competent students have knowledge of the world they live in and a sense of responsibility for taking care of it and each other. How can this sense of global citizenship be fostered in the classroom?

In an earlier post, I wrote about Project Zero and the Thinking Routine Toolbox. This collection of practical tools can be used to help students pursue deeper understanding and become independent learners. The routines can also help develop globally competent students.

Global competence is defined as, “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance” (Boix Mansilla & Jackson 2011). In my social studies classes I have offered an extra credit project I call ‘Get Outraged!’ which encourages students to not only identify a social issue they are angry about, but to actively work towards changing it. The students who take on this challenge develop their global competence and often discover a passion and sense of civic responsibility that follows them long after their course finishes. My wish is for more students to choose to do this project, however igniting that spark has proven challenging. 

As teachers, we all think our subject is the most important subject to study. It is self-evident that the subject to which we have dedicated years of study is of great importance – to us. Yet this is not always the case for our students. While we teach them the course content and how to develop their skills, we don’t necessarily teach them why the subject they are studying matters.

How to light the flame – The 3 Whys

The 3 Whys is a thinking routine that works across disciplines but it is particularly suitable for social studies. Each week we have an activity which involves students reporting, interpreting and discussing the stories making the news – at least that is the intention. Sometimes items of news are presented with little enthusiasm and discussion can be thin on the ground. So, next term, when a news item is presented I will be asking students to consider the 3 Whys:

  1. Why might this (topic, question) matter to me?
  2. Why might it matter to people around me (family, friends, city, nation)?
  3. Why might it matter to the world?

In short, I will be asking them to reflect on why these news stories are worth telling. I will then be asking students to engage in a writing or speaking task building on the 3 Whys, for example writing a letter to a newspaper or scripting a speech for delivery at a rally.

Circles of Action

The Circles of Action thinking routine trains students to think about how they can make a difference. This can raise their motivation and interest in the subject. When proposing solutions for a social issue or problem, students are encouraged to consider 3 perspectives: personal, local and global. They will then ask themselves:

What can I do to contribute?

  1. In my inner circle?
  2. In my local community?
  3. Beyond my community?

The intention is for students to feel empowered and therefore more likely to take action.

Next term, I will be explicitly using the thinking routines of the 3 Whys and the Circles of Action to train my students to develop their independent thinking skills while fostering global competence in the classroom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s