Developing global citizenship through short-term study abroad is little like trying to juice a grape (if you don’t have the right tools). It’s also naive and presumptuous to think we can turn students into global citizens, like Jesus turned water into wine, by merely sending them off to another country. It presumes that all students who study abroad already understand and embrace a local concept of citizenship, when this isn’t always the case—to put it kindly. I’m thinking of the kids who threw their McDonald’s trash out the window of their car the other day, while I was driving behind them.
Perhaps before students study abroad, we should look more closely at how to develop local citizenship in college, through service-learning and other educational constructs. It’s difficult to foster the concept of citizenship, let alone “global” citizenship, in an individualistic culture where many people don’t even know their neighbors! I sometimes wonder if students feel more connected to their online communities than they do their cities, countries, or the world. Nonetheless, all study abroad programs can broaden students’ understanding, if we engage them in the process.
The question is how do we connect students with the right aspects of their study abroad experience? Social responsibility, competence, and engagement (multi-dimensional constructs of citizenship) can take years to develop at home, so how do we jumpstart this process and reframe it globally over the course of just a few weeks? How can we create or move a student’s concept of citizenship within the framework of the world?
Last month, I learned about a wonderful project developed by Penn State University. It’s called the Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit. This toolkit consists of twenty tools (for any academic discipline), which begin to foster global citizenship and academic development through short-term education abroad courses. Each tool is described in one page (along with objectives, materials, and evaluation strategy), and is supported with a student handout and/or other helpful documents.
The tools are organized by…
(1) Primary Focus Area: Global Citizenship or Academic Development.
(2) Phase of Instruction: Pre-Departure, In-Country, or Post-Study Abroad.
(3) Content Thread (or method): Communication, Utilization of Technology, Primary & Secondary Research, Experiential Learning, and Culture & Identity.
(4) Learning Type: Formal, Non-Formal, and Informal.
An example of one of these tools is called Blog Abroad. It can be used during pre-departure, in-country, or post study abroad, and utilizes technology. It’s a formal learning activity with three objectives. The first objective is “To experience writing not just as a tool for displaying knowledge but also as a means for acquiring knowledge.” The other two objectives are (a) self-discovery, through critical reflection, and (b) the development of global knowledge and perspectives.
This tool, Blog Abroad, is an assignment that requires students to maintain a blog throughout the duration of the course. Students can write within three broad themes: global issues, expanding worldview, and global citizenship. Students are also required to read and respond to the blogs of their classmates.
While I already mentioned global citizenship, these tools are also designed to foster academic development, which consists of self-concept and self-efficacy. The idea of self-concept is to expand student perceptions of their own academic abilities, and self-efficacy is to expand their commitment to and involvement with the coursework.