At Think Global, we work to support critical and creative learning about our complex, interdependent world. A global learning approach recognises a range of perspectives on any situation or issue, questioning and exploring why different individuals and organisations hold the views that they do, the evidence on which those views are based, and the values that underpin them.
We’ve developed a set of 10 questions which illustrate what this critical questioning looks like in practice. Through applying these questions to a global situation or issue, and seeking answers, a student (or teacher, or any learner) will be a global learner, exploring issues of power, voice, equality and the impact of actions.
The questions can be applied to any issue or situation – from malaria, to child trafficking, to bitcoins. (The example below uses the issue of food waste, but you could slot in whatever issue is relevant to your lesson.)
10 questions for global learning
1. Where is [food waste] an issue?
2. What are the effects of [food waste] on people/environment/jobs etc. (as appropriate)?
3. What things can people do in relation to [food waste]?
4. Who has the power to make decisions about [food waste]?
5. Who does not have the power to make decisions about [food waste]?
6. Are there people who will benefit from [food waste]?
7. Are there people who will lose out from [food waste]?
8. How does your life/work link to [food waste]?
9. How do we talk about [food waste] in our community?
10. How can the effects of [food waste] be shared equally?
Of course, teachers use questioning as part of formative assessment and good classroom practice all the time. And there are a whole range of existing resources and teaching methods based on critical and philosophical questioning, such as Philosophy for Children and The Little Box of BIG Questions. If you already use approaches like these, or you’d like to, our 10 questions offer a flexible way to support global learning on any issue, and an easy way to get started.
We already know of teachers using our questions in the classroom, as a way to explore Typhoon Haiyan. Where is the Philippines and what do you know about it? What are the effects of the typhoon? Will anyone benefit from the typhoon, who will lose out and how? How does your life link to the typhoon? Of course, different people, websites and organisations give different answers to these questions – and comparing the differences helps answer the questions themselves. How do people around us talk and write about the typhoon and why does that matter? We’ll update you on students’ answers to these questions in a blog coming soon – and if you are interested in other ways to explore Typhoon Haiyan with your students, you can find more ideas in our recent news article about the typhoon.
Our questions can be applied broadly and at a high level – as with the above example. Or they can be applied specifically. For example, within Tesco’s UK operations, where is food waste an issue? How much food is wasted? As the first major UK retailer to publish levels of food waste across their UK operations, one perspective on this question is available from Tesco themselves (PDF): 28,500 tonnes of food was wasted in six months in 2013.
Our questions are designed for 11-16 year olds, but we think it’s a good test of anyone’s understanding of a situation or issue to be able to give answers to these questions that would be understood by a young person. And a useful test of an organisation’s transparency if they are able to answer all these questions, clearly and simply.
For example, while we think it’s great that Tesco are publishing data on the food wasted in their operations and their approach to tackling this, we’d also like to see them make this information accessible to a 12 year old, along with their perspective on who has the power to make decisions that affect the food wasted in their operations, and who benefits and loses out from this waste.
This is just one example, and, of course, these questions are imperfect. What situations and issues would you like to see these questions applied to? What questions would you add?
Kate Brown is Head of Programmes at Think Global.