At Stockton, Global Learning Moves beyond the Classroom and into Daily Lives
If a big part of higher education is analyzing systems, says Jiangyuan (JY) Zhou, an internationalization specialist in the Office of Global Engagement at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey, then global learning should answer this question: “If you saw the whole world as a system, how would you analyze it?”
Zhou says that far too many students believe that global learning is “far from me—that it’s over there, the other end of the earth. But actually, those things happen in our daily lives; every day we talk with people who have different perspectives, who have different identities from us, who might know or experience different kinds of things, and we should all use those global learning skills to guide us . . . through those encounters to understand more about ourselves and about those people.”
Stockton, which has been committed to interdisciplinary studies since its founding in 1971, encourages global learning not just in traditional language classrooms or study abroad experiences, but across the entire institution.
Selecting and Defining Learning Outcomes
According to India Karavackas, director of the Office of Global Engagement, Stockton has always focused its curriculum on learning outcomes. However, Stockton’s provost and deans realized that they needed to make those outcomes much clearer and more accessible for stakeholders, including students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and employers.
In 2011, using the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) as a guide, the provost and deans identified approximately thirty learning outcomes, and faculty, staff, and administrators convened a summer meeting to discuss and debate which ones made the most sense for Stockton.
For five hours, more than 150 faculty, staff, and administrators gathered around tables to narrow down the pool of outcomes. Participants at each table discussed amongst themselves and selected their table’s ten preferred outcomes. Over the next weeks, the results from the tables were tallied and the university’s official Essential Learning Outcomes were announced: Adapting to Change, Communication Skills, Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking, Ethical Reasoning, Global Awareness, Information Literacy and Research Skills, Program Competence, Quantitative Reasoning, and Teamwork and Collaboration.
Volunteers were recruited to create definitions and Learning Maps for each outcome that could be used in curriculum design and assessment or—to fulfill the goal of the initiative—be shared with stakeholders such as students, their parents, and their future employers.
“What I think was very interesting at the beginning of our exercise [to create essential learning outcomes] was that it included staff from across the campus,” Karavackas says, with staff participating from both academic affairs and student affairs. This allowed the outcomes—including global learning—to be integrated throughout the curriculum and cocurriculum.
Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum
Stockton is a member of the Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) consortium, a group of twenty-four colleges and universities that works on reshaping their curricula based on three general principles:
- A focus on communication and content
- An emphasis on developing meaningful content-focused language use outside traditional language classes
- An approach to language use and cross-cultural skills as means for the achievement of global intellectual synthesis, in which students learn to combine and interpret knowledge produced in other languages and in other cultures
Zhou, who is the secretary-treasurer of CLAC, leads a two-day workshop every summer where faculty members at Stockton bring courses and ask, “How can I globalize this course?” Using AAC&U’s Global Learning VALUE Rubric as a framework, they discuss “course content, instructional strategies, learning outcomes, and assessment tools.”
Zhou also assists with another one-day summer institute led by Sonia Gonsalves, director of academic assessment, and Ramya Vijaya, associate professor of economics. At this institute, “Globalization in the Disciplines,” three or more faculty members from each of Stockton’s seven schools gather to discuss their different definitions of global learning, map their curricula and courses, and write recommendations for improvement to the deans and provosts.
For example, Zhou says, professors from the School of Arts and Humanities might discuss how they “emphasize North American and British literature, and probably we should include South Asia, East Asia, Middle East, and North Africa perspectives. And so we map the courses we’re offering and then we make suggestions.”
Zhou says the faculty also discussed the US system of writing, where writers often outline their whole argument in the first paragraph, and compared it to the writing systems in Chinese or East Asian cultures. Zhou, who is from China, says that Chinese writers typically “will not talk about those topics directly in the first paragraph, but we will always give a big, big context, . . . a history of everything in the first paragraph.”
When the institute occurs again in the summer of 2017, Zhou thinks “it would be very interesting to see how we can edit this AAC&U global learning rubric based on Stockton’s context and our different disciplines. . . . We have six skills listed here [on the rubric]. Do [the faculty] want to add any others? Do they want to reorder those skills? Or for each of those ‘capstone’ and ‘benchmark’ descriptions, do they have anything else they’d like to add?”
Understanding Global Learning
Zhou also uses AAC&U’s VALUE rubric as the framework for her “Understanding Global Learning” course, which focuses on each of that rubric’s six skills: Global Self-Awareness, Perspective Taking, Cultural Diversity, Personal and Social Responsibility, Understanding Global Systems, and Applying Knowledge to Contemporary Global Contexts.
The course devotes two weeks to each skill and connects the skills to related research topics. In the first week focused on each skill, students learn the definition of the skill and explore what the skill and the topic mean to them. In the second week, students complete an activity based upon CLAC pedagogy—integrating cultural and language learning into the study of other subjects.
The first skill, Global Self-Awareness, “is about understanding yourself, what’s your identity, how you see yourself in this world,” Zhou says. “And that’s why I give them the topic of citizenship education.”
As the class explores citizenship education as a school subject, each student chooses a country and researches the subject as it exists in that country. However, unlike in typical research assignments, students—most of whom have taken a foreign language course before—must apply their language and research skills by finding and analyzing sources from the foreign country and written in the country’s native language.
