Global Learning Beyond the Classroom

Global Learning Beyond the Classroom

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8832-4.ch001
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Global learning is the process of students working together to understand and make connections between local, regional, national, and global concerns; analyze these concerns from multiple perspectives; and begin to create solutions that take into account their own and other's well-being. Global learning is most effective when it is integrative, enabling every student to make connections between the issues that they study in the classroom and their own experiences in cocurricular activities and in their personal lives. In this increasingly interconnected, complex, and difficult world, it is essential that students engage in integrative global learning as soon as they enter college. This chapter provides a roadmap for global learning leaders looking to implement integrative global learning programming in a multiplicity of contexts.
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Today’s college students must learn how to engage effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, solve unscripted problems, and be able to grapple with unforeseen challenges that characterize their life and work in the increasingly complex world in which they are living. Students working together with their diverse peers to analyze and address complex problems that transcend borders of all kinds is called global learning (Landorf, et al., 2018). It’s a lifelong process of learning how to accept one’s own individuality, respect others with all their differences, and take action to make the world a better place for all.

Global learning is often confused with internationalization, but they are different concepts. When we talk about internationalization, we are talking about the things that an institution of higher education does to add more depth and more perspectives to its teaching, research, and service missions. These are things such as increasing the number of international students on campus, the number of students studying abroad, the reach of international partnerships, or funding for international research. When we turn to global learning, we are putting together two different concepts: ‘global’ and ‘learning’. Global describes the era in which we are living. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, global has two meanings: having to do with the “whole world,” or “relating to or encompassing the whole of anything; comprehensive, universal, total” (Oxford Languages, n.d., Definition 1). And learning is the process of acquiring knowledge and/or skills through experience, study, or by being taught. Combining these two concepts gets us a term that, in its literal sense, can have several meanings – learning about the world, learning in a holistic manner, or learning with others, to name a few.

Global learning was first used in the early 1980s by the second Rector of the United Nations University, Soedjatmoko, who deliberately put the two words together as a double entendre, to mean learning as a social process to include all levels of society and learning about global issues, with a recognition of the world as an interconnected global system (Soedjatmoko & Newland, 1987, p. 221). From its beginning global learning had within it the vision of linking issues horizontally, “not only across disciplines and professions but also across cultures, societies, and ideologies,” and vertically, “across local, national, regional, and international levels” (Ploman, 1986, p. xix). It also included the notion of action and the necessity of collaboration. Hence, Landorf and Doscher’s (2023) definition of global learning as “the process of diverse people collaboratively analyzing and addressing complex problems that transcend borders and taking action that promotes collective well-being.”

To deconstruct this definition, first, global learning is a process. Rather than the production, or reproduction, of fixed knowledge or skills, or a number of activities, global learning is an ongoing, iterative series of actions and experiences between and among faculty, students, and local and global communities. Second, diversity refers not just to different demographic characteristics, but also different disciplinary, theoretical, and sociocultural perspectives - in essence, it’s a diversity of diversities. Students’ long-term, sustained experience with diversity is as important as the presence of a diverse student body.

Collaboration goes hand-in-hand with diversity. It describes the nature of engagement and connection required amongst diverse global learners. The word collaboration is rooted in the idea that learning is social, and that new knowledge is constructed through exchange and discourse. Through collaboration, groups combine parts of their diverse individual ideas to produce new, innovative ideas and solutions to wicked problems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Problems That Transcend Borders: Real-world problems and issues that transcend categorization by discipline, geography, economics, culture, politics, and religion and affect all levels of society.

Collaboration: Rooted in the idea that learning is social, and that new knowledge is constructed through exchange and discourse, collaborative learning encourages students to bring their diverse perspectives to the classroom for the benefit of others. It is different from cooperative learning, which maintains the traditional structure of the classroom and is aimed at coordinating individual efforts to find a pre-determined solution. Collaborative learning, on the other hand, is largely unstructured and encourages critical reflection on issues that defy categorization and have no obvious or simple solution.

Collective Well-Being: The success of a community as a whole, measured in terms of the multiple conditions of the community, and the capacity and capabilities of individuals in that community to achieve health, happiness, and success on their own terms.

Integrative Global Learning: Global learning that enables every student to make connections between the issues that they study in the classroom and their own experiences in cocurricular activities and in their personal lives.

Global Learning: A learning process that enables students to view issues from multiple perspectives and work collaboratively with others on complex global problems, with respect and appreciation for the contribution of all those involved and have as their purpose collective well-being for all.

Global: Holistic or having to do with the entire world.

ePortfolio: An electronic repository of student work put together, curated, and managed by the student.

International: Between nations.

Systems-Thinking Approach to Assessment: An assessment paradigm that illuminates the whole, not just the parts; one that is synthetic, not just analytic; one that integrates, as well as differentiates.

Cocurriculum: Programming that takes place outside the classroom but complements classroom learning.

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