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The Question Everyone Asks

You can see evidence of globalization in most places throughout the world. Global economic, cultural, technological, and environmental changes may reveal themselves in different ways, but one thing is certain: growing global interdependence calls for more people who are critical thinkers and can participate in local, national, and global civic life.

The question everyone asks is: what competencies do students need to have to be ready for the world? The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) assembled a broad-based advisory board last year, which I chaired, to examine this very question. The answer didn't come easily—it required 18 months of research and deliberation. In short, we defined global competence as the capacity and disposition to act on issues of global significance. There are four main capacities that make up global competence.

Globally competent individuals can:

Investigate the World. Global competence starts by being aware, curious, and interested in learning about the world and how it works. Globally competent students ask and explore critical questions for which there may not be one right answer, but can be engaged intellectually nonetheless. They can address important phenomena and events that are relevant worldwide.

Globally competent students can articulate the significance of their questions. They can offer responses to these questions by identifying, collecting, and analyzing credible information from a variety of sources, including those from other countries or in different languages. Students can present their work in real-world ways, be it an essay, a problem or design solution, a scientific explanation, or a work of art.

Weigh Perspectives. Globally competent students recognize that they have a particular perspective that others may or may not share. They are able to articulate and explain the perspectives of other people, groups, or schools of thought and identify influences on these perspectives, including how differential access to knowledge, technology, and resources can affect people's views.

Their understanding of others' perspectives is deeply informed by historical knowledge about other cultures as well as contemporary events. They can compare and contrast their perspective with others, and integrate their own and others' viewpoints to construct a new one, when needed.

Communicate Ideas. Globally competent students understand that audiences differ on the basis of culture, geography, faith, ideology, wealth, and other factors and that they may perceive different meanings from the same information. They can communicate effectively—verbally and non-verbally—with diverse audiences. Globally competent students are proficient in English (the lingua franca for commerce) as well as in at least one other language.

Communicating ideas occurs in a variety of culturally diverse settings, and especially within collaborative teams. Globally competent students are able to situate themselves in a variety of cultural contexts, organize and participate in diverse groups, and work effectively toward a common goal.

Globally competent students are media and artistically savvy; they know how to choose and effectively use technology and media to communicate with diverse audiences. In short, they are technology and media literate within a global communications environment.

Take Action. What skills and knowledge will it take to go from learning about the world to making a difference in the world? First, it takes seeing oneself as capable of making a difference. Globally competent students see themselves as players, not bystanders. They are keenly able to recognize opportunities from launching a human rights advocacy campaign to creating the next must-have product we didn't know we needed. Alone or with others, ethically and creatively, globally competent students can envision and weigh options for action based on evidence and insight; they can assess their potential impact, taking into account varied perspectives and potential consequences for others; and they show courage to act and reflect on their actions.

Learn more about this work and access practical classroom tools (for example, grading rubrics for global competence) in the CCSSO and Asia Society publication, Educating for Global Competence. EdWeek.org readers may download this publication for free.

In future posts, my guest bloggers and I will further explore this idea of global competence and how it fits within academic disciplines, interdisciplinary projects, and with the new Common Core Standards. We'll also take a look at what other countries are doing to prepare their youth for a global future.

For now, I invite you to sound off on whether the competencies described above encompass what you believe students should know and be able to do in a global economy. I look forward to learning about your perspectives and experiences on the comment board.

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