Global education covers complex and controversial issues. This is a selection of teaching and learning approaches that develop knowledge and skills to respond to global issues.
Freedom fighter or terrorist? Passionate or one-eyed? Passive resistance or civil uprising? Illegal arrival or asylum seeker?
The words used and our interpretation of images and statistics are an insight into our perspective or bias – our view of the world. Bias influences our attitudes and behaviours towards other people, places and issues. Our experiences, gender, age, class, religion and values all affect our bias. People who are passionate about an issue will generally be quite overt about their bias. People who want to promote a particular point of view may be less overt and more subtle in their use of words and images.
Global education aims to assist students to recognise bias, including their own, in written and visual texts, consider different points of view and make judgements about how bias can lead to discrimination and inequality.
Activities to help students understand bias:
- Younger students might rewrite a well-known story from a different perspective – for example, Little Red Riding Hood rewritten from the perspective of the wolf.
- Ask students to write individual reports of an event they have experienced. Compare their descriptions to show how different perspectives are evident in the use of words and the amount of emphasis placed on different parts of the event.
- Create a display of photos of issues around the room. Ask students to move around and write their own captions. Use the captions to compare different perspectives.
- Examine a number of advertising or opinion pieces about the same topic to see how language and images have been used. Identify the authors and their perspectives. Why might they think this way?
- Have different groups read descriptions of international events from different newspapers around the world. Highlight facts in one colour and opinions in another. List the main issues or responses stated in the articles and compare these lists with other groups. How has the perspective been influenced by the source?
Cartoons are a great way to challenge thinking about an issue. The simple drawings with or without captions are packed with meaning and stir many responses. Cartoons capture new ideas through humour, satire and caricature, bringing together disparate ideas or symbols. Cartoons are often specific to a particular time and culture and can be misunderstood and cause offence outside that context.
Cartoons can be used in the global education classroom to:
- stimulate interest and involve students across a range of literacy levels
- challenge thinking on controversial topics
- analyse historical or current issues
- gauge understanding and attitudes
- develop visual literacy.
Tell a story
- Cut up the pictures and ask students to re-order the story. Make this more difficult and linguistically challenging by giving separate frames to each student in a group and asking them not to show the pictures until they have arrived at an order through describing them.
- Remove the last picture of a cartoon and ask students to think of, or draw, an ending. Discuss the results.
- Remove the captions and ask students to match them to each cartoon or write the sentences that tell the story.
Interpret an issue
Answer questions such as:
- What is shown in the cartoon?
- What does it mean?
- Who or what are the characters?
- How do you respond to the cartoon?
Compare the points of view shown in a number of cartoons on a similar issue.
Write captions or speech bubbles for cartoons by replacing the existing ones to give a different interpretation.
Draw cartoons, developing a character through simple line drawings and a repertoire of symbols.
The Australian Cartooning School
A controversial issue is one in which there are competing beliefs, cultural practices, values and interests; strong disagreements and emotions; and potential political sensitivity. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘hot button issue'. Teachers can be wary of topics that invoke controversy, with concerns that they may lack the requisite knowledge or adequate curriculum time, or that they may create classroom conflict.
Teaching with a global perspective inevitably involves confronting controversial issues, events or attitudes. Engaging with complex and potentially divisive issues enables students to build skills in four of the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum: Critical and Creative Thinking; Personal and Social Capability; Intercultural Understanding and Ethical Understanding. Such engagement strengthens skills in debate, listening, problem solving, evaluating evidence, and in working with empathy and understanding.
Strategies that extend students’ thinking beyond entrenched viewpoints include the following:
- Establish ground rules – How may students make contributions? What behaviour will not be tolerated? What will the class do when students disagree? What should students do if they feel disrespected?
- Ensure that the context for a controversial policy or event is clearly understood. Where students have no knowledge of a specific context, they will assume that their own local context applies.
- Use a range of credible resources that cover a multitude of viewpoints.
- Challenge students to identify the underlying values or assumptions in persuasive statements. Uncover the root of the controversy. Appreciate the magnitude of the issue’s complexity.
