Wherever you go, there you are

Posted by: Ruth Moeller, Lecturer in Education and Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Every time I pass the billboard for a certain university advertising an overseas student experience involving elephants, I get irritated. I don’t have anything against students, the university or elephants for that matter but really, how many students will actually go overseas as part of their studies? Although I agree that it would be a wonderful learning experience, I have difficulty with the premise that, for a student to be a global citizen, they need to study abroad.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘They’ say that travel broadens the mind and ‘They’ are right. The opportunity to work or study offshore would enhance any student experience and a highlight of a student’s experience at university.

But in my opinion this should be the icing on the cake, not the main focus. ‘I went overseas, now I am global’ — I don’t think so. So to do justice to the idea of global competence, we need to think more broadly.

RMIT has a sophisticated view when it says graduates will be ‘Global in outlook and competence‘. What that commits us to is providing graduates with ‘…opportunities to acquire professional [and] cultural skills that enable them to engage thoughtfully and effectively with the great diversity of people and situations they encounter at work and socially.’

This is saying that there are personal and professional skills and knowledge that need to be developed in all of our students. As educators, we need to ask: ‘How do we do this?’

As a starting point, the question I think we need to ask is: What does an ‘internationalised’ student look like in my discipline? How can we claim our students will be global in outlook and competence if we don’t actually know what this means within our discipline?

I have tried to do this in my discipline, tertiary teaching. Using the Australian Qualifications Framework criteria of knowledge, skills and application of knowledge and skills, I started by imaging what I would expect if someone came to me for a teaching job claiming that they were ‘global’. What would I be looking for? In doing, this I developed a framework of the knowledge and skills that helps students develop their global competence and outlook.

Some of the knowledge I would expect includes an appreciation of educational philosophies and different education systems to get a sense of the expectations of their students and how these philosophies might be enacted in classes. An added benefit of this could be the help it gives them in finding employment opportunities and navigating the various educational systems that operate across the world. Also of importance would be knowledge of the cultural views of education; the role of student/teacher, group/individual in different contexts.

When thinking of skills I would include a proficiency with different teaching strategies and the use of technology to engage diverse learning styles and cultures as well as the ability to research resources in an international context. The skills that help them identify what is available for them in regards to enhancing and internationalising their curriculum are, as educators, the same ones that will help them localise their curriculum should they wish to deliver content offshore or to deliver at a distance to global learners.

In thinking about the application of knowledge and skills, on a practical level I would incorporate how to design assessment for diverse learners and contexts, as well as the strategies that they, as teachers, could use to make their students ‘globally aware’.

In a broader sense, I would expect that person to be able to listen to, appreciate and synthesise other points of view as perhaps the key ability to operate within diverse cultures and environments.

Now the question is, does this just happen? Or do I need to create learning opportunities for this? Miracles do happen, but usually student learning is based on hard work and good design and that is what I am going for.

As my course is being reviewed, I am currently working on ways to integrate the skills and knowledge required to allow my students to have a global outlook. I found an excellent set of resources The GIHE Good Practice Guide to Internationalising the Curriculum at Griffith University to help with the planning involved in internationalising a course. They encourage you to look at programs and courses holistically, integrating an internationalised approach into aspects of curriculum design, assessment, learning resources and extracurricular activities.

Being global in outlook and competence requires far more than boarding a plane. Recently on the blog (here  and here) we’ve showcased student mobility opportunities that focus on the learner and their discipline. Thinking about the knowledge and skills we want to instil in graduates to give them a global education (and how will they apply these in any setting) is crucial to a genuine engagement with the world.

Resources:

Griffith University: The GIHE Good Practice Guide to Internationalising the Curriculum

http://www.griffith.edu.au/data/assets/pdf_file/0006/345291/Internationalising-the-Curriculum.pdf

Curriculum Review Tools for QAA – Quality Assurance of Assessment, Part 3 – Assessment for internationalisation of the Curriculum.Duncan D. Nulty, Brona Farreley and Michelle Barker

http://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/344384/Curriculum-Review-Tools-for-QAA-Part-3.pdf

Share your thoughts about a global outlook for students in the comments below!

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