Preparing Faculty to Facilitate Global Learning at Montgomery College
Montgomery College, a Maryland community college just north of Washington, DC, boasts an exceptionally diverse student body, with over 164 nationalities represented. Given the global nature of the student body, faculty and staff have long made it a priority to create a more globalized curriculum and cocurriculum, but they never had the resources to support a sustained effort. That changed in 2012, when the college received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that funded the creation of the Global Humanities Institute (GHI).
The GHI supports a range of programs at Montgomery, including course revisions, international partnerships, conferences, and public programs that address the humanities in a global context. One of the most significant projects so far has been the creation of a fellowship program in which faculty undertake a year of intensive study leading to the redesign or creation of new globally focused humanities courses. Through this more intentional focus on global issues and influences, the college hopes to create a curriculum and cocurriculum that better serves the diverse student body, says Rita Kranidis, director of the GHI. "We’re creating a pedagogy that integrates the global perspectives students bring into the classroom, and also meets the needs of American students."
Professional Development for Global Learning
The GHI faculty fellowships offer a full year of intensive study in global issues and training in course redesign for faculty members working to either globalize existing humanities courses or to create new learning communities that join humanities and social science courses with a common global theme. The first semester of the fellowship is an active workshop, with faculty fellows meeting in groups with a facilitator (one group for individual course redesign and one for learning communities) for three hours every other week, says Carol Moore, an instructional designer at Montgomery and part of the GHI core workgroup. "They are being introduced to global competencies, thinking through the big idea for their courses, and looking at issues of cultural competence and diversity and how they relate to globalization."
There's also a considerable amount of scholarship involved, says Marcia Bronstein, who serves as the fellowship facilitator for the learning community fellowship group. "We study global theory, especially postcolonial theory, and look at a variety of primary sources, because the content for these courses won’t necessarily be found in text books." She cites the example of one learning community, “Global Visions of Liberation,” which approached African American history and composition through a global lens. "American history can be resistant to globalizing," she says. "To globalize it means to find influences from around the world, and to see how events in America have influenced other countries. In this case, the faculty looked at how the sustaining of African culture in the United States among slaves enabled survival....The faculty had to really dig to find some literature, and they ended up looking at slave rebellions around the world."
Faculty can take a number of different approaches when it comes to adding global learning outcomes to their courses, Kranidis says. Some may simply add a module or a few assignments focusing on global issues, while others may choose to redesign the entire course to focus on a global theme. Often a faculty member will come into the fellowship intending only to create a global module, but will end up globalizing the entire course once he or she starts working on the learning outcomes. Learning community fellows, too, have a range of options as they design their new courses. While all learning communities must feature courses joined by a common theme and some alignment between the assignments and learning outcomes of the two courses, faculty can decide for themselves how closely they will collaborate in the course delivery, from simply coordinating syllabi to fully team teaching both courses, and they receive different levels of course release accordingly.
Applied Humanities in the Classroom
In the spring, faculty fellows begin to put together the materials and assignments for their new courses. The workshops use the "backward design" method described by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, identifying the desired learning outcomes and then working to create assignments and activities that will help students achieve and demonstrate the achievement of those learning outcomes. (For a more complete discussion of backward design in the GHI faculty fellowships, see an article in the Spring 2014 issue of Diversity & Democracy.) AAC&U's Global Learning VALUE rubric has been one of the primary sources for advancing and assessing global learning outcomes—many faculty key their learning outcomes directly to the rubric, says Greg Wahl, who facilitates the fellowship group for individual course revisions. Faculty also draw on the global learning outcomes developed by the American Council on Education, as well as other sources.
Most of these courses are general education requirements—even the new learning communities are formed by creating new, interconnected sections of existing foundational courses in the humanities and social sciences, which have their own learning outcomes required by the college. "We don’t mess with the college-required outcomes," Wahl says, "but we try to internationalize the context and add supplementary outcomes in some cases, and then we back up from there and work on the materials, the resources, and the learning activities that get us to those outcomes and a way to measure them."
Doing so requires faculty to develop assignments that involve "disciplinary grounding," says Bronstein, in which students apply the tools and methodologies of each discipline in different global contexts. "In our Global Citizenship learning community, which joins political science and philosophy, students apply philosophical means of analysis to the different world events that are presented in the political science course. Faculty have to really understand each other’s courses to do this."
The GHI has also made applied learning in the humanities a priority, and the redesigned courses reflect this. Backward design often leads to more active pedagogy, Wahl says. "When you focus on learning outcomes first, and you think about how you’re going to measure them, it makes you get really intentional as you develop the activities and assignments." Learning communities are required to have a service-learning component, and many individual courses include service learning as well. These courses often involve “glocal service” Bronstein says. "There are all kinds of ways to do service that address global issues or even have a global impact without the travel abroad that students at four-year schools might do, but that community college students rarely do. In our case, we are located near Washington, DC, and there are international communities where our students volunteer and learn."
Montgomery College students may soon have the opportunity to engage in international service, too, as the GHI is working to develop partnerships with universities in other countries. Several faculty members are already involved in a partnership with the University of El Salvador and service activities in San Salvador. Montgomery has also developed partnerships with Xian University in China and Jindal Global University in India.
In addition to supporting course redesign and international partnerships, the GHI hosts a broad range of globally oriented events every year, including the annual Humanities Day, which features speakers, films, and workshops that are open to the campus and the broader public. Fostering global awareness through cocurricular events—and in faculty, staff, and community members as well as in students—is part of the mission of the GHI, and so these events are included in the program's assessment plan, Moore says. "Whenever we plan events, we create an evaluation form to gather data after the event. We want to know if faculty, staff, and students are increasing their global awareness through the event."
As they move toward a more comprehensive, multilevel assessment plan, the GHI staff are also looking at using the global learning VALUE rubric in different ways, including to assess these events. "Each of our initiatives can be assessed, and we can use the same terminology and the same outcomes for all these initiatives," Bronstein says. "We can show what kind of global learning has occurred for students, community participants, or whoever is involved in an event."
The data gathered from these assessment activities creates a constant feedback loop for improvement—especially with the faculty fellowships, Moore says. "Now that we have completed a year of faculty going through the fellowship and teaching their new courses, we can draw on that experience … and improve based on the feedback we receive." To ensure that the fellowship program continues after the NEH grant runs out, the college has committed to funding the program, and further investment in the GHI and expansion of other global learning activities may come later.
For a diverse, international institution like Montgomery College, this has to be the future, Kranidis says. "A few years ago, while teaching women’s studies and talking about women’s rights and the violation of bodies, it occurred to me that I couldn't teach this the same way, representing only a Western feminism," Kranidis says. "The stories coming from my students were completely eye-opening, more educational than what I could offer."
For more information about the faculty fellowships and other programs, see the Global Humanities Institute web page. You can also find more resources on global learning from AAC&U. AAC&U will also address global learning at its 2015 Annual Meeting: Liberal Education, Global Flourishing, and the Equity Imperative.