- Concentrate on evidence – personal evidence or research evidence. Draw in external expertise where appropriate. Encourage students to research an issue or survey others for their opinions.
- Know yourself. Be mindful of how your own feelings and biases can skew your treatment of an issue.
Teaching Controversial Issues has a four-point demystification strategy for teaching.
Teaching Controversial Issues, Flinders University, has four sections covering ground rules; moderating 'classroom incivilities'; moderating overreaction to criticism; and addressing negative thinking and strong emotions.
10-Point Model for Teaching Controversial Issues is aimed at early years students
Identity and cultural diversity is one of the five learning emphases of global education, and is inherent in values education, civics and citizenship education and higher order thinking in the curriculum. It is particularly valued in the Australian Curriculum through Intercultural Understanding, which is one of the seven general capabilities.
Diversity brings great richness of ideas, behaviours and attitudes, but we must learn to value this in order to live in harmony together. We are enriched by learning about different ways of seeing, thinking and doing, but sometimes we can also be challenged by ideas or behaviours that are outside the mainstream. See Controversial issues (above) for some strategies.
In classrooms where diversity is valued, many opinions are heard and a wide range of resources, featuring people from around the world, are used. Class members use language carefully, avoiding bias and stereotypes, work to understand the thinking behind different points of view and speak out against discrimination. Curiosity about difference is fostered, and students are exposed to a range of viewpoints and provided with effective strategies to explore difference.
Some questions to help explore our own biases and assumptions:
- Do we use inclusive language? (Consider when you use the words 'we', 'us', 'them' and how people are positioned in relation to these words.)
- How do we respond to contributions we do not understand?
- Do we use resources that reflect diverse cultures and opinions?
- Are we actively learning about alternative cultures and ideas?
- Do we refer to cultures (eg from Asia) as one entity and 'the West', or 'the rest of the world' as the only other entity?
- Do we use a range of resources: eg those of other cultures, as well as resources that reflect the perspectives of Australians?
- Do we avoid constructing a 'right' or 'wrong' picture of a particular culture?
Making Multicultural Australia offers an extensive selection of audio, videos, images and timeline materials relating to cultural diversity. There are lesson plans for years 3–10 for a range of learning areas.
Racism. No Way aims to assist school communities to recognise and address racism, with materials for teachers and students.
Harmony Day provides lesson plans and materials to support the celebration of Harmony Day on 21 March.
Voices of Australia features a collection of personal stories about Australians living together. The material was gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Racial Discrimination Act. It includes teaching and learning activities exploring family history and experiences of diversity, discrimination, race relations, friendships and signs of respect.
Developing Intercultural Understanding is a professional learning package by Asia Education Foundation's designed to develop participants' knowledge of this focus within the context of studies of Asia in English, languages, SOSE and the arts.
Fact and opinion
Much of what we read and view is a mixture of fact and opinion. Distinguishing between them is important for evaluating texts and developing persuasive arguments as we become active global citizens and build a better world.
A fact can be proven and is real for all people. For example, 'Educating girls helps people escape poverty' is a fact, as evidence can be gathered that shows that for girls, extra years of basic education improves employment opportunities, increases marriage age and improves their health and the health of their children. 'All girls should help their families' is a person's or group's opinion, belief, judgement or feeling and cannot be proven true.
The ability to determining facts from opinions is an important Literacy and Numeracy general capability across all learning areas in the Australian Curriculum.
Activities to help distinguish between fact and opinion:
- Read an article or view a report and identify statements that are facts and ones that are opinions.
- Turn a fact into an opinion (one that you agree with and one that you disagree with).
- Identify a fact that could support an opinion.
- Write three facts and three opinions about a chosen topic.
Intercultural understanding starts by becoming more aware of our own culture and learning about other cultures so there can be real engagement, sharing and learning together.
Intercultural Understanding is one of the seven general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. The Intercultural Understanding learning continuum is organised into three interrelated organising elements:
- Recognising culture and developing respect
- Interacting and empathising with others
- Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility.
Intercultural understanding involves clarifying our own values, attitudes and beliefs, and developing a spirit of openness and a valuing of diversity. It is built on respectful relationships, which take time to develop, and learning to understand what is important and what is offensive. It involves being comfortable with difference, awareness of our own biases, prejudices and perspectives and the avoidance of language which may be exclusive or insulting.
