How confident are we in what we know about global learning?
by Nina Namaste
As part of the second meeting of the Center’s research seminar on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience, CEL director Jessie Moore led the participants and co-leaders through an activity similar to Stephen Brookfield’s Truth Statements (Discussion as a Way of Teaching, 1999, 71-72). We were asked to rate our confidence regarding whether or not we had actual evidence to support various truth statements related to global learning in general. The group had high confidence that either their own projects or existing research in the field supported the following claims:
- Global learning is a process (Kelleher 2005; Deardorff 2009)
- Global learning includes knowledge, skills, attitudes/habits of minds, and behaviors (AAC&U; Deardorff 2009)
- Global learning doesn’t happen primarily through Study Abroad/Study Away (SA/SA) (Sobania 2015)
- Global learning is a high-impact practice (Feller 2015)
- SA/SA is a high-impact practice (Kuh 2008)
- Faculty’s global learning impacts students’ global learning (Kegan 1994; Ziegler 2001)
- Faculty’s intercultural competency affects student development (Paige 2002)
- Faculty’s intercultural competency affects students’ intercultural competency (VandeBerg 2012)
- Integrative global learning experiences result in deeper levels of global learning (VandeBerg 2009; CEL group–in progress)
- Institutions are not intentional enough in connecting global and local intercultural learning experiences (Sobania 2015)
- Intervening in global learning can positively impact cultural competence (Hunter 2008; CEL group–in progress)
The activity helped the groups review the existing literature, analyze their own projects more closely to see if their data collection methods were, indeed, substantiating some of the statements, highlighted some of lacuna within the global learning research, and reaffirmed the importance of the research that the various multi-institutional projects were conducting.
Two statements provoked much debate as to whether or not there is current research that addresses the issue: 1) global learning is distinct and different than learning, and 2) study abroad/study away normally leads to improved global learning. Beyond whether or not there is research to substantiate the claims, the claims themselves provided fodder for debate. Some argued that global learning is simply good or effective learning, while others made the case that global learning is distinct and unique. Also, the group concluded that SA/SA has the potential to normally improve global learning, but if not done with intentionality and purposefulness, that potential doesn’t come to fruition. Clearly the activity itself was a useful tool for participants and co-leaders to deeply analyze the field, the existing research, the terminology, and the hidden assumptions at the root of our current global learning research.
- Deardorff, D. K. (Ed.) (2009). The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
- Feller, A.E. (2015). Where experience meets transformation. In N.W. Sobania (Ed.), Putting the local in global education: Models for transformative learning through domestic off-campus programs (pp. 53-72) Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
- Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Kelleher, A. (2005). Global education continuum. Diversity Digest, 8 (3). Retrieved from www.diversityweb.org/digest/vol8no3/kelleher.cfm
- Kuh, George D. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: A Brief Overview. Excerpt from High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/leap/hips
- Sobania, N.W. (2015). The faraway nearby: Making the case. In N.W. Sobania (Ed.), Putting the local in global education: Models for transformative learning through domestic off-campus programs (pp. 16-35) Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
- Vande Berg, M. (2009). Intervening in student learning abroad: A research-based inquiry. Intercultural Education, 20(4), 15-27.
- Vande Berg, M.; Paige, M. & Lou, K. (Eds.) (2012). Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Nina Namaste is Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Elon University. She is a co-leader for the 2015-2017 research seminar on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience: Higher-Impact Study Abroad and Off-Campus Domestic Study.