What's in a name? Global learning at an international conference

November 13, 2015

Eric Hartman 

Numerous higher education associations and scholars based in the US have been moving away from international lenses on the world and toward global and intercultural ways of thinking. Specific examples are excerpted below, followed by a link to international, global, cross-cultural, and non-US service-learning and civic engagement presentations that will be delivered at the 2015 International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement Conference.

For context, here’s a recent summary of movement toward global learning and civic engagement that is inclusive of local context:

The leading national association concerned with the undergraduate liberal education experience, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), has for several years focused specifically on social responsibility and integrative liberal learning in a global context. AAC&U integrates key components of intercultural competence and civic development through its global learning rubric, where it suggests:

Through global learning, students should (1) become informed, open-minded, and responsible people who are attentive to diversity across the spectrum of differences, (2) seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities, and (3) address the world’s most pressing and enduring issues collaboratively and equitably. (2014, p. 1, emphasis ours)

This integration of intercultural competence or attention to diversity with a focus on individual actions and attention to pressing issues, along with the development of critical thinking, is also featured throughout A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future (National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, 2012), a document prepared at the request of the U.S. Department of Education. The leading U.S. association advocating that universities serve public, civic purposes, Campus Compact, responded to A Crucible Moment with a policy brief calling for higher education institutions to, among other things, “advance a contemporary, comprehensive framework for civic learning that embraces U.S. and global interdependencies” (Campus Compact, 2012, p. 8, emphasis ours). Meanwhile, AAC&U cooperated with NAFSA to develop Global Learning: Defining, Designing, Demonstrating, a publication that again emphasizes that 21st century graduates must integrate local and global civic knowledge and engagement, intercultural knowledge and competence, as well as ethical reasoning and action (Hovland, 2014). Here and elsewhere (Hartman & Kiely, 2014; Sobania, 2015; Whitehead, 2015), it is clear that U.S. theorists and administrators are also integrating the local aspects of global citizenship and learning that are highlighted throughout this volume (Excerpted from: Hartman, E., Lough, B., Toms, C., & Reynolds, N. (In Press). The beauty of global citizenship; The problem of measurement. In B. Oomen, E. Park, M. Sklad, J. Friedman (Eds.), Going Glocal: The theory, practice, evaluation, and experience of education for global citizenship. Amsterdam: Drukkerij Publishing).

Whether engaging in cooperative development around the world or across town, the same skills and processes are often at play: cultural humility, listening well, communicating with care, representing responsibly, and understanding the relationships among self, others, assumptions, structures (cultural, political, economic), inequities, and opportunities.

Our of 150 research presentations upcoming at IARSLCE in Boston, there will be:

  • 6 presentations positioned as global (highlighted in yellow in the program linked here)
  • 1 presentation positioned as international (highlighted in pink)
  • 10 presentations positioned or otherwise tagged (by an IARSLCE track) as global and international (pink and yellow)
  • 7 presentations indicating intercultural or diversity learning (green)
  • 7 presentations involving under-represented learning environments, but not otherwise pointing toward the categories above (blue)
  • 11 presentations involving research and practice taking place outside of the US (other domestic, rather than necessarily international) (orange)
  • 3 presentations involving work with marginalized populations (the individuals doing the highlighting felt that the abstracts often implied cultivation of capacities to listen, empathize, engage with humility, and cooperate with diverse others – hence showing similarities to the global learning aspirations mentioned above) (grey)

As more higher education associations and scholars move to recognize the ways in which local issues are shaped and informed by global influences, it is worth considering why we call various efforts international, intercultural, or global. Certainly, globalsl and its readership would be thrilled to learn more about the forty-five presentations listed above, and many globalsl bloggers, administrators, and readers will be at IARSLCE again this year. Looking forward to it!


AAC&U. (2014). VALUE: Valid assessment of learning in undergraduate education. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Campus Compact. (2012). A praxis brief: Campus Compact’s response to a crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. Boston, MA: Campus Compact.

Hartman, E. & Kiely, R. (2014). Pushing boundaries: Introduction to the global service-learning special section. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 21(1).

Hovland, K. (2014). Global learning: Defining, designing, demonstrating. American Association of Colleges and Universities.

The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. (2012). A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Sobania, N. (Ed.) (2015). Putting the local in global education: Models for transformative learning through domestic off-campus programs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Whitehead, D. M. (2015). Global service-learning: Addressing the big challenges. Diversity and Democracy. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Eric Hartman is an Assistant Professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University; Global Steering Group Member of the Better Volunteering, Better Care Initiative; Member of the Board of Directors of Amizade; and Editor of globalsl.org. He writes regularly on global citizenship and fair trade learning.


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