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Integrating Global Competencies into the Curriculum

 

Teaching a New Generation of Students
A National Symposium
November 18-19, 2016
Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College
Atlanta, Georgia

 

Cynthia S. Wiseman, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Abstract

This presentation reported preliminary results of an NEH-funded interdisciplinary initiative, Cultivating Global Competencies in a Diverse World, which seeks to infuse the curriculum with global competencies across the humanities. Launched in September 2014 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), this project provided professional development opportunities for faculty to reflect on globalization and global competencies. Faculty attended a series of seminars featuring experts in global issues across disciplines. Participating faculty committed to the development and implementation of assignments targeting at least two global competencies, which include cultural understanding, responsible global citizenship, effective intercultural communication, and integrated reasoning.

Modeled after the WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) program, which targets the development of writing as a high impact skill essential to academic performance, this program targeted global competencies as essential high impact skills that BMCC students must possess to be competitive in the 21st. century global economy.

Aligned with BMCC’s A Bridge to the Future strategic plan and BMCC’s institutional priority to globalize the curriculum, this initiative aimed to provide faculty with pedagogical support in the integration of global competencies into our diverse classrooms at BMCC. As a result, BMCC students would gain a much richer understanding of, and deeper appreciation for, global issues as well as a capacity to act as increasingly confident and responsible global citizens throughout their lives, both professionally and socially.

Program Genesis

BMCC, one of seven urban community colleges within the City University of New York (CUNY), is one of the most diverse community colleges in the nation. It serves over 26,000 students, representing over 155 countries of national origin and speaking more than 113 languages (About BMCC). For most of these students, BMCC presents a singular opportunity to acquire a higher education essential to professional and personal success.

Despite such diversity, many students at BMCC have a limited understanding of increasingly complex relationships among world cultures and emerging global issues. Despite growing up in a large, diverse urban environment, many of our students have grown up, gone to school, and even work in the neighborhoods where they were born.   For some, exposure to and knowledge of other ethnic groups is limited to their personal interactions in the classroom with students from other ethnicities, languages, or cultures or through their study of global issues as framed in the curriculum. To enhance student exposure to world cultures and global issues, BMCC has striven to provide activities to foster a greater understanding of multiculturalism and multilingualism and the development of global competencies.

Under the leadership of a forward-looking administration, over the years BMCC has prioritized globalization through the support of various significant initiatives. From 2003-2009, the BMCC President’s Office sponsored cohorts of faculty and students to attend the Salzburg Seminar, a leading forum for global dialogue since its inception post-World War II. BMCC cohorts attended the annual one-week International Study Program (ISP) organized under the auspices of the Salzburg Institute. ISP syllabi focused on global issues, including what it means to be a global citizen. Faculty attended with the aim of exploring the applicability of various pedagogical modules focusing on globalization to the college’s curricula, and students focused on themes encompassing global issues and global citizenship.

Subsequent to the Salzburg Seminar initiative, BMCC made numerous efforts to globalize the curriculum at an institutional level. A Global Studies committee developed a preliminary plan for a college-wide program in Global Studies and produced the Global Pedagogy Handbook (2007), to which faculty contributed assignments focusing on the integration of global issues and competencies.

The College Faculty/Staff Interest Group at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Scholarship (CETLS) sponsored Globalization Day (2010 and 2012), an event that promoted global awareness through group discussions involving faculty and students, film screenings, slide presentations, and a talk by a keynote speaker.

In 2011, the BMCC Globalization Task Force was convened and concluded that only by infusing our curriculum with an international dimension can we ensure that all of BMCC’s graduates will possess the global perspectives essential for succeeding in the 21st century. The Task Force also found that while the college had much to offer, efforts in this area of global studies had not been consistently articulated to the college community and external constituents, nor had the College been organized in a coordinated, comprehensive effort to globalize the campus. The Task Force found that BMCC must be intentional in its efforts to facilitate a transformation that would require the college to develop and implement reforms in four essential areas, including academic excellence in global education and fostering global citizenship. These recommendations were subsequently integrated into BMCC’s five-year strategic plan, A Bridge to the Future (2008), which identified the promotion of student awareness and understanding of global issues as one of the four strategic priorities for the college.

BMCC has since dedicated its efforts towards globalization of the curriculum. To act on these recommendations, the Steering Committee on Global Studies Center (2011-2012) was established and charged with creating an initiative to ensure that courses were infused with core global competencies aligned with similar courses at senior colleges and in compliance with the recommendations of the American Council on Education. The Steering Committee thus proposed a curriculum development program to provide faculty with professional development opportunities to integrate global competencies in existing courses.

Program Model

The professional development initiative Cultivating Global Competencies in a Diverse World was developed to infuse global competencies across the curricula in the humanities. The aim of this project was to provide faculty pedagogical support in integrating global competencies into diverse classrooms, and to foster among students a rich understanding of and deeper appreciation for global issues and the capacity to act as increasingly confident and responsible global citizens throughout their professional and personal lives. The program was piloted in summer 2014 with nineteen faculty from across the humanities.