“One of the students found a government document written in German, from Germany, and they said that we should offer a citizenship course to immigrants’ kids to help them understand more about the history of Germany,” Zhou says. “And another student found out that in France, after the terrorist attack [in January 2015 that included the offices of Charlie Hebdo], they reshaped their citizenship education curriculum. . . . And another found that in Honduras, all students are required to pass the “Anthem Test” when they graduate from grade six, and then if they failed, they have to retake it or they cannot move on to the next grade.”
After this activity, students share their sources and their findings with classmates and ask, “‘Well, do we have that in the US? And if we don’t, why don’t we have that?’ Or, ‘What kind of content should we offer?’”
To supplement course readings and prompt discussion of each skill, Zhou interviews other professors and shares videotapes of those interviews with students. For example, for the unit on “global self-awareness,” students read a series of texts on authenticity and watch an interview that Zhou previously recorded with Jongbok Yi, a professor of philosophy, asking him, “What do you think about authenticity? What do you think about global self-awareness?” Students watch the interview, discuss Yi’s responses, and write down questions to ask him. Later, Yi chooses a selection of questions and answers them in an email to Zhou.
For the course’s final skill, “Applying Knowledge to a Contemporary Global Context,” Zhou asks students to do something different. For the final project, students choose one of the semester’s five research topics and prepare a summary of what they learned. In class, each student joins a group with others who chose the same topic, and they work together to read the Wikipedia entry for their topic and prepare text to add to it. Students proofread the text together as a class, and when they publish their changes in Wikipedia on the semester’s last day, “all of the students are really excited and say, ‘Oh yes, it is there!’” Zhou says. “So that is one way to apply knowledge. . . . This way, using those Wikipedia entries, the students can really share [what they learned] with the whole world.”
At the end of the semester, Zhou assesses student progress in their understanding of global cultures with the Beliefs, Events, and Values Inventory (BEVI) assessment. She does a pre-assessment activity on the first day, and a post-assessment at the end of the course. When she compared the pre- and post-course results on the last day of the Fall 2016 semester, she says “the students showed a lot of increase” in their understanding of global perspectives.
Global Learning and Languages in STEM
Zhou says that, in her experience, some faculty in STEM or professional fields such as health sciences “think they are in their own world.” But at Stockton, the health sciences faculty helped pioneer the adoption of the global health outcome.
In 2015, four faculty and staff members—Elaine Bukowski, professor emerita of physical therapy; Arnaldo Cordero-Román, associate professor of Spanish; Linda Feeney, director of e-learning; and Zhou—teamed up to help physical therapy students develop global perspectives. They brought Spanish majors out of the classroom and asked them to record 110 brief audio clips acting out possible conversations between a physical therapist and a Spanish-speaking patient. The team of faculty members compiled these Spanish conversations, which included male and female voices and regional dialects from four countries (Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain), and added them to a database that all health science students can study.
Download the PowerPoint slide used in the health sciences database
Alejandra Londoño, a Spanish and sociology/anthropology major, voiced the Colombian female and presented the project at the 2015 CLAC conference at Denison University. She says that physical therapy courses regularly dedicate class time to studying the database, and there are quizzes and study materials for them to use on Blackboard Learn.
Students using the database “don’t have to know previous Spanish,” Londoño says. “What they’re learning are very simple words, but they’re useful for their field. . . . And the way that we did it was very easy for them to learn it, it was just repeating and writing it.”
Londoño believes that this activity taught these health science students to understand the importance of global learning in the modern world.
“I think [the activity] showed the interdependence of the world and how languages are so important right now,” Londoño says. “Spanish is a very popular language in our area, and that’s why [this program] was implemented in the Spanish language. I was born in Colombia, so this was not to practice my Spanish, but I think it was important for the physical therapy students to learn Spanish and see how useful it can be to their practice.”
Many of these health students have also expanded their opportunities to learn about the world by forming a Global Health Team, a cocurricular student organization that will be conducting a service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic in June.
“Prior to going [to the Dominican Republic], we have been working on a series of different activities in terms of predeparture education,” Karavackas says. These activities will include discussions of the global learning outcome, workshops, and guest speakers. To assess student learning, Zhou delivered the BEVI assessment tool before beginning the predeparture education experience and will do so again when students return from the Dominican Republic.
Study Tours and Language Tables
Stockton students can also enroll in “Study Tour” courses, where students spend a semester studying a country’s culture, history, and language before taking a weeklong class trip to that country during spring break or at the beginning of summer vacation. Recent destinations have included South Africa and Puerto Rico.
Stockton also offers “language tables,” led by Zhou, where students, faculty, and staff meet to discuss twenty different languages and cultures. Londoño, who sits at the Spanish table, says that she often helps health science students with their work for the physical therapy Spanish databases that she helped create, or answers questions for students preparing for the upcoming Study Tour to Colombia. She likes that these tables help students learn words or phrases that are “more useful in real life than going and learning the colors or the sky is blue that you learn in elementary school.”
For Zhou, global learning that reaches beyond or between classrooms is “very important for our students to get an idea about global learning, [that it] is not someday when you go abroad, when you meet someone who comes from a different country. But actually, you will use those skills in your daily life, in your local community. I think that global learning is a fundamental skill for everyone, and for every student, so that is why we should teach them more purposefully, more intentionally.”