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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Expanding Horizons: Global Learning in Out-of-School Time

global competence

Asia Society and BOOST Collaborative are partnering to create a series of blogs on global learning in out-of-school time.  This month features Heather Loewecke from Asia Society.  

The impact of globalization is clear.

The diversification of our neighborhoods and workplaces, technological advancements, transnational issues, and political conflicts are transforming the ways we must work and interact with individuals from vastly different backgrounds, countries, and cultures.  However, research reflects that most American young people lack essential international knowledge, such as geography, history, current events and proficiency in languages other than English.[i]  Employers routinely argue that high school and college graduates are not equipped with the necessary knowledge and applied skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation, needed in today’s global workplace.[ii] [iii]

Global competence requires much more than just exposing youth to the cultures in their communities or stand alone activities such as international food night.  To become successful workers and citizens in a global 21st century, young people need a broad range of experiences – in school and out – to build their knowledge of the world and understand their place in it. Afterschool and summer programs provide the flexible structure, additional time, hands-on experiences, and community partnerships that can allow youth to increase critical content knowledge and skills development for success in the globalized world.

What is Global Competence?

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Asia Society convened a national task force that defined global competence as the “knowledge, skills, and dispositions to understand and act creatively on issues of global significance.”[iv] This definition was officially adopted by the U.S. Department of Education.[v]

Globally competent young people are able to:

  • Investigate the World – Global competence starts by being interested in learning about the world and how it works.  Students ask and explore questions that are globally significant. They can respond to these questions by identifying, collecting, and analyzing credible information from a variety of local, national, and international sources, including those in multiple languages. They can connect the local to the global.
  • Weigh Perspectives – Globally competent students recognize that they have a particular perspective and that others may or may not share it. When needed, they can compare and contrast their perspective with others, and integrate various viewpoints to construct a new one.
  • Communicate Ideas – Globally competent students understand that audiences differ on the basis of culture, geography, faith, ideology, wealth, and other factors.  They can effectively communicate, verbally and non-verbally, with wide-ranging audiences and collaborate on diverse teams.  Because it is increasingly the world’s common language for commerce and communication, globally competent students are proficient in English as well as in at least one other world language. They are technology and media literate within a global communications environment.
  • Take Action – Globally competent students see themselves as capable of making a difference. Alone or with others, ethically and creatively, globally competent students can envision and weigh options for action based on evidence and insight; they can assess their potential impact, taking into account varied perspectives and potential consequences for others; and they show courage to act and reflect on their actions.

Importantly, students develop these competencies through disciplinary and interdisciplinary study—learning and learning how to learn as historians, scientists, and artists do within and across subject areas for an integrated understanding of the world.

Getting Started with Global Learning in Out-of-School Time

Out-of-school time programs can use the definition and competences noted above as a guide for developing age-appropriate global learning activities that support academic and youth development outcomes.  Here are five ways to integrate global content into program activities:

Infuse Global Learning into Existing Activities

It’s not necessary to overhaul all activities or create new programming to get started doing global learning in afterschool.  Instead, consider focusing on one programming component or learning unit: Is there an example or a piece of content in an activity that could be replaced with one from another country or culture?  Could an activity be augmented through the addition of a globally-oriented extension project?  Or, perhaps an activity could be transformed by aligning an existing goal or outcome with one of the global competencies listed above.  For example, read folktales and poems from other countries during literacy time.  Or, include games from other cultures in your health and fitness component.  During cooking club, teach students to prepare healthy foods from other cultures.

Design Thematic and Project-Based Learning Units

Consider using globally significant topics when planning instructional themes for the year.  Topics such as water usage and conservation, human rights, health care, and education are relevant both globally and locally and increase youth’s academic knowledge and social emotional skills such as empathy and compassion.  Teaching about these issues across program areas helps young people to become informed, global citizens through integrated and interdisciplinary study.  Develop these topics further into project-based learning units that begin with a driving question or problem that interests participants and guides them through research toward an action project.

Create a Culturally Sensitive Environment

Enlist staff and youth to create a set of group guidelines that outline expected behaviors.  Include strategies for asking respectful questions about people, cultures, or ideas that are unfamiliar.  Introduce youth to new countries and cultures, including those of students in your program and of people in the community at large.  Teach young people respectful greetings from different languages.  Present balanced viewpoints during learning activities and remind participants that everyone’s ideas are valid.  If possible, include decorations and snacks from different cultures around the world and set up space to promote collaboration.

See Staff as Assets

Youth workers should think about the personal connections they have that can support global learning.  Staff’s family heritage, travel experiences and artifacts, world language proficiency, music and artistic skills, study abroad, internship or apprenticeship experiences, interactions with those from other cultures, and community connections can generate ideas for lessons and activities.

Make Community Connections

Take stock of existing partners and stakeholders such as parents, board members, community- and faith-based organizations, cultural and art institutions, local businesses, and colleges.  Conduct a community assessment to identify additional potential assets and partners in the community.  Invite partners to events and festivals or to be guest speakers in the program to share their global connections and resources.  Take youth on field trips to museums, nearby neighborhoods, marketplaces, restaurants, and businesses to enhance and deepen learning.  Coordinate with local charitable or non-profit organizations to set up service learning efforts that promote youth’s civic participation to address local issues while increasing their leadership skills.  Develop partnerships with programs in other cities or countries to provide participants with virtual exchange opportunities with peers.

Virtually any activity offered during out-of-school time can be globalized.  What could you do to prepare your participants for a global world?

For more information, visit Asia Society’s website.

 For breakfast today I had coffee and scrambled eggs with ketchup.


[i] Committee for Economic Development (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for U.S. economic and national security. https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/public/Finalreport.pdf
[ii] The Conference Board, Inc., the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers’ perspective on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century U.S. workforce. https://www.p21.org/storage/documents/FINAL_REPORT_PDF09-29-06.pdf
[iv] Boix Mansilla, V. & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for global competence: Preparing our youth to engage the world. New York, NY: Asia Society. https://asiasociety.org/files/book-globalcompetence.pdf
[v] U.S. Department of Education (2012). Succeeding globally through international education and engagement: The U.S. Department of Education’s international strategy for 2012-16. https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/internationaled/international-strategy-2012-16.pdf

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