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How do we teach the Global Dimension

There are a number of issues that geography teachers might like to consider in planning the global dimension in lessons: geographical thinking and values and attitudes. Fundamentally, this has two main purposes:

  • to develop a clear idea of what it means to ‘think geographically’ in a global context and to communicate this to pupils, and
  • to develop strategies which help pupils to view values and attitudes as variables that affect and explain human behaviour and to understand their own feelings about places and people.

Before implementing the ideas in this section you may wish to carry out a departmental audit. It may also be useful to consider the implications of a global dimensions work on the whole school, and to decide how to frame the global dimension. Advice on these aspects is also given below.

1. Geographical thinking

Geographical thinking incorporates critical thinking, creative thinking and futures thinking, as well as an awareness of emotional intelligence.

  • Critical thinking – the global dimension encourages critical thinking by engaging students with complex issues. The ability to think critically encourages students to question their own and others’ assumptions.
  • Creative thinking – finding ways to release students’ imaginations in geography classrooms is as important as it is enjoyable. It is essential if students are to, for example, see connections, and for their understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Futures thinking – forms an important basis for active global citizenship: only when we have a vision for the future that can we act towards it. It can empower and motivate students to apply their learning to complex scenarios, such as a proposed trans-national oil pipeline.
  • Emotional intelligence – students need to be aware of their emotional responses to particular issues and how these interlink with their experiences, actions and learning.

Through geography, students can learn to feel comfortable with uncertainty. To help develop awareness of their emotions, students can be asked to map their own personal geographies.

2. Values and attitudes

The geography curriculum in not value neutral. Therefore, we need to be confident in employing approaches that help students explore and question their own values and worldviews. This may mean starting from their own perceptions and experiences; an approach with which geography teachers are familiar.

The content and methodology of the global dimension to geography cannot be separated from each other. This implies ‘geography with integrity’. Global geography lessons aim to involve students in complexity, where clear-cut answers do not always exist. This implies operating in a ‘culture of argument’ rather than a traditional ‘answer culture’.

Departmental audit
The global dimension is applicable right across the geography curriculum. Therefore, it may be useful to audit what you are currently teaching and to identify opportunities where you can incorporate the global dimension. A checklist, provides a useful starting point.

Departments who have carried out such an audit have found it involves looking at the content of the curriculum and at the emphasis placed on values and attitudes, methodology and appropriate assessment techniques. Your audit could also encompass a departmental discussion of the issues raised in the planning toolkit.

The whole school
Students’ experiences of the whole school can reinforce and develop their classroom learning. Their experiences are influenced by ‘North-South’ school partnerships, the whole school policy, whole school audit, displays and school grounds, assemblies, events/weeks, clubs, the school council and peer education as well as the broader ‘ethos’.

Developing the global dimension in geography can impact on the whole school. Developing geographical knowledge may, for example, influence decisions made by the school council such as work on trade and the environment.

Framing the global dimension: ‘thinking geographically’.

Questions can help frame a geographical enquiry with a global perspective. While questions are not designed as an all-embracing enquiry route they can draw attention to and emphasise geographical interconnections.

In a geographical enquiry on the transfer of call centre jobs from England to India a number of questions that relate to substantive issues can be used during discussions, these include:

  • What are the pros and cons in this situation as seen by the various participants? (e.g. finding a location for a new call centre for a major bank)
  • Do you think that the resolution of the issue is fair? (e.g. the call centre goes to Mumbai in India, resulting in the loss of 4000 jobs in London and Sheffield in England)
  • Who in the situation do you sympathise with? Is it possible to empathise equally with all actors/participants? (e.g. it may be easier to empathise with and feel sympathy for those who have lost their jobs, but does this mean that the Mumbai decision was wrong?)
  • What might be the consequences of the decision for individuals or the group? (e.g. in London (where there have been job losses), in Sheffield (where there have been job losses) and in Mumbai (where there have been job gains))
  • Who had the power and/or authority to make this decision? How did they use it? (e.g. what was attractive about Mumbai to senior bank staff in London?)
  • Who should be consulted in a decision such as this? Individuals? Representative groups? (e.g. trade unions)
  • How far should people be treated as equal or different and on what grounds? (e.g. does one workforce have greater rights than another?)

Questions to raise on the discussion itself, include:

  • What do you think about this situation, and why?
  • What is the range of opinion on this issue in this class, and more generally? Which are good arguments and which are less good? What are the criteria for judging ‘good’ arguments?
  • What do we agree/disagree on? Why is this?
  • Has the discussion covered the important issues, or have there been some significant silences?

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