Global Literacy-Global Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Global Literacy: How are we defining it? How are we assessing it?

| Global Literacy Objectives | Assessment |


October, 2009, by Marie Norman, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence


The goals of this project were to:
• define what global literacy means at Carnegie Mellon
• develop meaningful ways to assess students’ global literacy skills


We wanted the definition of global literacy we adopted to be applicable and relevant across the disciplines. Thus, we chose a bottom-up rather than top-down approach, beginning by talking to faculty who were already teaching courses with a global focus.


We met with 15 instructors across a wide range of programs and departments and asked: What does global literacy mean in the context of your course? How do you assess it?


From our conversations with faculty, we identified a broad set of global literacy objectives that we believe accurately represents the scope of how global learning is understood across disciplines. We also identified the types of global literacy assessments (assignments, exams, projects) faculty are currently using to assess global literacy skills and made a number of observations and conclusions about global literacy at Carnegie Mellon.



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Global Literacy

Table 1: Instructors and courses

Instructor(s)* Course**
Jay Aronson (History) Technology for Global Development
Vagel Keller (History) Disastrous Encounters: Technology and the Environment in Global Historical Context
Randy Weinberg (IS) Global Project Management
Selma Mansar (IS) Global Systems Delivery Models (CMU-Q)
Jeria Quesenberry (IS) Global Systems Delivery Models
Indira Nair (Provost's Office) Global Issues, Local Solutions
Amy Burkert and Eric Grotzinger (Bio) BIOSSS
Lucio Soibelman (CEE) International Collaborative Construction Management
Alex London (Philosophy) Health, Development and Human Rights
Joe Mertz (Heinz) Technology Consulting in the Global Community
Michael West (Modern Languages) Freshman Seminar: Haiti
Kelly Hutzell (Architecture) Mapping Urbanism
Lee Branstetter (Heinz) The Global Economy: A User's Guide
Jendayi Frazer (Heinz) Diplomacy and Statecraft

* A number of these courses were team-taught some semesters and not others. Because the instructors and content changed somewhat from semester to semester, only the name of person with whom Marie Norman spoke directly is included.

** Several of the instructors listed teach multiple courses with a global focus. For the sake of simplicity, only one course is listed.

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Table 2: Global Literacy Skills (as defined in a subset of CMU courses)

The following section describes the overarching set of objectives that emerged from interviews.

They are:

• broken down into four general categories: knowledge, intellectual skills, social/cultural competencies, predispositions
• subdivided into more specific skills (illustrated here with a discipline-specific goal to provide context.)
• Note: Not every course focuses on every objective to the same degree, nor should it.

KNOWLEDGE: Students will be able to...
Situate issues and perspectives within their political, economic, socio-cultural, historical, and environmental CONTEXT.
• E.g., Discuss how a centralized authoritarian government can address a public health problem differently than a decentralized democracy.

Frame problems and seek solutions with a deep recognition of their COMPLEXITY, without oversimplification or naïveté.
• E.g., Describe how AIDS in Haiti is shaped by the interaction of political, economic, environmental, and cultural factors.

Describe the characteristics, components, dynamics, evolution and implications of global SYSTEMS.
• E.g., Explain how the international state system evolved and how it functions today.

Trace historical and contemporary CONNECTIONS, relating local and regional conditions and events to global systems and trends, and recognizing how the lives and fates of people in other parts of the world intersect with their own.
• E.g., Explain how colonial power dynamics set the stage for contemporary environmental disasters.
INTELLECTUAL SKILLS: Students will be able to...

APPLY APPROPRIATE MODELS, frameworks, and theories to help explain and predict global trends and evaluate policies with global implications.
• E.g., Examine the implications of a cap and trade policy for global economic relations.

CRITICALLY ANALZE the nature and merit of claims about global events and relationships.
• E.g., Critique mainstream Western beliefs about poverty in Africa, based on historical and contemporary evidence.

CHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONS and interpretations that are based on particular cultural and historical backgrounds.
• E.g., Recognize that their own interpretations are shaped by their culture, and ask what other interpretations and assumptions might be at play in other cultural contexts.

SEEK OUT A RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES and assess various possibilities before framing problems or proposing solutions.
• E.g., Investigate how villagers of different religions, castes, or ethnicities might perceive or be affected by a proposed engineering project.

to expand their understanding of global issues.
• E.g., Determine the right questions to ask in order to evaluate whether a technological solution to a given problem is appropriate or feasible.

SEEK, LOCATE, AND EVALUATE INFORMATION, interpreting the agendas and perspectives of various sources, and discussing the limitations of data.
• E.g., Determine what sorts of information are and are not represented in Indian census data.

MAKE APPROPRIATE COMPARISONS across historical periods and geographic space.
• E.g., Compare and contrast Shanghai and New York City in terms of demographics, growth, resource availability, and environmental conditions.

WEIGH COSTS AND BENEFITS OF POLICIES & DECISIONS in the context of globalization.
• E.g., Assess the political, economic, and social ramifications of NAFTA.
SOCIAL/CULTURAL COMPETENCIES: Students will be able to...
OBSERVE CAREFULLY and analytically in unfamiliar contexts to identify meaningful patterns of interaction.
• E.g., Observe the ways in which members of different cultures and subcultures express disagreement, interact with the opposite sex, demonstrate respect, etc.

