Global Understanding

To thrive in our globalized world, students need to develop global competencies. Many educational thought leaders have developed frameworks to characterize these competencies. Mansilla and Gardner call for students to develop an informed understanding of contemporary developments around the world, an awareness of local experiences as manifestations of broader global patterns, and an identity as a member of our global community.1 Reimers emphasizes the importance of students developing empathy for others, a positive disposition toward difference, and perspective taking skills.2 Recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)'s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) developed a comprehensive Global Competence Framework, which characterizes global competence as an ability to engage in respectful and productive relationships with individuals from different cultures. This framework assesses this capacity along three dimensions, knowledge and understanding, attitudes, and skills, and according to a variety of constructs, such as respect for people from other cultures, openness to diversity, intercultural flexibility, perspective-taking, and awareness of global issues.3

Round Square

Global Understanding

How can schools encourage students to develop global competencies? To address this question, RSI is collaborating with Round Square and OECD/PISA on a research project on global understanding. RSI has collected student and teacher data from 150 schools spread across 31 countries in 6 continents on students' global competencies and the practices that schools are using to support those competencies. RSI will analyze these data using a mixed methods approach to explore how schools might promote global understanding. Stay tuned for the results of this exciting study!


Ross School

Global Understanding

RSI carried out a study to explore the nature and development of global understanding among students and alumni at Ross School. We conducted interviews with students in elementary, middle, and high school as well as alumni and analyzed our interview data to construct learning pathways that Ross students follow as they develop global understanding.

Emergent themes from our analysis suggest that Ross students develop global understanding with increasing complexity along three interwoven skill domains:

  • recognition of a shared humanity,

  • intercultural understanding, and

  • a humanitarian orientation.

These skills develop through a process of increasing abstraction and complexity whereby discrete subsets of these skills combine and differentiate to form more intricate understandings at a higher level. Once formed, these more complex understandings are subject to the same process of combination and differentiation, which allow, over time, for the shaping of even more sophisticated conceptions of global understanding.


International School of Boston (ISB)

Global Competence

What global competencies do International School of Boston (ISB) students demonstrate and to what extent are those competencies interrelated? How do students believe ISB supports the development of these competencies? RSI partnered with ISB on a mixed methods study to explore these questions. Working with a team of Teacher Research Fellows at ISB, researchers collected survey data from middle and high school students at the school.

We found that middle and high school students at ISB demonstrate a range of interrelated knowledge, attitudes, and skills that will support them to engage in respectful and productive relationships with people from various cultures. Our analysis suggests that these knowledge, skills, and attitudes are interrelated as we found statistically significant positive correlations between distinct global competencies, including knowledge of global issues, understanding of global interconnectedness, identification with the global community, and curiosity to learn from it. 

ISB students reported that the following school initiatives help foster their global competencies:

  • curricular integration of topics related to human rights,

  • extracurricular activities with an international focus (e.g., Model UN, international trips), and

  • community service activities.

Mid-Pacific institute

Global Education

“My actions and choices affect the larger global community,” said one middle school student at Mid-Pacific, “because one small thing can make a big difference.” RSI partnered with educators at Mid-Pacific in a mixed methods study aimed at investigating global education at the school. Using survey responses from Mid-Pacific students and teachers from grades 3-12, researchers explored global education across a variety of indicators at the school, including curriculum and school culture. 

Results suggest that Mid-Pacific supports global understanding by encouraging students to value cultural diversity, supporting students to develop intercultural understanding, and teaching students how to advocate for the rights of others around the world. We found that global issues are often incorporated into the curriculum and the school encourages students to participate in service learning and real-world global action. Teachers and students offered these useful tips for ways in which the school can further support global education:

  • take advantage of Mid-Pacific's rich multicultural community by having students learn about other cultures from their peers, and

  • provide more opportunities for students to connect virtually with young people in other parts of the world.


  1. Mansilla, V. B., & Gardner, H. (2007). From teaching globalisation to nurturing global consciousness. In M. M. Suárez-Orozco, and C. Sattin (Ed.), Learning in the global era: International perspectives on globalisation and education. CA: University of California Press.

  2. Reimers, F. (2006). Citizenship, identity and education: Examining the public purposes of schools in an age of globalization. Prospects, 36(3), 275-294.

  3. OECD (2016). Global competency for an inclusive world. Paris: OECD.