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 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.
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 behaviour. 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.
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.
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?
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.
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 role play that explores the concept of stereotypes and the assumptions that underlie them.
Checking on Stereotypes helps students identify, discuss and address stereotypes.
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.
Web 2: Cool Tools for Schools sorts Web 2.0 tools around categories such as drawing, mapping, writing, audio and graphing.
Go2Web20 sorts tools around categories such as games, collaboration, design, music and money.
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.
eSmart aims to help schools create a cultural norm of smart, safe and responsible use of digital technologies.