Learning a language assists in developing intercultural understanding. It is not only a means of improved communication, but more importantly it plays a key role in promoting global understanding and respect for cultural diversity.
These guidelines suggest ways to help develop intercultural understanding:
- Develop sensitive and effective communication skills: use inclusive language and foster negotiation skills to achieve fair outcomes when there are diverse points of view. Persuade people to address prejudice, racism and discrimination.
- Use resources that present different perspectives, authentic voices and adequate contextual knowledge.
- Include aspects of culture that are beyond the visible – values, attitudes and beliefs.
- Develop understandings of human rights and acknowledge that the community will have diverse views and may not value the views of others.
- Use a critical literacy approach that challenges stereotypes and considers questions such as 'Who has created this text?', 'Whose voice is present/missing?', 'Which culture is positioned favourably in terms of the questions being asked?', 'Which is positioned as being "normal"?'
- Reflect critically on your own attitudes, beliefs and values and learn to build bridges from one culture to another.
- Foster engagement with people of diverse backgrounds.
See also: Bias and Stereotypes strategies
The heart of global education is creating global citizens who are active in shaping a better world for all. This may often involve writing or presenting arguments to persuade readers or listeners to change their ideas and behaviours. To do this, students need to have a good understanding of particular issues and the various perspectives other people may have on them. Students need to know how to present a strongly argued case to convince readers or listeners to consider the points rather than dismiss them.
Engage the audience with stories, humour, emotive language, repetition and short sentences. Be aware of their knowledge and possible perspectives so you can connect with them and convince them. Develop the argument with clear reasoning supported by evidence such as statistics, expert opinion, facts, and witness statements, and present alternative perspectives on problems. Conclude with a summary of the argument and an appeal or a challenge.
The ability to plan and deliver persuasive presentations is an important Literacy and Numeracy general capability across all learning areas in the Australian Curriculum.
Activities to develop persuasive presentations:
- Classify picture story books as informative or persuasive.
- Examine an advertisement for a fundraising activity and note methods used to encourage support.
- Develop a presentation to encourage class members to become supporters of a campaign such as buying ethically produced clothes or chocolate.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of a persuasive presentation.
- Use facts and figures to develop opposing arguments, establishing the major differences between two opposite viewpoints: for example, the advantages and disadvantages of providing aid to overcome poverty; who should pay for environmental damage – governments or corporations?
Simulation and online games
Simulation and online games invite participants to learn about different perspectives of a complex global issue. They simplify a situation, allowing participants to address situations that have no clear right or wrong answers. They can help develop the Australian Curriculum general capabilities Literacy, Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability, Ethical Understanding and Intercultural Understanding. Teachers play a vital role in helping students draw out the learning.
Games may use a board on which most of the action takes place. They may be role-plays in which participants have a specific role to play within a defined situation or in a wide range of virtual environments, playing individually with programmed alternatives or interactively with people around the world over time.
In all games participants negotiate, bargain, compromise, experiment, take risks, make choices, live with the consequences of decisions, gain insights, explore feelings and develop understandings of a situation. Games help participants develop empathy, ability to analyse the essential elements in a situation and gain insights into their own values, attitudes and behaviour.
Debriefing is as important as the game. Students need help to unpack their learning and to 'de-role', particularly if they have been playing a character they did not agree with. Players are encouraged to talk about their feelings, frustrations, observations and how the game relates to real life.
Examples of games
Accessing water in Indian village – a role-play for middle to upper primary students to experience how access to water may influence life in positive and negative ways (from page 6 in All's well?).
- Conflict over Water – a role-play for upper primary students exploring situations that could lead to conflict over water resources in scenarios in Kenya and Australia, outlined page 24 in All's well?
