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Global Education

Global Competency: Building Understanding of Global Issues

Imagine a classroom filled with curious minds, eager to learn and explore the world around them. Now, pause for a moment and ask yourself: how much do your students know about what’s happening outside their classroom? 

Expanding students’ minds starts with expanding their understanding of their community and the world beyond it. Students who build a deep understanding of global issues will be able to successfully navigate the global marketplace as adults and think critically about the world around them. The Global Leaders framework prepares students for a modern workforce by integrating global issues, current events, and global competencies into existing school priorities.

But how do schools infuse global learning across grade levels, subject areas, and school-wide activities in a way that helps students develop into engaged citizens of the world? And what skills and attitudes should they develop along the way?

To help answer these questions, Participate Learning has identified ten global competencies that empower learners to pay attention to the world, feel connected, and take action to make it a better place. This is the fifth in a series of blog posts focusing on each global competency to give you a more detailed definition and practical resources to integrate into your teaching instruction. The fifth global competency we will look at is understanding of global issues.

Introducing students to global issues

Students who understand the causes, impacts, and connections between global issues like poverty and equity are poised to become changemakers. Students with knowledge of global issues develop other competencies, like critical thinking and problem-solving, as they learn about the world around them. 

These students are building higher-order thinking skills they will need to succeed later in life. For example, Kate Strein, a partner teacher at Jupiter Middle School in Florida, asked her students to examine the causes of global hunger. They were able to draw connections between issues that can lead to hunger, like poverty and displacement because of war. 

As students are introduced to these complexities, they are invited to question assumptions, develop empathy, and cultivate greater awareness. This deeper understanding of an issue that affects millions of people helped Strein’s students apply their critical thinking skills to brainstorm solutions to one of the world’s greatest challenges.

How to use action-driven learning to help students understand global issues

Tackling a specific challenge or problem with your students that is relevant to their lives is a great way to engage them in a deeper understanding of global issues. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and globally focused learning provide the perfect framework for relevant, problem-based learning. This promotes student agency and helps students understand that their actions have the power to make a change.

Connecting local issues in your community to broader global issues builds relevance for students and keeps them engaged in the content. The staff at West Oxford Elementary, a Global Leaders school, did just that by building a community garden. They saw that many students and families faced food insecurity and lacked access to fresh produce. They started the garden so that anyone who needs fresh fruits and vegetables can get them for free. Teachers incorporated the SDGs to connect local issues to global ones, like hunger and sustainable communities.

How Global Leaders builds students’ understanding of global issues

When students are allowed to apply their learning to real-world situations and design thoughtful solutions, it inspires them to consider how they might use their future careers to take action toward a vision of a better world.

Through a framework like Global Leaders, this type of action-driven learning prepares students for the work they will encounter in the future and gets them ready to lead in a complex world. 

As you help students to understand global issues, you are preparing them to take steps toward becoming engaged citizens of the world. Bringing a global perspective is a tangible way to promote academic rigor, career readiness, and student engagement at your school.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts that focus on applying other global competencies! We would love to hear how you are helping your students understand global issues. With Global Leaders, students experience learning that goes beyond mastery of specific academic skills; they develop solutions and ideas to change the world. Share your lessons and activities on social media using #UnitingOurWorld.

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