Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moving Away from Silver Bullets and Towards Continuums in Global Education



11-11-2015, @ Annual Conference of CUFA


New Orleans, LA



As I begin these comments, I’d like you to keep two images in your mind: 1.) a silver bullet and 2.) a scenic, continuous path. These images hopefully make sense to you as I move through my comments.


These papers I’ve been asked to discuss, document greatly needed research effort to advance global learning.  Although they each address different dimensions of the programs and practices associated with global education and teacher education, taken together, these papers address programs and practices as a continuum of the development of global educators. This continuum spans university course-taking, pre-service social studies instruction, K-12 social studies education, and onward into teacher professional development. 

Global learning must not be confined to one course, one teacher, or course of study. Instead, it must be continuously cultivated. Doing so provides what Hillary Parkhouse described as “the amalgamation of disorienting experiences and pathways into global education at all levels.”
The collection of papers for this symposium, and the recently released book it’s based upon (The State of Global Education:Learning with the World and its People), come at a critical point in time for the future of schools and in particular for global educators.

The field we love faces serious challenges.

Educators and policy makers are wrestling with what the future of our schools should look like. Joel Westhimer, in his latest book, “What Kind of Citizen”, puts this question front and center. “What kind of schools are best suited in educating our children for the common good?” Let’s be clear, wars are being wagged and battles are being fought worldwide over the future landscape of schooling- let alone, schooling in an increasingly global and multicultural age.  As these battles and conversations occur, it’s imperative there’s a coalition of global educators, committed to the field’s founding principles and advocating for the importance of students learning about the world, its people, and issues.
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Research is desperately needed to inform our work as we seek out answers to perennial questions on the type of global education best suited to meet the challenges of today.  Fourteen years removed from the horrors of 9/11, nations are increasingly reverting back to “nation building” and more isolationist domestic policies.  Comments such as “we need to stop spending all that money on other countries”, “that’s their problem”, and “keep those foreigners out” have become common place in classrooms and in the media. In fact, Ron Leiber (2015) in the NYTimes reports overall U.S. charitable giving is surpassing pre-recession peaks, yet, giving to international causes and organization continues to decline, and makes up less than 4% of all yearly donations.

While technologies provide new opportunities in both reach and impact for immediate global communication and collaboration, tensions continue to mount across several nations and regions as they work to close their borders and cut themselves off from the world.  As one 10th grader recently told me when discussing the flow of undocumented workers to the U.S., “we need to build higher and stronger walls” … and no, this tenth grader was not Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

My fear is that we’re entering a “retreatist” age in global education, one centered on building walls versus bridges. These walls prioritize national allegiances at the cost of global affiliations and obligations. Nationalists must be reminded that there is no retreating from those issues, threats, forces, and values that bind humanity. No nation working alone can fight the threat of man-made climate change, avoid the reach of radical extremism and terrorism, or benefit from the development and innovation that occurs through global collaboration and scientific exploration.

It must be noted that work done in the name of promoting global education can actually work against some of the commitments described by our authors today.  A new wave of global education, coined Global Education Inc. by Stephen Ball (2012), is infecting curriculum and instruction in schools around the world. Global education incorporated is tightly packaged as school reform on a global scale, and advances neoliberal policies and scripted best practices. Its curricular tenants center on the need to learn about the world and its people in order to dominate global markets, control access to capital and resources, and to spread the gospel of free market capitalism. These pre-packaged policies and resources are bundled, exported, and sold as market based solutions in the name of “advancing global learning”. Under this framework global education has become a commodity entrenched in corporate profits and worldwide markets, for sale to the highest bidder.  Global learning is branded, mechanized, benchmarked, and connected to corporate education reform that values high-stakes exams over authentic student global experiential learning opportunities. These 10 step plans are scripted, hot off the assembly line, and often for-sale at your local Walmart.

As these ideological battles occur, it’s imperative there’s a coalition of global educators advocating for the importance of students and their teachers learning about the world, its people, and issues in a meaningful way. This makes me genuinely appreciate even more the papers included for review and discussion in this symposium, which we will now discuss:

Hillary, Ariel, Jessie, and Jocelyn’s paper, “You Don’t Have to Travel the World”: Accumulating Experiences Toward Globally Competent Teaching” provides greatly needed research on the significance of multiple pathways into being a global educator. Their finding is simple yet profound: The future of global education is a journey and path, not some pre-conceived destination. In this paper, the authors, identified the various means by which teachers develop their own pathways to global competence. Participants noted it wasn’t one international travel experience, one book, or even one professional development that accounted for their self-identification as global educators. Instead, participants felt it was an accumulation of life experiences, or disorienting experiences and their reflection on them, that prompted them to incorporate global perspectives. My advice to the authors would be to better unpack what constitutes a “disorienting experience”, and how this disequilibrium can be integrated and leveraged to advance global learning in teacher preparation and teacher professional development.