Food Force – an online game for secondary students about delivering food aid in crisis areas
Quandary – an online game for middle primary to lower secondary students about ethical decision-making
Power Up – an online multiplayer game that allows teams of secondary students to explore, design and build systems to harness renewable energy sources as alternatives to burning fossil fuels
Stop Disasters Game – an online strategy game where upper primary and lower secondary students aim to reduce the impact of natural hazards (fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis) by taking a range of factors into account
3rd World Farmer – an online game for upper primary and lower secondary students to experience the difficult choices that poverty and conflict necessitate for farmers in poor countries
Between 1990 and 2005, the number of poor people in the world fell by 400 million.
Understanding data, statistics and percentages is vital when making sense of the world. Data can be used to describe a characteristic (for example, the number of poor people in the world); to compare (for example, the number of poor people in 1990 and 2005); and to find relationships between variables (for example, poverty and GDP per capita). Developing good numeracy skills helps students interpret and question the data and become informed global citizens.
Data may be incomplete (as it is costly and difficult to collect), may define concepts differently (for example, what it means to be a poor person), or may not present a complete picture (for example, 400 million people sounds like a lot but how many are still living in poverty? How has the population of the world changed?). Often data is presented for a country as a whole and does not indicate any variation within a country or may be based on a sample or projection.
The Australian Curriculum and the Numeracy general capability recognise the importance of interpreting data and making informed judgements.
Students should be encouraged to ask:
- What is the data measuring or representing?
- What does the data not measure or represent?
- How accurate are the figures? (for example, date, actual or estimation, sample size)
- What is the range of results that averages have come from? (High and low values cancel each other out.)
- What factors contribute to the trends?
- What relationships, trends or implications can be drawn from the data?
Activities to develop understanding of the use of statistics:
- Use statistics from the Overview web page of a country profile to build a verbal description of a particular country or make comparisons between selected countries.
- Predict the order of a set of countries according to a number of different criteria, and note variations (for example, income does not always correlate with literacy rates or use of technology).
- Interpret a set of figures to present a positive and a negative impression.
- Draw graphs or create a visual representation based on statistics around a particular theme (for example, trees of differing sizes for environmental statistics).
- Make comparative statements based on a partner's visual representation of a set of statistics.
- Collect statements and statistics used in the media, and investigate the data that support them.
- Debate the use of a particular measure and its implications.
UNdata provides easy access to a wide range of data
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report presents statistics about human develop in a range of interactive ways.
United Nations Children's Fund presents statistics in its annual publication The State of the World's Children.
How do you describe a farmer? A grandmother? A person from China? A Christian? A poor person?
In trying to understand people we have just met, or have not yet met, we try to make links between them and what we already 'know' about the groups to which they belong. We often simplify the complicated images or words and connect people to current concepts about the group to which they belong. As a result we can limit our perceptions and openness to new understandings.
In developing a global perspective we aim to continually broaden our views of other people and avoid behaviour that is based on unconfirmed assumptions or stereotypes. This means learning to recognise when – rather than recognising a person as an individual or a group as being made up of individuals – we have made assumptions and behaved toward a person or group based on their age, gender, religion, culture or wealth.
Activities to help challenge stereotypes:
- Use a wide variety of experiences, pictures, videos, texts and statistics to deepen understandings of people and groups and explore assumptions.
- Develop critical literacy and skills to question and critique images and language. Use these understandings to think about and practise behaviours that will build better relationships with people from other groups.
- Write a description of a farmer, a grandmother, a person from China, a Christian or a poor person. Review the description and consider:
- Does this description apply to everyone in the group?
- Where have the ideas for the description come from?
- What evidence is there to support the description?
- Is the description negative or positive?
- Have others described the people in a similar way? Why or why not?
- How do assumptions affect your behaviour toward others?
- Identify how cartoons, images and biased language in the media have used stereotypes and consider the underlying reasons and possible outcomes.
- Use statistics to create two different points of view: one point of view could be from the government trying to encourage investment; and the opposing point of view could be from a group of people who have felt marginalised by the government. What do the statistics tell us about the perception of the country represented? How do these descriptions feed into stereotypes?
Harmony Day has a lesson plan for secondary students using a role play
Checking on Stereotypes helps students identify, discuss and address stereotypes
Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me the truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.
Native American proverb
For thousands of years people have told stories to teach children about culture and values, and to entertain. Listening to stories can excite our imagination, foster curiosity, provide information, transform thinking, and promote reconciliation. Stories help turn abstract ideas into understandings.