LISTEN RESPECTFULLY, recognizing differences in communication style and etiquette across cultures, etc.
• E.g., Recognize the intent of what is said and read between the lines where necessary.

COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY in various media (from face-to-face interactions through remote technology) with people from different backgrounds.
• E.g., Write e-mails to teammates from other cultures that respectfully and effectively convey your meaning and accomplish your goals.

UTILIZE LOCAL RESOURCES AND KNOWLEDGE to understand global contexts.
• E.g., Draw on the experiences and knowledge of groups within Pittsburgh (for example, Somalian refugees) to learn more about global conditions and contexts.

WORK PRODUCTIVELY IN TEAMS across time, distance, and cultural/disciplinary differences, anticipating, planning for, and effectively handling logistical complications.
• E.g., Anticipate and take into account time differences, holidays, work schedules, etc. when doing projects with cross-national teams.

COLLABORATE on global projects so as to capitalize on local knowledge and resources.
• E.g., Work with local engineers and other members of the local population to determine sustainable and contextually appropriate solutions when initiating engineering projects abroad.

ADAPT flexibly to diverse cultural contexts, uncertain circumstances, and unanticipated obstacles.
• E.g., Make the appropriate adjustments when a key contact abroad is uncooperative or unavailable.
ETHICS: Students will...
DEVELOP ETHICAL POSITIONS ABOUT GLOBAL ISSUES that are informed, thoughtful, and nuanced.
• E.g., Develop perspectives on women’s issues that take into account different cultural interpretations of freedom, power, and human rights.

ENGAGE in actions and behaviors that demonstrate a sense of global responsibility and personal empowerment.
• E.g., Work on design teams seeking to develop inexpensive and locally sustainable water-purification systems to address public health problems in the developing world.

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Table 3: Global Literacy Assessments (Examples)

Each of the following describes one of the learning objectives for a particular course, and one assignment the instructor created and used to assess that objective.

Course and Instructor Learning objective Assessment
Disastrous Encounters:  Technology & the Environment in Global Historical Context
Instructor: Vagel Keller
Analyze the extent to which a given disaster is caused or exacerbated by human actions and historical power dynamics. In small groups, students conduct web research on a particular volcanic eruption and present it to the class in a 5-10 minute presentation. In addition to providing a brief geographical and historical overview of the area affected, each group must address a set of analytical questions, including: To what degree did the affected area’s colonial past contribute to loss of life or other human suffering as a result of the disaster?
Technology for Global Development

Instructor: Jay Aronson
Identify appropriate questions to ask and answer before defining a problem or proposing solutions. Students are presented with a hypothetical scenario: They work for an NGO/AID organization in a less-developed Sub-Saharan African country. A donor proposes to provide mobile phone service to the area in lieu of “traditional” aid (such as sanitation or education projects). Students are asked to identify the kinds of information they would need to have in order to effectively assess the merits of the donor’s plan. The assignment is given at the beginning of the semester and then at the end, to evaluate the extent to which students are able to ask better questions as a result of what they have learned.
Global Project Management

Instructor: Randy Weinberg
Recognize key issues in cross-cultural communication and collaboration across cultural and temporal boundaries. In small groups, students research social networking in different cultures, using a number of sources, including web and library resources and interviews with teammates and classmates from different cultures. They then submit a report with their key findings and conclusions.
Global Issues, Local Solutions

Instructor: Indira Nair
Develop a plan based on real data for a country or countries to address a Millennial Development Goal, and identify the main factors and agents involved in your decision-making. Students are put into groups, and asked to choose two countries that would be likely to receive foreign aid from their own (or another selected “donor”) country. They then conduct research on the historical-political context of each country and prepare a briefing paper in which they propose and justify a plan to achieve two of the Millennial Development Goals, drawing where appropriate on the theories of development discussed in class. Finally, they present their results and recommendations, along with the evidence to support these recommendations, to the class.
Global Systems Delivery Models
(67-325 CMU-Q)

Instructor: Selma Mansar
Discuss the benefits, disadvantages, opportunities, and challenges of outsourcing from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives. Students are asked to conduct surveys of three companies in or outside Qatar, and then report on their findings. In their report, they are expected to explain how they chose and contacted each company, as well as how they conducted the survey. They must then analyze the survey results and recommend an outsourcing strategy for each company, based on the information obtained.
Global Systems Delivery Models
(67-325 Pittsburgh version)

Instructor: Jeria Quesenberry
Describe the emerging global business environment. Students must conduct background research on a particular country and analyze its prospects for information technology and business process outsourcing. Students are asked to write and then present a report, in which they offer an opinion about the country’s outsourcing potential that is informed by a number of issues, including cultural, geographical, political, and economic characteristics, relevant government policies, available services, and potential risks.
International Collaborative Construction Management

