by Nina Namaste
The AAC&U 2014 Global Learning in College Conference (October 16-18, 2014) in Minneapolis, MN, featured sessions, keynote speakers, workshops, and discussion sessions that clearly indicated current trends in the discussions, research, foci, and practices regarding global learning.
Defining global learning is no longer the focus, since there are so many terms for it (though it was acknowledged that a community that attempts to define global learning as an exercise in meaning making can benefit greatly from the task). The knowledge, skills, habits, dispositions/attitudes, and actions that transcend disciplinary boundaries and prepare students to take an active role in alleviating the increasing socio-economic divides is the current focus. Many presenters urged participants to rethink underlying paradigms of global learning as many push to move global learning from a disciplinary to an institutional level.
Global learning is about transcending mental, social, and physical borders, wherever they may be, to actively deal with larger world concerns. Keynote speaker Sue Goldie urged participants to empower their students to look creatively for solutions and opportunities to combat the negative aspects, fears, and risks in an ever-increasingly globalized world. She stressed that students are the future decision-makers and as educators we need to help them become flexible, creative, open problem solvers that acknowledge the risks and see the “power of possibility” in our current world. Ultimately, she urged all educators to make global learning accessible and relevant to students’ future lives and to actively cultivate students invested in creating a more equitable, just world.
Global learning is a (life-long) process and/or journey—it is not an outcome to be achieved or a box to check off. Educators need to make students aware of the journey, develop their skills of analytical/critical reflection to express and track their development, and engage them fully in the process of self-discovery, connection, development, growth, change, and activism. Presenters urged participants to provide structures, in and out of class, to help students make sense of the process and development. Furthermore, developing global learning is not just for students—faculty and staff also need opportunities to continue on their journey as global learners.
We can no longer continue to privilege or put all our eggs in the basket of study abroad or expect that simply by studying abroad students will (magically) “become” global learners. Likewise, global learning must be much more than accumulating (international) experiences. Helping students initiate, develop, sustain, and nurture relationships with seemingly “different” others seems to be integral to global learning. Experiential cross-cultural learning via internships, domestic off-campus study, community-based learning, learning communities, partnerships, international off-campus study, basically any opportunities to actively engage and negotiate difference, all offer the means to practice and foster such relationship-building. Scaffolding and intentionally structuring those global learning experiences so that they are as learning-laden as possible is essential.
Assessing student learning or demonstrating that global learning is, indeed, happening, is still a challenge for many faculty, programs, and institutions. That said, the reiterated statement was the same: start with the student learning outcomes, design assignments that will prompt students to demonstrate their learning, and use as many types or modes of assessments as possible (precisely because global learning is a process and cannot be captured in a single measure or experience).
While repeated topics and themes were prevalent during the conference, some questions clearly resounded as well:

  • How do we integrate, capture, and intentionally design global learning throughout the entire college experience?
  • How do we better connect internationalization efforts on campus (usually focused on the student affairs side) with developing global learning (or citizenry) competencies (usually focused on the academic side)?

Clearly the CEL seminar on global learning proves to be a timely research initiative.  Applications are due November 3rd.

Nina Namaste is Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Elon University. Her research focuses on food imagery in contemporary Spanish, Mexican, Argentine, and Chilean literature, as well as (gender) identity issues, globalization, pedagogy, and assessment. Nina’s work as a Teagle Scholar included a project that evaluated students’ intercultural competency skills during semester-long study abroad experiences.

How to cite this post:

Namaste, Nina. 2014, October 28. Current Trends in Global Learning. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from