Global Learning and the University Experience
by Amanda Sturgill
What does it mean to learn globally? The seminar had a presence at the AAC&U Conference on Global Learning in College: Defining, Developing and Assessing Institutional Roadmaps conference in October 2015. Co-leader Neal Sobania was part of a pre-conference workshop titled “From Doorstep to Planet – Global is Everywhere.” During the conference itself, co-leaders Nina Namaste and Amanda Sturgill facilitated a session about multi-institutional projects, seeded with some thoughts about useful ways to define the “global,” that situate learning from global experiences in both a continuum in space and in time. Here are some of the ideas presented:
Effective global learning touches more than just the students who participate and the faculty and staff who work with them. Stakeholders can include students, faculty and staff who never leave campus, as they engage with those who do. The institution as a whole can be impacted by global experiences. As one example, when students study world language and culture by living in another culture, the accent and vocabulary that they return with can vary depending on where they study, which can provide a useful element for discussion for all students, not just those who went abroad.
Other stakeholders are not directly engaged with higher education. For example, faculty at receiving universities, host families and new friends of students are all impacted by the students’ global experiences. We often frame the effort for global learning as a desire for societal change. The society at large, then, also can be a stakeholder in our efforts.
Global learning outcomes include a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes. First, there is particular knowledge about various cultures. This kind of knowledge about practices, norms and even languages can be appreciated on some level through readings, films and classroom activities. A more nuanced understanding can be gained through a combination of experience and reflection. Second, the notion of intercultural competence is a frequently stated goal of global learning. Generally, we think this goal represents skills in intercultural interactions, including being able to interact with other cultures flexibly and being able to identify and understand the perspectives of others. Finally, we would hope that the ability to sincerely take the perspective of others would lead to a change in attitude. When students are able to practice understanding other cultures from the perspectives of those cultures, they can begin to appreciate the constructed nature of cultures, include their own. Ultimately, this appreciation can help them understand that moral judgments about others need to be more than comparing another culture to one’s own
The where and when:
Global experiences don’t exist in a vacuum in space and aren’t self-contained in time. They happen:
- On campus
- Locally, but off campus
- In the U.S., in culturally diverse locales
- Before university
- During university, before, during or after global experiences
- After university
These are areas being explored in the Center for Engaged Learning’s Research Seminar on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience.
Amanda Sturgill (@) is Associate Professor of Communications at Elon University. She has professional experience in newspaper journalism and marketing communications, and her research focuses on the intersection of education and community-based work, the relationship of region and media, and on new technologies and the news. Amanda routinely teaches study abroad courses and has published on methods of reflection in service-learning abroad.