In 2015, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded the implementation of this initiative through the Bridging Cultures Initiative. The BMCC project thus became part of a special NEH initiative to invest in community college programs and strengthen the humanities through the development of themes of bridging cultures, and through advancing the role of the humanities at community colleges through curriculum and faculty development (National Endowment for the Humanities).

For Cultivating Global Competencies in a Diverse World, participating BMCC faculty in the humanities attended seminars and presentations led by global studies scholars during the 2015-2016 academic year. The first cohort included sixteen faculty from across ten disciplines, including speech, academic literacy and linguistics, and social science. Following the seminars, faculty redesigned assignments to enhance the development of targeted global competencies in their courses. Through pedagogical presentations of the enhanced assignments, participating faculty provided continuing support and feedback to colleagues in the cohort during the implementation of the enhanced assignments.

Global Competencies

The four global competencies targeted in this initiative—cultural understanding, effective interpersonal communication, responsible global citizenship, and integrated reasoning—were selected from the Liberal Learning and Global Competence Framework developed by Michigan State University (2010). Participating faculty were encouraged to articulate performance indicators for each global competency as adapted from the MSU framework. For example, to demonstrate the global competency of responsible global citizenship, BMCC students would participate as members of local, national, and/or international communities and develop the capacity to lead in an increasingly interdependent world by 1) demonstrating a personal sense of ethics, service, and responsibility informing decision-making with regard to diverse issues; 2) analyzing the impact of personal behavior on diverse systems; or 3) utilizing knowledge, attitudes, and skills to engage in diverse challenges facing humanity. Participating faculty were asked to redesign at least two assignments targeting at least two of the four global competencies. The selection of assignments, the targeted global competencies, and the redesign to enhance the assignments and achieve Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) were left to the discretion of participating faculty.

Sample Assignment

One faculty member teaching ESL95, a writing intensive course for non-native speakers of English, redesigned a writing assignment to target cultural understanding and integrated reasoning. SLOs for cultural understanding include: 1) to accept and appreciate of global and cultural diversity within historical, artistic, and societal contexts; 2) to recognize the similarities, differences, and dynamic relationships existing among people and cultures; 3) to explore explicit and implicit forms of power, privilege, inequality, and inequity; and 4) to engage with and demonstrate willingness to be open to people, ideas, and activities from other cultures as a means of personal and profession development. SLOs for integrated reasoning include: 1) to explain how oneself is related to historical, geopolitical, and intellectual trends or influenced by geographic, socio-cultural, economic, and ecological conditions; 2) to explain how the world and one’s own life is constantly interdependent and part of a dynamic system; and 3) to critically analyze the complexity and interconnectedness of global processes (e.g., identities, security, or environment).

The original assignment was to write an essay about the first person in the family to emigrate from the homeland. Students were instructed to choose someone to write about, and given the chance to reflect on this relative’s story in class through a free-writing task. After free writing, students jotted down questions about this person’s journey and were asked to consult with parents or relatives to get information before they began to write the essay. Students received feedback from other students on their first drafts during peer review sessions and revised their essays before submitting them to the teacher for feedback. This assignment represented a rather traditional process-writing approach to second language writing in the classroom.

Redesign of Assignment

A class of English as a Second Language (ESL) students is inherently global; however, the objective of an ESL writing course is to develop second language writing skills in academic English. A second objective is to familiarize students from other countries with American culture, particular American academic culture, to prepare these students for academic excellence and career readiness should they want to settle and work in the U.S. Assignments like this one frequently exploit the international scope of the background and experience of ESL students, but the challenge is to build in an awareness of the significance of their experience, which can be fostered through assignments structured to develop that awareness and understanding, and that involve the global competencies of cultural understanding and integrated reasoning.

To further develop cultural understanding and integrated reasoning, the writing assignment for ESL95 was revised to include a component to help students make connections between their individual family member who left his/her country and the larger local, national, or global forces at play influencing that decision to emigrate.

To this end, students were guided through a number of additional prewriting tasks. First, they viewed interviews of celebrities regarding their family histories, such as those conducted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., with Queen Noor, Yo Yo Ma, and Oprah Winfrey in his Finding Your Roots project. As Gates and each celebrity interviewee reviewed family genealogy records uncovered by Gates’ research team, they talked about family members and recounted their stories, weaving into their narratives the world conditions and events that influenced the decisions that their ancestors had made or had been forced to make, such as the enslavement of Africans and the diaspora, World War II, and pre-Civil Rights Movement Jim Crow practices. These exploratory interviews illustrate how the personal stories of individuals are shaped not just by personal choice, but also by historical, societal and global factors. The class discussed these stories, identified these factors, and analyzed their impact on the individual’s story.