Sarah Matthews and Hillary Landorf paper, “Discussions within Online Learning Formats: Are Meaningful Encounters With Difference Possible?” pushes us to consider the opportunities and challenges associated with using online learning tools (namely MOOCs) in order to  promote global learning. The core of their argument encompasses that “meaningful encounters with difference” matter, and the need to determine if online learning tools (in all their hype and popularity) allowed for meaningful affordances in global learning. Their reviews of using MOOCs to advance global learning are mixed: Students gain through their access to multiple perspectives (cognitive domain) and the opportunity to reflect on their own identity formation (intrapersonal domain). However, transactional distance creates a barrier that prevents meaningful social interaction or social responsibility- which proves to be a barrier to global learning. Interestingly enough, at the end of the paper, the authors note that due to outside pressures, they created and aligned a fully online global learning course into their Master’s program. This course was built with these newly found learnings in mind in order to protect the integrity of global learning. I encourage the authors to disclose this “research into practice” method earlier in their paper, and work to empirically validate the disclosed online instructional design for global learning courses.

Timothy Patterson’s paper, “On the Modern Silk Road: A Case Study of the Limits and Promise of International In-service Teacher Professional Development,” considers the challenges and affordances of in-service teacher professional development through international experiential learning (global study tours). The author debunks the notion that international experiences are inherently transformative for teachers.

Like the first two papers, Tim refuses to “buy into the silver bullet” associated with global study tours and global learning. Here he challenges the dominant discourse on this topic and calls for investment and preparation time for reflection (before, during, and after the tour) and the importance of genuine and quality cross-cultural interactions. He suggests this is one area where the potential to develop truly global educators may be blunted if international experiential learning opportunities are not properly planned and executed.  While these findings evolved out of an externally sponsored global study tour, it would be interesting and insightful if Tim drew from the experience of Sarah and Hillary (to put this research into practice) via leading his own study tour. In particular, the field could greatly benefit from insights into computer mediated (before, during, and after) reflection that advance global learning.

Bill Russell and Cynthia Poole’s paper, “Globalization of Elementary Teacher Preparation in The United States: A National Snapshot,” presents findings from a nationwide study on the extent to which global education university coursework and cross-cultural/co-curricular activities have been incorporated into American elementary teacher preparation programs before and after the year 2000 and the effects of this incorporation on the global perspectives of current elementary school teachers. Like Sarah and Hillary, Bill and Cynthia employed the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI) to assess participants global perspectives. Their findings indicate that while universities and teacher education programs have promoted global education (the rhetoric), and global education courses have increased in elementary teacher preparation in recent years, there has been no significant increase in the global perspectives of the teachers graduating from those programs (reality). Again, we see an example of a “silver bullet” (number of global content courses) falling short of expectations. In fact, this study concludes that today’s teacher candidates are worse-off in regards to their global learning than their predecessors- despite having completed more global content courses. I’m reminded of Hillary Parkhouse’s claim a strong global education is a professional journey and not a final destination. Bill and Cynthia suggest global content courses offered by American schools of education may not be meeting global education goals. I can’t help but wonder for my own selfish curiosity if global education courses, housed in a College or Department of Education, would do a better job?

Guichun Zong’s paper, “Globalization and Teacher Education: Teaching about Globalization through Community-Based Inquiry,” notes how globalization remains an underexplored yet significant topic for teacher education scholars. Her paper provides a thorough account of how globalization in teacher education is often framed as an uncritical acceptance of the taken-for-granted context. This is quite fitting, based upon the four papers previously reviewed. Despite their hype and popularity there exists no silver bullet that can save us (i.e. global content courses, MOOCs, global study tours, etc.). Guichun explores approaches to integrating the concept of globalization into teacher education curricula. Using “Atlanta in the World” as a case study, she presents how local communities can be used as resources by teacher educators to help university students demystify globalization and develop rich historical understandings of global and local connections. This approach joins the others presented, on how educators need not physically leave the country in order to learn about the world, its people, or issues. Guichun has established a significant scholarly footprint in the area of global education, and I would encourage my accomplished colleague to continue her greatly needed exploration of interdisciplinary, community-based, experiential, global learning opportunities in teacher education and challenge her to take up this idea of “paths and a continuum” in her own work. That is how does this fantastic course fit into the continuum of coursework, readings, and field experiences that her students are experiencing.

I’m proud of the contributions of this coalition of global educators (in the papers and as published in our book), and instead of seeking out the “silver bullet” in global education, let us encourage scholars to seek out and investigate the continuum and pathways into global learning.

Thank you.


*Note: Dr. Maguth was asked to review papers included for presentation in the 2015 CUFA conference titled, “Global ed in teacher ed: Programs and practices”. Discussant: Brad Maguth, University of Akron Global Ed In Teacher Ed: Programs And PracticesJeremy Hilburn, UNC-Wilmington; Sarah Mathews, Florida International University; Hilary Landorf, Florida International University; Hillary Parkhouse, UNC Chapel Hill; Timothy Patterson, Temple University; Cynthia Poole, University of Central Florida; William Russell, University of Central Florida; Guichun Zong, Kennesaw State University

Global and Social Studies Education

The website/blog allows educators in the social studies to reflect upon key issues in the social studies. It also allows teachers the opportunity to access resources that help infuse instructional media and technology, and global perspectives in their teaching.