Instructor: Lucio Soibelman
Work effectively with an international team to generate, discuss, and evaluate different approaches to an overseas construction problem. Undergraduate students from CMU work remotely on teams with students from Turkey, Brazil or Israel to research a construction project (completed or in progress) in another country and create a set of deliverables, including risk plans, bid plans, cost analyses, work schedules, product models, production plans, project contracting clauses, and project organization plans.
Health, Development and Human Rights

Instructor: Alex London
Evaluate the ethical reasons for and against various kinds of global interventions, applying the theories and perspectives from the course. Students are presented with a hypothetical scenario: A food crisis is brewing in North Korea, which could result in the deaths of millions of people. Students are asked to enlist the ideas from the course to write an argumentative essay in which they address two questions: (1) If North Korea invaded South Korea to secure sufficient food for its people, would it constitute a just or unjust war? (2) If South Korea, with international cooperation, invaded North Korea to topple the ruling regime and try to institute a more stable political and economic system, would such an unprovoked invasion be just or unjust? Students are expected to formulate their arguments using the analytical tools and theoretical models from the course.
Mapping Urbanism

Instructor: Kelly Hutzell
Analyze growth and trends in world cities and draw comparisons between these cities, Pittsburgh and Doha. In small groups, students conduct research on a world city, collecting data (on issues such as population density, population growth, wealth disparities, infant mortality, literacy, ethnic/religious demographics, etc.) that they then map and compare with the data collected and mapped by students researching other cities.
The Global Economy: A User’s Guide

Instructor: Lee Branstetter
Apply economic principles to predict economic trends and make business recommendations in the context of globalization. On exams, students are required to apply economic principles to make predictions and recommendations in different hypothetical scenarios. For example, they might be asked to predict what would happen to the production of a particular good in one country if the economic situation for a trade partner suddenly changed in specified ways. Or to chart the likely shift in the price of a particular good in a country with limited labor supply if trade were initiated with a country that has abundant and cheap labor.
Freshman Seminar on Haiti

Instructor: Michael West
Conduct library research on Haitian history, identifying key people and events, and critically analyzing the sources and nature of available information. Students engage in a group brainstorming session addressing the question: How can we find information about Haitian history? The brainstorm prompts discussion about a range of issues, such as different cultural perceptions of historical events, gaps in reliable data, the credibility of a range of potential sources, strategies for accessing these sources, etc. Individual students then investigate different sources (including French language sources) as homework. The next class they get into small groups, pool the information they have found, present it to the class, and collectively construct a time-line of Haitian history, which they then make use of throughout the semester as they address different aspects of Haitian life. This assignment helps students develop a more critical view of history and assesses their ability to conduct research effectively before they encounter higher-stakes assignments.

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Observations and Conclusions

Observations about courses:
 • These are exciting, relevant, well-constructed courses taught by instructors who are passionate about their subjects and committed to their students.
 •  A number of them have characteristics that are distinctive to CMU:
     o   an interdisciplinary focus, sometimes achieved through team teaching
     o   an applied focus (i.e., GL to inform action/engagement)
     o   students/instructors from different locations and cultures
 • They:
     o   address pressing questions and problems
     o   provide students with important theoretical frameworks for thinking about them
     o   include hands-on experiential learning
     o   empower students to think harder, learn more, and get involved
 • These courses provide excellent models for future globally focused courses.

Observations about Assessments:
 • Assessments currently being used are robust, authentic, rich, and varied.
 • In all the cases I saw, course assessments were appropriately aligned with course objectives.
     o   In most instances, these objectives were explicitly stated; in a few cases they had to be inferred from the course description.

 • In my opinion, we should:
    (1) Build on the particularly CMU elements of courses currently offered:
     o   Interdisciplinarity: E.g., provide more support for faculty who team-teach.
     o   Applied focus: E.g., promote project courses that involve community outreach and/or cross-cultural contact.
     o   CMU-Doha-Adelaide connections: E.g., capitalize on opportunities for cross-cultural exchange.
    (2) Focus on course-level (rather than campus-wide) assessments:
     o   Make current assessments available as models/ideas for other faculty (via Global Learning and Eberly websites).
     o   Improve on assessments where possible, e.g.:
          • Clearly identify objectives that are unclear.
          • Design meaningful pre-/post-tests where appropriate (see below).
          • Introduce more reflective exercises to assess social/cultural competencies (see below).

An example (summarized) from Technology for Global Development:
You work for an NGO/AID organization in a less-developed Sub-Saharan African country. A donor proposes to provide mobile phone service to the area in lieu of “traditional” aid (such as sanitation or education projects). What kinds of information would your organization need to have in order to effectively assess the merits of the donor’s plan?

This assignment is given at the beginning of the semester and then at the end, to evaluate the extent to which students are able to integrate and apply their learning from the course.

Reflective exercises for cross-cultural experiences
For example:

What did you learn from the experience of working on a cross-cultural team that you will carry into your next teamwork experience?
What obstacles did you encounter in your work in Nauru, and how did you deal with them?  What local resources did you feel you used especially effectively? What local resources didn’t you utilize that you might have?
How did your skills at negotiating cultural/language differences evolve over the course of the project? What advice would you give to a student beginning a similar overseas project?

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