Students were then instructed to write their own family member’s story and research the cultural, historical, political, and economic context in that relative’s native country, and to make the relevant connections between the context and the choices that individual made.

The final piece of this assignment was the creation of a digital story about the family member. The students worked from the essay and searched for relevant images—family photos as well as images of cultural, national, and global significance—to tell the story of their ancestor or family member.

The essays and digital stories produced were enriched by the integration of the larger global context. Students presented their digital stories with pride and recounted a deeper understanding of their own cultures, a greater respect for the family member, and a broader awareness of the interdependence of individuals and society.

The redesign of this writing assignment to bring in the connections of the relative’s story with the larger historical, cultural, or economic contexts was intended to target the development of cultural understanding and integrated reasoning. Through research, writing, and the creation of digital stories students connected the individual stories of relatives with the historic or societal contexts in which they lived. As a result of this process, students gained a greater appreciation of diversity, and the presentation and reception of these stories fostered acceptance of diversity. Through this process students were challenged to recognize the similarities, differences, and dynamic relationships existing among people and cultures and explore explicit and implicit forms of power, privilege, inequality, and inequity and to engage with, and demonstrate willingness to be open to, the experiences of people from other cultures. Certainly the task of telling the story of a relative required students to explain how the individual is related to historical, geopolitical, and intellectual trends that are influenced by geographic, socio-cultural, economic, and ecological conditions, and to explain how the world and the lives of individuals life are constantly interdependent, evolving within a dynamic system.

Assessment of Impact of the Program

To measure the impact of these pedagogical approaches to integrating global competencies into the curriculum, students were surveyed pre- and post-intervention regarding their self-perceptions of their own global competencies via an adapted version of the Global Perception Inventory (GPI).

The GPI, which was designed to measure human development in cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal domains, has been used by private and public institutions of higher learning to measure the impact on global perspective of institutional interventions (e.g., before and after study abroad experiences) (Braskamp, Braskamp, & Engbert, 2012). The original GPI was comprised six scales with two scales to measure each of the three domains. An adapted version of the GPI comprising 28 items targeting the 4 competencies (r = .884) was developed for use in this initiative.

This survey was administered to students in participating classes pre- and post- intervention. Participating students endorsed items related to global competencies on a five-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strong agree). Aggregate pre- and post-intervention scores were compared to examine changes in global perspectives of students, both for the overall program and for individual classes. These results provided useful feedback for faculty on the effectiveness of the assignment and feedback for this initiative moving forward with future cohorts.

Items from the survey were mapped onto their related global competencies to create scales for each competency. Student gains from pre- to post-assessment for targeted global competencies were measured by aggregates of performance on items measuring a targeted competency. For example, eight items were tagged to measure responsible citizenship, including “I stand up for my rights” and “I am informed of current issues that impact international relations.” Figure 1, “Global Competencies Spring 2016 Responsible Citizenship,” shows the average gains for the Spring 2016 cohort on all items measuring responsible citizenship on a Likert scale from1-5, suggesting that students’ perception of their own global competencies have changed. Bars above 0 indicate more agreement and bars on the negative side indicate less agreement with the statement—the greater the number, the greater the change.

 


*Raw score change on a 5-point Likert scale.

 

Survey responses have been collected for the first two cohorts, yielding results that suggest changes in self-perception and attitudes related to global competencies, which would also suggest changes in behavior.

The Future of the Initiative

This faculty development initiative to infuse global competencies in the curriculum at BMCC thus far promises positive results in helping students develop global competencies that are necessary to meet the competitive demands of the 21st-century workplace. This professional development opportunity offers faculty the opportunity for continued development in pedagogical approaches to convey necessary knowledge and foster the acquisition and development of skills and competencies for a global marketplace. This program also gives faculty the opportunity for continued scholarship in pedagogical approaches in their own respective disciplines. As the results of this program have shown thus far, this initiative to develop pedagogical approaches to globalize the curriculum will lead to college-wide implementation beyond the humanities to STEM disciplines. The institutionalization of pedagogy with a global focus will ensure that BMCC students will graduate with the global competencies needed in the 21st century.

 

 
 

References

Braskamp, L.A., Braskamp, D.C., & Engberg, M.E. (2012). Global Perspective Inventory (GPI): Its purpose, construction, potential uses and psychometric characteristics. Chicago, IL: Global Perspective Institute Inc.

BMCC. About BMCC. Retrieved from http://www.bmcc.cuny.edu/about_bmcc/

BMCC (2008). A Bridge to the Future: BMCC Strategic Plan 2008-2013.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (Host). Finding Your Roots. Thirteen PBS.

Michigan State University Office of the Provost (2010). Liberal learning and global competence framework at MSU. Retrieved from https://msu.edu

National Endowment for the Humanities. About the Bridging Cultures Initiative. Retrieved from www.neh.gov/divisions/bridging-cultures/about

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