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Global Competence: A ‘SAGE’ Approach to Project-Based Learning

June 4, 2014 / by Neelam Chowdhary

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For students of today to become the innovators of tomorrow, they must have opportunities to think deeply about issues of global significance. Global competence requires students to be able to recognize multiple perspectives about an issue, investigate the world in which they operate, effectively communicate their ideas, and take action to demonstrate that what they have learned in the classroom can impact the world. Asia Society's International Studies Schools Network strives to achieve global competence through the implementation of project-based learning.

The way we define the essence of project-based learning in a globally-focused learning environment is with a framework we call SAGE. Quality curriculum and assessments in globally focused project-based work incorporate all four elements of SAGE:

1. Student Choice calls on students to make key decisions about the direction of their work, focus, and presentation. When designing a globally-focused curriculum, you should ask yourself: are there opportunities for students to make choices about content, process, and/or product? Some strategies to engage learners include: providing the freedom to choose topics, themes, problems, or global issues to study; occasions to select resources outside of the classroom that will support their study; and time to choose final assessments and products to provide evidence of their learning.

2. Authentic Work offers experiences that resemble what adults do in the real world. This requires students to communicate, collaborate, think critically, be creative, negotiate with other people, and use digital media in ways that support knowledge building. Examples of authentic work include: creating a piece of technical writing (e.g., instructional manual, how-to text, etc.); creating a marketing campaign; curating an exhibition; creating a product prototype; or developing a business or funding plan.

3. Global Significance fosters the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Ideally, learning experiences should stimulate students to build knowledge that is cross-disciplinary. Strategies to ensure that students are having opportunities to learn about issues of global significance include: exposure to texts by authors from around the world; occasions to work collaboratively with students in other countries; the means to create a "think globally, act locally" service-learning project; and time to evaluate a variety of domestic and international news sources.

4. Exhibition to a Real-World Audience provides students with options to showcase or present their work to an appropriate and relevant audience beyond the teacher and classroom. Some examples include: having students present to a group who can support a particular idea (city council, principal, school board, teachers, parent groups, non-profits, business groups, etc.); publish articles or blogs in an online magazine or forum; and participate in a museum/library exhibition or a film festival.

You can see it in action here:

In one great example project from one of our network schools, eleventh grade students submitted a grant proposal to a local foundation to study water quality and access in Bangladesh. Project-based learning engages students, fosters self-directed learning, gives them experience exercising 21st-century skills, and prepares students for success. However, it requires a paradigm shift for teachers and students alike. Its advantages -- collaboration skills, communication skills, creativity, innovation, problem-solving -- while highly valued, remain difficult to implement.

For the past seven years, the Partnership for Global Learning Conference -- the premier conference for global education in the United States -- has been helping educators meet these challenges. This year's two-day conference (June 27-28, 2014), will provide educators and other stakeholders with tools to create world-class learning experiences that enrich teaching and engage, motivate, and prepare students for a global age. We hope to accelerate achievement through curriculum design and assessment practices that motivate today's students. By supporting young people to make good choices that engage them in authentic work, we can achieve global competence for all students.

Topics: Engagement, Project Based Learning, Deeper Learning

Neelam Chowdhary

Written by Neelam Chowdhary

Neelam Chowdhary is the Executive Director of Global Learning Programs at Asia Society. She has experience as a curriculum developer, teacher trainer, and program designer in entrepreneurship and global education.

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