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08 December 2022

Leading Learners to Change their World

Caroline Hickman, (University of Bath, UK) who conducted a global online survey in 2021, discovered that 60% of young people had climate anxiety. Harriet Shugarman suggests we should strengthen learner agency in children from nursery age to take action on climate change which in turn, should help lessen their anxiety. But climate change is just one of the issues that children may be concerned about and wish to take action on. Learning about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) furthers students’ knowledge of a variety of issues they will have heard about in news and media channels. The International Curriculum aims to take this learning further as the vision for learners states: “Learners are encouraged to be informed, globally competent, future-ready, socially conscious and motivated to positively contribute within a local and/or global context.”  

Learners should be encouraged to take action in response to, and to further extend, their learning. Providing learners with a constant reminder through a taking action display will empower them to know they can (and should) make a difference. Students can add their ideas for action or share their action experiences to advocate for issues they care about and get others involved.

Both the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) include action in the Process to Facilitate Learning, it encircles the learning journey as a reminder that action can take place at any time.

In the IPC, children are explicitly invited to suggest, carry out and evaluate action. This could be within the school community, contributing locally to solutions for global issues or connecting to organizations working across the globe. Introducing learners to action planning strategies provides a way for learners to think critically and creatively about action.

Children could contribute to a shared chart like the one below and make decisions to take appropriate and meaningful collective action.  Example chart: Better management of resources, reducing waste.

Alternatively, individuals can reflect on their current choices and behaviours by completing a personal chart. This can be done through text or using visuals such as cutting and pasting slogans aimed at advocating certain behaviours or reducing others. Example chart: Reducing loneliness. 

Regardless of how they plan for action, children need to revisit the chart and evaluate the impact they have had including considering unforeseen consequences.

In the IMYC, similar engagement and action towards local issues or global competence can be developed through exploring and embedding Big Ideas such as Responsibility, Balance, or Resilience in the classroom and beyond. These can be a cohesive element of learning for teenagers as they investigate local issues or global events through a conceptual lens. This Big Idea also links subjects, providing teachers and students continuous opportunities to connect learning on a deeper level.

Another way for adolescents to be globally competent is by addressing the significance of their learning—or the “Why are we studying this?” Educational research has identified six key needs for the teenage brain which IMYC have interpreted in their IMPART model, standing for Interlinking learning, Making meaning, Peers, Agency, Risk, and Transition. It’s the significance of “What’s in it for me?” (or the Making meaning portion of IMPART) that can help students make sense of their worlds and be motivated to make an impact, however large or small.

One way in which students can reflect on their intrinsic motivation towards a global issue and in turn, can take action, is by using some of the Thinking Routines by Project Zero (Harvard School of Education). The 3 Whys is an effective exercise to guide thinking about global, local or personal issues. These three questions help adolescents find relevance and meaning to their learning by zooming out from the self:

1. Why might this [topic, question] matter to me?

2. Why might it matter to people around me [family, friends, city, nation]?

3. Why might it matter to the world?

Overall, learners should explore and evaluate their roles and thinking and be empowered to take action outside of the classroom. Making meaning in learning and zooming out from the personal to the global are ways in which children and adolescents can help make an impact on the world.

How will your students be changemakers?