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San Diego State Prepares Cohort of Globally Competent Teacher Candidates

This blog article is part of the Global Education Faculty PLC Professional Development Series, sponsored by the Longview Foundation. The writing series aims to elevate the perspectives of international scholars — including teacher educators, graduate students, and alike — to offer insights into how Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) can integrate intercultural understanding within their programs. AACTE members interested in participating in the series should contact AACTE’s Brooke Evans.

Note: the AACTE Call for Awards is open for the 2024 Best Practice Award in Support of Global and International Perspectives, which recognizes exemplary practice in the intercultural, global, cross-cultural, and international arenas. The 2024 Best Practice Award in Support of Multicultural Education and Diversity is also open and recognizes the infusion of diversity throughout all components of a school, college, or department of education (SCDE) as critical to quality educator preparation and professional development. If you wish to apply for one of these awards, please visit aacte.org. Applications must be received by September 1, 2023.

We believe preparing educators to be globally competent should be at the heart of our work as teacher educators. At San Diego State University, my colleague Gina Vattuone and I co-lead a single-subject credential cohort with the goal of preparing globally-competent teacher candidates. Each year, the cohort invites secondary teacher candidates from all subject areas to self-select into the cohort. After eight years, we have realized the importance of helping teacher candidates understand their own positionality in relation to others. We invite them to reflect on their own cultural ways of knowing and being and how these relate to the dominant, mainstream cultures of most American schools. We also want them to understand how they relate to the histories, geographies, and cultures of the young people they teach. By better understanding themselves in society, we believe teacher candidates are more able to understand their students and how to teach them.

Our cohort, called Generation Global, is driven by a framework (see Figure 1), which we created based on our years of teaching in secondary schools and our experience as cohort leaders. In the one year we work with teacher candidates, we aim to help them develop as critical, community-responsive, globally-minded, curriculum-makers.  

Figure 1

Through coursework and curriculum-making for student teaching, our candidates practice criticality by: 

  • Recognizing Ideological influences on schooling.
  • Rationalizing reasons for schooling beyond those associated with human capital.
  • Identifying structural causes of injustice in society and in schooling.
  • Responding to injustices in schooling. 
  • Making wise decisions about where to invest teacher-energy.

Our candidates also work to understand that a globally-competent educator must also be community-responsive.  Candidates:

  • Work to understand and incorporate the ancestral, cultural, economic, and other identities/ backgrounds of their students. 
  • Learn about and use knowledge of /from the community where students live. 
  • Engage students with community-focused lessons that invite their expertise/action. 

Our teacher candidates are trained in global competence as defined by the California Global Education Project (CGEP) and our program strives to develop educators who: 

  • Seek out, evaluate, and learn from international sources. 
  • Work to understand how the community where one teaches is interconnected with people/places/ ideas/ from around the world. 
  • Make curriculum that encourages the study of local issues and problems in their global context.
  • Investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action (CGEP)

Finally, our program takes the art of curriculum-making quite seriously. This is reflected in the following beliefs: 

  • Teachers have a responsibility to think deeply about what is taught to students, why, and how.
  • In order to be effective curriculum-makers teachers must know their students and use knowledge about them to guide their decisions. 
  • To enact a well-designed curriculum is the “art” of teaching.
  • Students are at the heart of local curriculum-making because the curriculum is made for them and in many cases with them. 

With generous support from the International Affairs Department at SDSU and the California Global Education Project, this year our cohort worked to host four “connected-conversations” with scholars and community-members who we felt aligned with our aim of preparing globally-competent educators as per our framework. These events were open to the San Diego educator community and all SDSU students. Our first talk featured environmental scientists, educators, and a student activist who spoke to the urgent need to teach climate change and climate literacy across subjects. Our second event featured an international geography educationist, David Lambert, whose scholarly work on teachers’ leadership in curriculum-making illustrated the importance of learning about our own research-engaged profession from those outside the United States. Our third event capitalized on the newly adopted legislation mandating all high school students take a semester of Ethnic Studies in California. Jesse Mills spoke of the global in the local as he explored his journey as a community-engaged Ethnic Studies scholar in San Diego. His talk was accompanied by a former Generation Global teacher candidate, Celina Rodriguez, who described her work teaching Ethnic Studies Humanities. Finally, our last event featured Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, author of “Becoming a Globally Competent-Educator.” Her talk was especially significant for students in our cohort who had read her book the previous semester. 

After eight years of working with teacher candidates, my colleague and I have found that grounding our efforts in the four areas defined by our framework has focused our efforts and that of our teacher candidates. As leaders, we have much more to learn and are so grateful for the Global Education Faculty PLC’s role in our ongoing growth as cohort leaders and teacher educators.

Kelly León is a Generation Global Single-Subject Cohort Leader & Instructor in the school of teacher education at San Diego State University. She is also a member of the Longview Foundation-supported Global Education Faculty Professional Learning Community (PLC). Follow her at @kellyleon912.