Jason Harshman

August 31, 2017

Developing globally competent teachers and students 

Video by Mei-Ling Shaw Williams

Jason Harshman, an assistant professor with the UI College of Education, conducts professional development outreach efforts locally, nationally, and on an international scale. All of these efforts are centered around the concept of global competency a learning process that, for Harshman, requires regular self-reflection and a willingness to be uncomfortable.

“We know that the ‘one and done’ approach to professional development doesn’t work,” says Harshman, adding that he’s seen these professional development efforts attended by enthusiastic educators from grades K-12 and across disciplines/content areas. “There’s a genuine interest in doing this.”

To help meet this need, Harshman offers four workshops annually to 20-30 educators in six different schools or districts.

Global competency is a combination of skills, practices, and dispositions that students and teachers develop over time. Although global competency means different things to different people, and is demonstrated in a multitude of ways, Harshman notes that there are a few guiding principles that are emphasized in the workshops he leads.

An important starting point for global competence education is self-examination of how and why one imagines the world to be. Considering the perspectives that are missing from the various sources one draws upon for news, entertainment, and information is also important to developing a more global perspective. It’s also key to acknowledge that individuals, as well as a person from another culture, do not represent the entirety of those respective cultures. Global competence also involves critical examination of systems and institutions that create, and perhaps perpetuate, inequity so that people can work toward social, economic, and environmental justice.

Wanting to enhance the manner in which global competence education is infused in K-12 education, Harshman has been involved with the Global Scholar Certificate Project. This endeavor is intended to reach high school students, but the starting point has been the creation of a professional development program for Iowa teachers. While students have coursework, a service learning project, as well as a capstone project centered on global competency, it is their teachers who develop the curriculum from this perspective. This project is funded by the Longview Foundation and National Geographic through the Iowa Geographic Alliance.

Teams of teachers from multiple disciplines across four Iowa high schools participated in this certificate project during the winter of 2015 and through last spring. Due to its cross-disciplinary nature, global competence education is relevant to the work of all teachers, as evidenced by the involvement of English, social studies, art, STEM, and agricultural education teachers. Harshman said it was “inspiring and enjoyable to have teachers who work in the same building talking about how what they do in their individual classrooms could contribute to a program that students can work on throughout their high school career.”

Those participating in the Global Scholar Certificate Project attended all-day workshops on the first Saturday of February, March and April of 2016. During each workshop, sessions were led by experts on standards, project-based learning, global Shakespeare, and service learning projects for students, to name a few, from the Department of Education, regional universities, and non-profit organizations. This includes the founder of Friends of Homacho in Dubuque, which is a non-profit organization helping meet the needs of those living in the village of Homacho in Ethiopia. During these sessions, teachers learned about global competence education, analyzed standards and curriculum, and collaborated to develop the requirements students would need to fulfill to earn the designation of Global Scholar upon graduating from high school.

Recently, Harshman was invited to lead professional development workshops in Turkey. Working with educators, classroom teachers, and pre-service teachers at universities in Istanbul, Küthaya, and Izmir, he focused on global citizenship, with particular emphasis on social studies education and what global citizenship education means from a Turkish perspective.

“I am energized by the creativity and interest to teach students about their interdependency with and responsibility to people they may never meet and places they may never go.” 

- Jason Harshman 

The workshops focused on the Global Connections strand of the new social studies standards that Harshman also played a role in helping write, with attention to topics such as globalization, global citizenship, Turkey’s role in the world, and how educators incorporate global issues and perspectives in their classrooms. Harshman says what he learned from the conversations that emerged while working with his Turkish colleagues, much like his previous experiences in Spain, South Korea, and Japan, has informed how he plans and leads professional development workshops, as well as his own teaching around global education in the U.S. This is because “if we are to do the work of global citizenship education, we must include perspectives, resources, and ideas generated by people beyond the Global North.”

On a more local level, Harshman has worked with his colleague in social studies education, Greg Hamot, social studies professor and director of the International Office in the UI College of Education to lead professional development on human rights education at the Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Harshman’s involvement in a number of global competency professional development efforts in the Midwest in places like Ohio and Illinois not only keep him busy, but, “energized by the creativity and interest to teach students about their interdependency with and responsibility to people they may never meet and places they may never go.” On campus, he’s worked with the Building Global Community. This program is supported by the UI Office of International Programs and open to faculty and staff at the UI, and helps individuals learn about people and cultures on a global and local levels.

“We know that preparing students in the 21st century requires that teachers be engaged in professional learning opportunities that support them in their desire to create learning opportunities that examine global systems,” says Harshman. “We also know that teachers have a lot of responsibilities, and despite the increased pressures and expectations, they continue to do incredible work. Professional development that extends beyond just one session so teachers can plan, collaborate, and receive feedback, has proved beneficial, and I am excited about the potential to grow the opportunities students and teachers in Iowa have to develop a Global Scholar Certificate program.”

Read more from the 2016-17 College of Education Annual Report.