Higher Education for Global Citizenship: An Interpretive Policy Analysis

Cole, Rose, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Inkelas, Karen, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

This study was an interpretive policy analysis of global citizenship education and global learning which allowed me to ‘tilt the field’ of higher education for global citizenship by focusing on the perspectives of a few global sites embedded within one institution, a highly-selective public university (“SAU”). I asked the research questions:
1. What definitions, assumptions, policies and rhetoric related to global citizenship can be found at an institution of higher education and within certain global sites at that same institution?
2. In what ways do the curricular or pedagogical practices of specific classrooms affiliated with these global sites enact or relate to the definitions, policies, practices and rhetoric of global citizenship?
3. In what ways do students enrolled in academic courses affiliated with global sites experience and understand global citizenship?
I found that the actual goals and policies related to global education are focused on increasing students’ experiences abroad and that there was a disconnect between the ostensible aims of the institution related to global learning (rhetoric) and the actual policy goals and implementations (practices). I also identified three key discourses of global citizenship education and global learning: global competition (global capitalism), global competence (global understanding and intercultural skills) and global transformation (global activism). The three discourses overlap and are used together. The policies and structures of global learning reflect theses discursive forces, as does institutional rhetoric. There are very few explicit policies related to global citizenship education and global learning at SAU; instead, organizational structures, institutional histories, and policy contexts related to global learning (and global citizenship education) provide the basis from which to draw conclusions.
The three discourses – global competition, global competence, and global transformation – are complicated by the actual practices and perceptions of global learning and global citizenship education at SAU. Students have the ability and knowledge to think critically about current systems rooted in global competition, and to want to go beyond global competence, but their knowledge and desire does not translate into any actual experiences or self-efficacy about effecting change. The closer to the academic classroom, the larger the influence of global transformational discourse on students’ intellectual understandings of global issues. However, these understandings are theoretical and the dominance of the discursive force of global competition is a barrier to translating any theory of global transformation into practice. And, conversely, global competition in practice is ubiquitous and powerful, but never addressed as a theoretical construct, but simply accepted as reality in both rhetoric, policy and practice at SAU.
Additionally, I found that the link between goals and practices of global learning and the experiences of global learning are very disjointed; students gained a deep understanding and awareness of some of the roots of global problems, but students were forced to reconcile their lived experiences with their academic insights and their takeaways fall right into line with what one might expect from the institution’s predominant rhetorical and political discursive forces of competition and competence. Ultimately, SAU and its students themselves see elite global leadership as the definition of global citizenship. The findings offer community-based teaching, learning, and research experiences as a possible way to help connect students’ academic experiences with their ‘real life’ as global citizens. As this study was an interpretive policy analysis at one institutional, findings are not intended to be generalizable. However, the findings provide a building block for understanding global learning and the creation of global citizens at US institutions of higher education.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
globalization, higher education, global citizenship, pedagogy, citizenship education
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