How to Prepare Globally Competent Students

Community, Leadership, Learning, PreK-12

Anamaria Knight, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, VIF International Education

Instruction aimed at helping students develop global competence does not need to be restricted to social studies or global studies courses. Many global education strategies are relevant across grade levels and academic subjects, and can be applied in any classroom.

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Elementary school teacher Nichola Turner is a testament to this. As an 11-year teaching veteran from the United Kingdom, Turner taught for two years in London and six years in Mexico City before making her way to the United States to teach. However, Turner’s effectiveness as a global educator isn’t represented by the stamps in her passport — it’s demonstrated by her commitment to utilizing the cultural diversity she’s seen in every classroom she’s led.

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“It’s extremely important to me as an educator that all students are valued no matter their cultural or language heritage,” Turner said. Turner consistently models cultural appreciation for all of her students. She honors students by using their backgrounds and interests to teach the skills, attitudes and knowledge they need to be successful.

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There are three elements fundamental to Turner’s teaching style:

  • Curiosity about her students’ backgrounds.
  • Incorporation of students’ cultural and language heritages into instruction. For example, she has students share information about their families by writing their own cultural resumes. She then connects this activity to Social Studies and Language Arts standards.
  • Instructional time dedicated to honoring students’ interests. For example, while talking to one of her Muslim students, Turner learned that one of the student’s wishes was for her classmates to learn Arabic. Turner helped support this interest by encouraging the student to teach the class how to count in Arabic.

Turner’s strategies sometimes seem outside of the norm. In one case, this has included allowing one of her English language learners to do a presentation in Spanish, his native language, rather than English. Did all students understand what he said? No. But for Turner, who speaks Spanish, the language of the presentation was secondary to what she was trying to achieve — making the student feel heard.

If you are interested in a few more instructional strategies that can be used across disciplines to support students in developing key global competence skills, here are some examples.

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This post is part of a blog series on global education and equitable preparation in the classroom produced in partnership with VIF International Education (@vifglobaled). Join the conversation on Twitter using #globaled. For more, download VIF’s free guidebook on Global Education and Equitable Preparation, and check out:

Anamaria Knight is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at VIF International Education. Follow Anamaria on Twitter, @Anamaria_Knight.


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4 Comments

Yanglish /

Obviously, governments should develop a common program for the creation of standards in global education. It is not easy to understand the cultural, national and other differences of students from different countries.

Fabiana Casella /

This post is a GEM!
Nikki’s job has been outstanding. VIF’s support and encouragement promoted not only hers, but many teachers’ role as cultural educators. In a way, VIF “triggers”our inner, sometimes hidden, cultural diversity spirit.

qualitymatters /

Informative article, though I would hope most educators are bright enough to find that the comprehensive teaching ideas described herein are common sense. What I continue to have difficulty with are the errors I’m finding in articles written by “educated” educators about education. Before reading the article, the first error to glare back at me is the “Perspective taking skills” phrase. First, if it were correct, it would need a hyphen, as in “perspective-taking skills,” but it isn’t correct. We “have” a perspective, we “develop” various perspectives, experiences “give” us perspectives, we “offer” or “provide” a perspective, but there is NO “taking” of perspectives.

What does the author even mean? One might improve one’s ability to “intuit,” but perspective is a point of view, a thing one has. It isn’t a skill one develops per se, though its accuracy, depth and usefulness can be improved through knowledge and experience. We run into similar problems with the author’s reference to “Intelligent humility” when trying to understand what she means. Humility doesn’t require intelligence; ;it requires less arrogance than man usually has. Does she mean one should be humble as to their own possibly superior intelligence when around less-educated individuals from other cultures? Who knows?

The article states that “[s]tudents prioritize global education over reading, writing, math and a host of other subjects. Golly, I hope not, at least not as to reading, writing and math. I mean, what good is knowledge about other cultures if one can’t read or write well. And the need for math should be obvious.

Other errors include: 1) “[s]tudents engage in open dialogues and discussions” should read open dialogue and discussion (or discussions); 2) “students have opportunities for authentic and contextual language learning through in-person or virtual exchanges” and “take virtual or real-time field trips” should use “and” or “and/or” because these are not either/or options; both activities can be offered or only one of them; 3) article states “lessons are driven by compelling questions rather than see ‘need-to-know’ outcomes” when using a combination of both methods is probably preferable, especially given the need most students have for structure. Giving them “time to explore and experience” is great, but they also need structure occasionally; and 4) in the article entitled “An Educator’s Digest of Facts and Figures,” the author writes: 9 in 10 students recognize that jobs are becoming increasingly international and believe they will be stronger employees with better understanding of different cultures” when beginning a sentence with a number requires the number to be written out. Thus, it should be “nine in ten students . . .” In addition, for the message to be clear, the last part of the sentence should read: “. . .they will be stronger employee” …how, when, under what circumstances?…”. . .they will be stronger employees if/when they have a better understanding of different cultures.”

Lastly, there’s an important comma missing in the very last sentence that should read: “For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.” But, if the page doesn’t contain “a full list of . . . all other disclosures,” then maybe it needs to say something like: “For a full list of partners and affiliate organizations and a description of all other disclosures, please see . . .” Or, “Our Partner page contains all other disclosures and a full list of . . .” Or, “For information on all other disclosures and a full list of . . ., please see . . .”

It seems post-1972 high school graduates never learned to think about what they want to say in writing in an effort to find the best and most understandable way to say it. As for why older generations are able to do this, one needs to review that pre-1966, K-6 education that everyone thinks is too antiquated to be useful in the 21st century. And I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet that, until educators and reformers engage in that substantive review, no change to methodology nor curriculum, with or without technology, will be able to teach what was learned in the K-6 classroom prior to 1966.

Old does not mean useless and new does not equal better. Old is merely what was done before. If it’s still the best way to teach something, what sense does it make to discard it just because it was used a long time ago. And “new” is merely different. Different is neither better nor worse, but it is “unknown.” Anything “unknown” should be used with great caution and in a limited manner until its effectiveness can be ascertained. Our education system in the U.S. has been inadequate since around 1966, because all kinds of “new” and untested reform ideas were implemented to replace what had worked so well. Since those ideas did not comport with what studies said about childhood development and how children learn, they failed.

The ideas presented here, however, are not likely to fail, because, from a common sense perspective, they are consistent with the learn-by-doing concept that we know works well with both student and adult. One doesn’t learn to type or ride a bike from a manual. One learns to type by showing up for class and typing; one learns to ride a bike by getting on and riding it..

Catherine Wedgwood /

Thanks very much for your feedback here. We do work hard to avoid incorrect grammar and punctuation, so we appreciate your input and will pass along your other comments to the author.