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How Do You Know If Your Students Are Globally Competent?

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In a speech given to the Council on Foreign Relations, Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education said, “In the 21st century, a quality education system is the centerpiece of a country’s economic development and it can be the one thing that unites the world. In this global economy, the line between domestic and international issues is increasingly blurred, with the world’s economies, societies and people interconnected as never before.”

To make our nation’s students globally aware and competently prepared for the world they will experience, we need to arm teachers with the tools needed to build student’s global knowledge. With this mission in mind, VIF created Global Competence Indicators to guide development of all our educational programs, teacher professional development and classroom resources.

How is Global Competence Measured?

Assessing whether or not students are developing the attitudes, skills and knowledge needed to grapple with complex global issues is a challenge for teachers. In the few academic articles that directly address global education, researchers agree that it is important but have not established a consensus on what makes students globally competent.

Julie Keane, senior research associate at VIF, explains, “Classroom environments that support student interaction with people who are different from them help those students develop dispositions that are important for establishing a foundation for global competence. The challenge is for teachers to systematically measure students’ acquisition of these skills and how these skills relate to increased student achievement.”

Keane, who helped develop VIF’s Global Competence Indicators, further explains, “We found teachers needed a tool to measure whether global competence training was actually working in their classrooms. And, so, we built our indicators from the ground up by collaborating with a number of pilot schools and outstanding global educators from around the world to determine the specific types of lessons that support global knowledge and the qualities students need to be globally competent. After working closely with those educators, we studied and integrated in national curriculum and policy standards such as Common Core State Standards, the Framework for 21st Century Learning and the EdSteps Global Competency Matrix.”

Those years of educational research resulted in VIF’s Global Competence Indicators which offer grade-based frameworks for assessing whether students are grasping and retaining global concepts. The indicators provide teachers with checklists that outline global competency skills appropriate for students based on their grade level. Across grade levels, global competence is measured by four primary competencies:

  1. Understanding.
  2. Investigating.
  3. Connecting.
  4. Integrating.

The indicators are a resource for teachers to use throughout the school year and support educators in developing insights to develop their own tools for assessing global competence. Global Competence Indicators also serve administrators in gauging how successful teachers are incorporating global concepts into their instruction and in identifying course structures that may need revision or additional resources.

How Global Competence Indicators Work

Global Competence Indicators can be easily integrated into any professional development or classroom projects teachers choose. As an example, the Daffodil and Tulip project, which can be found in the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) Project Book, was conducted by Katherine Law from Orca Elementary School in collaboration with a group of iEARN teachers to study global climate change around the world. Law explains how she collaborated with global classrooms, “We wanted to plant daffodils on the same day in Iran, Taiwan, Uganda and other countries, to track how the daffodils grow and how climate affects them. The students were doing all sorts of great math and sharing what they found with the students from around the world.”

The Daffodil and Tulip project was Law’s way of helping her students understand a number of global concepts: connections with students from countries different from their own, understanding differences among their cultures, communicating about cultural differences and more. But how might Law know whether or not her students truly grasped all of the concepts? A checklist of Global Competence Indicators would help immensely. If Law was teaching second grade and wanted to measure how effectively her students were investigating global issues addressed with the Daffodil and Tulip project, she could refer to a checklist of global competence indicators for second graders at the investigation stage of a project:


Committed to Making a Difference

iEARN is a non-profit network that supports over 50,000 teachers and 2 million youth in more than 140 countries in collaborating on projects designed to make a difference in the world. For an updated list of iEARN projects, visit the iEARN Projects Space.

VIF shares iEARN’s commitment to connecting educators and students to the world around them. Global competence in critical for students to successfully contribute to their communities, the nation and the world. VIF’s Global Competence Indicators provide teachers with the framework needed to measure global competency in the classroom. We encourage teachers to incorporate these indicators into any projects, professional development opportunities or curricula aimed at developing global knowledge.

Click here to download VIF’s Global Competence Indicators for free. To learn more about VIF’s global education resources, visit

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