Helping Future Teachers Develop Global Literacy Skills

Neag students show their excitement to be in Paris for the Study Abroad Program. (Photo courtesy of Alan Marcus)
Neag students show their excitement to be in Paris for the Study Abroad Program. (Photo courtesy of Alan Marcus)
Neag students show their excitement to be in Paris for the Study Abroad Program. (Photo courtesy of Alan Marcus)
Neag students show their excitement to be in Paris for the Study Abroad Program. (Photo courtesy of Alan Marcus)

Today’s students are graduating into a global society where, at work, employees come in daily contact with people from around the world and, at home, neighborhoods are becoming more diverse. That means today’s teachers need to help students learn to live in this increasingly interdependent world.

“The issue of creating globally competent educators wasn’t something previous generations had to face, but it’s a very real issue now, and its importance is only growing,” says David M. Moss, interim director of teacher education at UConn’s Neag School of Education. “Our goal as teachers is to prepare students for all aspects of life – for personal, social, and professional success – and today, that means preparing them to be global citizens.”

Teaching global literacy today gives students an intellectual foundation they’ll be able to build on in the years to come.

Considered an expert in the field, Moss has given several presentations over the past few years at conferences such as those hosted by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) about the need for greater cultural responsiveness in education.

An associate professor of curriculum and instruction, he has also played a key role in establishing programs that have helped the Neag School of Education become a “top-tier leader” in the U.S. in global literacy and in training teachers how to lead multi-cultural classrooms.

“Student bodies have become so diverse that creating globally competent educators has really become a fundamental element of quality teaching,” Moss says.

While on the Education Program in London, Neag students visit Maritime Greenwich, the baseline for the world’s time zone system and for the measurement of longitude around the globe. (Photo courtesy of Alan Marcus)
During the two-week World War II education study abroad program, Neag students visit Maritime Greenwich, the baseline for the world’s time zone system and for the measurement of longitude around the globe. (Photo courtesy of Alan Marcus)

With this in mind, the Neag School, with support from the Carnegie Corporation’s Teachers for a New Era project, brought nationally recognized ELL experts to UConn to teach faculty in the Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Teacher Education and Teacher Certification for College Graduates programs how to infuse cultural and linguistic diversity into all disciplines.

The program, known as Project PREPARE-ELLs (Preparing Responsive Educators to Promote Access and Realize Excellence with English Language Learners), has quickly become a national model. Inquiries from other universities have led to Project PREPARE co-directors Thomas Levine and Elizabeth Howard to craft a book about the program’s implementation and successes, with chapters written by various Neag faculty members.

Moss says the lessons are relevant to all classrooms, not only to those with English language learners. “One of the points [Project PREPARE] stresses is that every classroom, even those without ELL students, is culturally diverse,” he says.

Other programs in the Neag School that focus on global competence include:

  • Education in London – a semester-long study abroad program in the fall that is open to fifth-year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s students. Students live in London and work at international middle and secondary schools. Some of these expose the Neag students on any given day to as many as 40 different ethnicities and 50 spoken languages, including those from Africa and the Middle East.
  • Developing Global Teachers – a two-week study abroad program open to fifth-year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s students with a history/social studies concentration. The study abroad focuses on “Teaching World War II: Multiple Perspectives on the War in Europe.” Offered every other year in May, it’s geared toward students who plan to teach in middle or high school, and teaches about the war from the European perspective. Students visit historic sites and meet survivors and scholars in Britain, France, Holland, and Germany.

“In the U.S., we forget that by the time America entered the war, European countries were already four years in,” says Moss, “so this class provides a very different look at the war overall and how other countries view our participation. At the end of the program, most students say it was transformational.”

His passionate belief in the importance of developing global literacy has led Moss not only to write articles for publications including the Journal of Teacher Education, but to develop a new academic journal called Global Teacher Education. He’ll be founding editor.

“It’s a niche, and there’s a real gap out there,” Moss said.

He’s also in the final stages of evaluating a self-reflection tool called My Cultural Awareness Profile, or myCAP, that’s already been used by thousands of students at dozen of U.S. universities. Created with Neag Teacher Education doctoral graduate Helen Marx, now an assistant professor at Southern Connecticut State University, the survey is designed to provide higher education faculty with a better understanding of preservice teachers’ current degree of cultural awareness, as well as areas to challenge and support continued growth.

“So far, the response has been wildly positive, and we hope to have it being used by even more colleges and universities in the fall,” said Moss.

“There’s a statistic that says if you look at the types of jobs available today, half of them didn’t exist 20 years ago,” Moss continued. “So what does that mean for our kids 20 years from now? What kinds of opportunities and jobs will be available to them when they become adults? None of us knows for sure, though clearly they’ll have a global perspective. Teaching global literacy today gives students an intellectual foundation they’ll be able to build on in the years to come.”