Productive Disruptions: Thinking Globally, Locally
by Jessie L. Moore
In January I posited that four productive disruptions (scaling access, building partnerships, thinking globally locally, and closing the loop with the scholarship of teaching and learning) can foster creative problem-solving about learning initiatives on our campuses. In this post, I examine the third productive disruption, thinking globally, locally.
In their research on “Maximizing Experiential Learning for Student Success,” Jeffrey Coker and Desiree Porter (2015) note that universities need to provide a range of experiential learning opportunities since not all students are ready for – or logistically able to pursue – the same option. Coker and Porter write:
We encountered some students who had successfully studied abroad for a semester in exotic cultures. But we saw others with different developmental needs who were unprepared for such an experience… Several weeks in a more familiar country serves as a good first step for these students; as they gain confidence, they may develop an interest in deeper immersion… Similar developmental pathways exist within research, internships, service learning, and leadership. (2015, pp. 69-70)
Often those alternate pathways exist just outside the walls of the university or in neighboring communities. Neal Sobania suggests:
Domestic off-campus study can be just as powerful a transformative learning experiences as overseas study. Including such globally minded and locally focused programs as part of a rich set of off-campus offerings will result in many new potential opportunities, which had been previously overlooked. Domestic programs can also expand students’ horizons, their knowledge of global issues and processes, their familiarity and experience with cultural diversity, their intercultural skills, and their sense of citizenship. (2015, p. 16)
Sobania highlights four “study away” activities that he argues have both unique and overlapping characteristics: domestic off-campus study, community-based education (service-learning and internships), overseas off-campus study, and online education.
While I would argue that service-learning and internships are distinct enough activities to merit separate spheres, I appreciate Sobania’s call to look for “globally minded and locally focused programs.” I’ve team-taught a domestic, off-campus study program that prompted students to explore cultural microcosms within Washington, D.C., to engage with political leaders who routinely work on international topics, and to examine the wide range of research questions explored by scholars in the national institutes and museums housed in the metro area. Students completing service-learning requirements for my Introduction to TESOL course have met city neighbors with whom they otherwise might not have interacted and have confronted their own assumptions about language use. As a faculty mentor for internships, I’ve seen students learn more about community histories and values in order to write documents that better address community members as an intended audience.
All of these “study away” experiences have been as transformative for students as the study abroad opportunities I’ve led.
As universities pursue global learning initiatives, being mindful of “locally focused” global learning is essential. Some students may not be able to afford a study abroad experience or to fit it into their degree plans. Others may not be developmentally ready for an “abroad” experience.
Therefore, focusing on service-learning, internships, and domestic off-campus study as “globally minded” learning opportunities – and examining the characteristics that they share – may function as a productive disruption to global learning narratives, opening up new pathways for, and more access to, transformative, experiential learning for all students.
- Coker, Jeffrey Scott, & Porter, Desiree Jasmine. (January/February 2015). Maximizing experiential learning for student success. Change. 66-72.
- Sobania, Neal. (2015). The faraway nearby: Putting the local in global education. In Neal W. Sobania (Ed.), Putting the local in global education: Models for transformative learning through domestic off-campus programs (pp. 16-35). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Jessie L. Moore (@jessielmoore) is the Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and associate professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric in the Department of English.