Cover image: How do US teachers teach the global dimension?

How do US teachers teach the global dimension?

Thanks to a Walter Hines Page scholarship from the English Speaking Union (ESU), Caroline Picking spent a few weeks in the USA researching American teachers' understanding of a global dimension in education.

What is the grant?

The ESU's Walter Hines Page scholarship - next application deadline is 5 January 2015:
  • it's open to members of the UK’s main teaching unions
  • it provides between £1,100-£2,000 towards travel and expenses
  • it allows scholars to research a topic relevant to their own interests.
ESU members in the USA provide hospitality, which generally includes accommodation, local transport and help with school contacts. I stayed in New York, Ohio and Rhode Island, visiting twelve schools (ranging from nurseries to high schools), meeting teachers, education administrators and university lecturers.

What happens in the USA?

I observed classes in private, public, laboratory (attached to universities), international and charter schools. In return, I shared ideas and information with teachers and gave presentations at ESU meetings. I’d just completed an online MA in Development Education at the Institute of Education, London, so I could compare my findings with the research I’d completed for my dissertation on UK schools. Afterwards, I was free to travel throughout the US. The ESU requested a report on my return.


  • Everyone agreed: a global outlook is vital for both the UK and the USA to compete in international jobs markets. Schools are ideally placed to develop these skills. However, as no countrywide education system or curriculum exists in the USA it’s difficult to introduce successful US-wide initiatives in the way that the UK introduced the ‘Global Dimension’ or to provide awards and grants promoting partnerships or staff mobility such as Connecting Classrooms (UK) or Erasmus+ (EU).
  • Instead, private funding is available for professional development, staff mobility and other initiatives. However, teachers find it difficult to identify these sources as there is no central body responsible.
  • Teachers complained about a perceived emphasis on ‘Common Core Standards’, meaning the curriculum is shaped by exams, focusing mainly on Literacy and Numeracy lessons. However, they creatively incorporated global themes within these:
Global-themed reading activitiesTravelling teddies for writing lessons Global-themed reading activities (left) Travelling teddies for writing lessons (right) (Click to view a larger version of each image)
  • Teachers’ and students’ personal experiences and passions often drive global learning. Innovative teachers like Joe Vogel at Hathaway Brown School have created curriculums based around global learning with a four-year Global Scholars program.
  • Emphasis on cultural awareness is greatest in areas of cultural diversity.
  • Technology allows worldwide exchanges of ideas and knowledge. Generally, US schools are well-equipped with Chrome notebooks, laptops and ubiquitous use of students’ smartphones.
  • 'Learner Profile' displaySeveral schools followed the IB Primary Years Programme which promotes global education. Cassingham Elementary, Ohio and British International School of New York promoted a holistic approach through the IB Primary Years Programme, including the language used to refer to learners’ global skills.
  • Teachers seemed unconcerned by inspections or inspectors’ comments about global education in schools. There doesn’t seem to be the same emphasis on inspection reports as found in the UK.
  • In High Schools, fundraising and charitable ‘Service Trips’ are widely encouraged. Care must be taken, however, that this approach doesn’t lead to inequitable relationships.

Other opportunities

UK teachers can apply for a Chautauqua Scholarship through ESU, funding visits to Chautauqua summer lectures and workshops in New York. As with the Walter Hines Scholarship, the next application deadline is 5 January 2015.

Full research report

Read Caroline's full report on her visit here: Caroline Picking Report 2014 (PDF) The photo at the top of the page is Caroline with Joe Vogel from Hathaway Brown School.