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Building a K-16 Education Pipeline for Global Competence Development

Editor's Note: Last week, we shared an example of a burgeoning secondary-postsecondary partnership in the state of Utah aimed at producing fluent second-language speakers. Today, Dr. Darla K. Deardorff, Affiliated Faculty at Duke University, shares ways to systematically build similar partnerships in global education.

By guest blogger Darla K. Deardorff

Global competence is increasing in prominence at multiple levels of education, including secondary and postsecondary. Often, though, there seems to be a disconnect between these levels, when instead there should be greater collaboration to build upon each, and in the end, enhance students' global competence development as a continuous pipeline. This article briefly discusses this disconnect and proposes four ways that secondary and postsecondary institutions can collaborate more closely.

Some of the disconnect around global competence occurs through terminology, with secondary schools often utilizing the term "global competence" or "international mindedness," while colleges and universities use other terms such as "intercultural competence" and "global citizenship." Often, entirely different literature and resources on global competence are used at different educational levels. Too often, efforts to develop students' global competence are reinvented instead of building on the many years of scholarly work and research that have already been invested. Regardless of terminology or literature used, definitions usually involve students' capacity to communicate and behave effectively and appropriately with those from different backgrounds as they engage in local and global society.

So, how can educators connect better with each other in efforts to streamline and enhance global competence development for all students? Here are four proposals:

1)  Focus on teacher education programs and ensure that global competence is adequately addressed throughout the program.

Given the increasing diversity among the student population, teachers need to become better prepared to successfully teach students from diverse backgrounds. How are teacher education programs changing to meet the needs of teachers? Courses like "culturally responsive teaching" begin to address this issue. Beyond one course, though, how is global competence being integrated throughout teacher education courses? A good way to begin is by considering how courses incorporate resources written from numerous perspectives.

It is also important to consider the hidden curriculum within teacher education programs, including whose knowledge is being privileged and what voices are missing from the current curriculum. Rethinking teacher preparation, as well as ongoing teacher in-service training, can play a key role in ensuring a greater connection between postsecondary and secondary education in regard to developing learners' global and intercultural development.

2)  Connect with international education offices at local colleges and universities.

International education offices at local colleges and universities are tasked not only with providing opportunities to students (such as study abroad) but ultimately, in also addressing the preparation of undergraduate students in regard to succeeding in a diverse society as global citizens. How can international offices and educators connect and do more together in regard to enhancing the intercultural learning of students? Such offices often contain experts on intercultural learning, as well as access to international students and returned study abroad students who may be able to connect with local schools through presentations and even as mentors. High school educators and students may also participate in university events and programs, particularly those occurring during International Week each November.

3)  Share research and work with each other.

Research on intercultural learning and global competence development is ongoing at numerous universities. Making this research available to school teachers and exploring ways to go from theory to practice is key in making progress toward global competence development for all students. Such sharing takes place during educational conferences, but more intentionality is needed to ensure that both educators and researchers are coming together to exchange information. 

This may mean maximizing educational conferences to include specific time for such networking or adapting other professional development events and resources to encourage this exchange of ideas and information. Further, how can researchers better connect with secondary school educators in collecting research data to understand more fully the developmental process of global and intercultural competence and demonstrate the success of these programs? There are many potential areas for future collaboration in this regard.

4)  Involve students across different levels of education.

darla deardorff.pngAs student agency becomes an increasing focus through the United Nations Education 2030 initiative, it becomes imperative that students themselves are more involved in their own global competence development. In what ways can high school students and undergraduate students connect with each other to exchange ideas and experiences? Service learning courses at the postsecondary level would be one way in which such connections could occur. Research and internship opportunities, often in the summer, may provide other opportunities for students to connect across different levels of education.

These are four ways in which educators can better streamline and enhance global competence development. There are certainly other ways and opportunities in which this can occur. The important thing is that educators learn from each other and build on current efforts so that in the end, students at every level are making steady progress toward enhancing their own global and intercultural competence. It is important to remember, though, that this is a lifelong process for all of us as we strive to learn to live together as a human family.

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