Wednesday, August 3, 2011


As a participant in RSCON3, I filled out a questionnaire that dealt with my thoughts about teaching, creativity, innovation, collaboration, empathy, citizenship, digital literacies and student assessment.  The questions that made me think the hardest were the ones on citizenship:

  • We are all global and local citizens now. What are the best way to teach students citizenship in the classroom?
  • How do you measure or assess the learning of engaged citizenship?

Later I came back to think about why these questions were difficult for me to answer.  I've spent 24 years working in international schools in Europe and Asia and bringing up my two children in these different cultures who attended schools where all 3 IB programmes were in place.  The IB sees global citizenship as much as an approach to learning as an area of curriculum, therefore I decided to visit the Online Curriculum Centre to see if I could find out more about the IB's position.  There I came across a recently published paper entitled Learners without Borders:  A Curriculum for Global Citizenship by Irene Davy.  In the introduction she states:
Learning for global citizenship must include specific attention to philosophy, pedagogy, content and assessment.  Global citizenship requies a knowledge base and understanding of global issues together with critical thinking skills and pluralistic attitudes.  In this era of rapid change technology skills contribute significantly to a 21st century global curriculum and students' ability to make change in the world.
Making change in the world relates directly to the IB's mission statement, the learner profile and the idea of international mindedness.  These give students the knowledge, attitudes and skills to take action to create a better and more peaceful world.

The concept of citizenship is a hard one to teach as it involves balancing allegiance to a nation with allegiance to humankind.  Many of our international students have grown up in several cultures, many have dual nationality, many of these third culture kids don't really feel they belong anywhere.  For these students citizenship may involve a commitment to universal human rights and a willingness to challenge injustice globally.  Irene Davy says:
Ultimately global citizenship is the personal decision to assume responsibility and develop a sense of moral agency for issues facing our fellow humans.  It is a choice.
Let's get back to the questions.  The first asked: what are the best ways to teach citizenship?  The IB is committed to a constructivist approach based on inquiry where students explore their own questions and actively build knowledge and understanding through their own research.  The programmes are transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary and encourage collaborative learning.  One of the best ways to teach citizenship, I believe, is through participation in projects beyond the school - students can use technology to communicate and collaborate with others.

Learning another language is an important part of the IB programmes - students as young as Kindergarten are required to learn an additional language, and this is a requirement of all 3 programmes all the way through to graduation.  The IB states that language learning is important in promoting intercultural awareness and international mindedness.

The second question asked:  how do you measure or assess the learning of engaged citizenship?  International mindedness is at the heart of all 3 IB programmes, therefore we must assess the concepts, skills, knowledge and attitudes that are part of international mindedness.  One of our key concepts is perspective:  students are encouraged to look at how different perspectives lead to different interpretations and understandings.  The IB believes that successful inquiry will lead to responsible action, therefore a way of assessing engaged citizenship would be to look at the actions students are taking as a result of their learning:
When the desire to reach out and help comes from the students themselves, when they propose a plan of action and carry it out, we know we are on the way to developing young people who can make a difference.

Photo Credit:  Greetings from European Playmobils by Fdecomite Attribution 

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