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Personal experience can be a useful context

personal experience why it works education
An important aspect of global citizenship education is supporting students to link their personal experience to more abstract global issues, such as the UN Global Goals. This blog post describes some teaching strategies that can be used to support students in this process.

The strategies described are based on developing the curriculum for the My Voice-My School project. Download the lesson pack for Lesson 1 to see how the strategies below can be incorporated into classroom resources.

Strategy 1 – start with the personal experience of your students

My Voice-My School worked with classes in the UK and Syria to explore the UN Global Goal 4 on quality education. Over the course of eight weeks, students developed a youth advocacy project on improving education and started with an overview of the topic.

In the first lesson, the key enquiry question is personal ‘What does a quality education mean to you?’ and the first activity starts with a whole class discussion ‘Why is education important?’ which can be rephrased as ‘Why is your education important?’.

Why it works

  • Students find it easier to start with the personal (existing knowledge) before moving to the global (new knowledge).
  • Students can construct their own interpretations without being influenced by other agenda.
  • Anchors the learning in the reality of personal context rather than as something happening in other places or to other people.

Strategy 2 – introduce voices of young people from other places

A common feature of global citizenship education is the use of images, videos and stories as a way of encouraging young people to consider other perceptions of global issues. In this example lesson, students watched videos about students in other countries.

Why it works

  • Scaffolds students thinking from the personal to other perspectives before generalising.
  • Introduces a global dimension through individual stories.
  • Opens learning through enquiry and challenges assumptions, leading to critical thinking.
  • Enables realisation that there may not be one right answer.

Strategy 3 – introduce the ‘theory’ of global issues

The next stage in supporting students to understand global issues and how they relate to them, is to introduce students to the thinking and theory behind topics such as human rights and United Nations programmes and international agreements. In this stage, we introduced the background to the idea of ‘quality education’ through references to Child Rights and the Global Goals.

Why it works

    • Introduces students to ideas of social justice and human rights.
    • Universal concepts are introduced at an appropriate time in the lesson.
    • Students can apply global agreements to both their own experience and peers in other places.

Strategy 4 – give students ownership over global issues

Rather than just presenting students with global agreements such as the UN Global Goals, allow students to evaluate and rank the elements of the agreement. In this lesson, students looked at the different elements, using a ‘Diamond 9’ ranking activity to consider how important they think each one is. Students could also be asked to reassess their ranking from the point of view of a student in another country (see Strategy 2 above) and from a global point of view.

Why it works

      • Students examine and take ownership of global agreements.
      • Evaluation leads to higher order thinking.
      • Multiple perspectives can be applied to this exercise.

Strategy 5 – explicit links between personal experience and global issues

The final element in this process is to link the personal views expressed at the start of the lesson to the subsequent learning steps. Use a plenary activity that explicitly links personal experience to global issues. In the example lesson, students were prompted to ‘Think about what we have discussed today and make four notes as to how the issue of a quality education links to your own personal experience.’

Why it works

      • The links between personal experience and global issues are made explicit.
      • These links are only made at the end of the lesson.
      • When students are asked to make these links they have gone through appropriate scaffolding, taking them from the personal to another perspective and then to the general, reinforcing this with a ranking activity.

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