Telling and reading stories with global themes, set in other countries or written by people of different cultures, provides opportunities for integrating global perspectives across the curriculum. Storytelling can help develop the Australian Curriculum general capabilities of Literacy, Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding and Intercultural Understanding. Stories help introduce and tackle difficult issues in a positive and realistic way. Students engage with characters and narrative to make links between their own experience and those of others and gain insights into different ways of viewing the world.
Storytelling may use technology, combining principles of storytelling with video, audio, photos, graphics and web publishing.
One way to learn about how to tell a story is to listen to other storytellers. Notice how they involve their audience, where they pause, when they provide information, how they maintain suspense, how they bring characters to life through descriptions and voices. Use these techniques to develop your own style and foster storytelling in your students.
Use stories, picture storybooks and digital storytelling to develop a global perspective in the following areas.
- English: examining narrative form; reading and retelling; discussing characters (eg similarities and differences, agreeing or disagreeing with them), plot development and themes; identifying justice issues; rewriting with a different ending; drawing charts to show links between people in the story and/or the students' own world; three-level questioning (literal, interpretive and inferential); challenging stereotypes; dramatising; and story maps.
- Geography: observing, recording and describing a social or physical environmental pattern, problem or issue and its location; exploring and evaluating effects; analysing alternative ways to address or improve the situation; and taking action to implement ideas
- History: examining the underlying themes of community organisation, daily life, power and authority, and relationships between people, land and time
- Mathematics: representing and interpreting data, patterns, space, measurement and probability; calculating; and problem-solving
- Science: examining the history of discoveries and biographies of scientists
- The Arts: examining and experimenting with the effects of colour, cultural design and style of illustrations; discussing the form and effect of styles; and researching music and dance to accompany or retell the story.
Teaching and learning for peace has stories to explore themes about peace
Peace Corp World Wise Schools has folk tales from around the world and lesson plans for their use
iEarn Project Folk Tales/Storytelling: Past and Present aims to revive the tradition of storytelling through digital tools and connect students from different parts of the world through an interactive forum to share their stories, experiences and aspirations.
Developing a repertoire of thinking skills and practices will enable students to work with the complex issues and multiple perspectives that form the basis of global education. Critical and Creative Thinking is one of the seven general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Teaching activities on this site have been constructed with this focus in mind.
While not exhaustive, the following links provide additional sources of ideas and support for developing a thinking culture.
Visible Thinking is a guide to embedding a thinking culture in a school and contains great practical routines and teaching strategies.
- Graphic organisers provide a means of targeting and supporting specific kinds of thinking. Use the templates on the Global Education website or visit ReadWriteThink.
- Deep thinking is accelerated by the use of appropriate questions. Changing Minds – Socratic Questions lists the six types of questions used by Socrates in stimulating learning.
Look to Learn prompts critical and creative thinking through the use of digital resources.
WebQuest Taskonomy categorises learning activities according to a desired outcome.
Web 2.0 tools and apps (below) support critical and/or creative thinking or collaboration.
Web 2.0 tools and apps
Web 2.0 tools and applications (apps) can help keep learners engaged, meet their different needs and connect them with their peers in other locations, thereby increasing their global awareness. However, tools and apps are only a vehicle for learning. Used effectively, they will assist students in sorting information, communicating with others and, where appropriate, publishing in the digital world.New tools and apps emerge every day.
EdTech Toolbox lists tools by task, such as avatar creation, blogging, comics and animation, maps and presentations. It also includes Top 10 Web Tools and 100+ Google Tricks.
ICT in Everyday Learning: A Toolkit for Teachers (accessible through your local education jurisdiction portal or Scootle, see National Digital Learning Resource Network) draws directly on the Australian Curriculum in English, mathematics, science and history to provide illustrations of ways in which content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge can be successfully and effectively integrated to promote learning.
Bright Ideas is a blog by the School Libraries Association of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria. It supports educators to actively engage with ICT, and to share tools and experiences.
Cybersmart provides information, resources and practical advice to empower young people to be safe online.