Pilot study

The GlobalSense project stems from a pilot study conducted in Germany, Israel, and the United States. The aim of the GlobalSense team is to broaden the perspective:

  • face-to-face interactions (online and on-site),
  • more countries involved (Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, United States)
  • new paths for teacher training.

Before that, the preliminary results of the pilot study are summarized below.

Teacher Education for Global Citizenship: Lessons from Cross-National Online Interactions


Preparing future teachers to teach global democratic citizenship is a timely topic, with a growing need to clarify the relevance of global citizenship education (GCE) to controversial public issues. In response, this study questions how pedagogical considerations influenced future teachers’ global knowledge, values, and dispositions, preparing them to address such topics in the classrooms. We examined online interactions between teacher candidates from the U.S.A., Germany, and Israel. Participants were asked to relate to global issues, reflect on their conceptions of global citizenship and think about teaching practices. We claim that these online cross-national exchanges will help to enrich views on global topics. Additionally, they did impact their pedagogical thinking, forcing them to consider their future roles as teachers.


In many countries around the globe, the outbreak of the global pandemic has exacerbated political polarization, extremism, xenophobia, and the erosion of foundational democratic values. Therefore, questions of how to best prepare future teachers to teach global democratic citizenship is a timely topic, with a growing need to better clarify and emphasize the relevance of global citizenship education (GCE) to controversial public issues. A growing body of research has detailed the different contesting approaches regarding this field’s theoretical underpinnings, philosophical assumptions, and educational goals (Gaudelli, 2009; Oxley & Morris, 2013; Pashby et al., 2020). However, as the literature shows, in many cases, teachers shy away from addressing burning global issues due to a lack of preparedness (Niens & Reilly, 2012; Rapoport, 2010). Missing, therefore, from these discussions are questions on how pedagogical considerations in teacher education programs can influence future teachers’ global knowledge, values, and dispositions to prepare them to address controversial socio-political topics in the social studies classrooms.

The focus of the study to be presented herein was this juncture between global content and teaching methods, identified by us as an area of research that deserves further scrutiny. We examined how online interactions between teacher candidates from the U.S.A., Germany, and Israel influenced student-teachers perceptions of global citizenship on the one hand and of teaching global citizenship on the other. The goals of this study were influenced by general educational studies (Marcos & Tillema, 2006) and by research in teacher education (Gay & Kirkland, 2003; Taube et al., 2015) that positioned the act of teacher reflection as an essential factor influencing practice. As part of the study, participants were asked to relate to global issues, reflect on their conceptions of global citizenship and think about teaching practices. As a result, we claim that such online cross-national exchanges did not necessarily change participants’ general political views or opinions on global issues. Nevertheless, they did impact the student- teacher’s pedagogical thinking, considering their future roles as teachers. For example, the analysis of the online interactions raised questions regarding how to best facilitate discussions while presenting future students with competing views, arguments, and counter-arguments relating to complex global issues.

Theoretical Framework

GCE may be defined as “a framing paradigm which encapsulates how education can develop the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes learners need for securing a world which is more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable” (Tang, 2014, p. 9). Whereas this is considered a primary educational goal of our time, it is seen as “a disputed educational terrain that admits conflicting visions” (Estellés & Fischman, 2020, p. 2). Several reviews (Gaudelli & Heilman, 2009; Goren & Yemini, 2017) have tried to bring some clarity by mapping the different assumptions that guide it. These range from neoliberal approaches that seek to prepare students for future workplaces to critical stances that aspire to help students develop analytical skills to understand better how unjust global power relations perpetuate inequality worldwide.

Teacher-educators have a significant role in presenting GCE while highlighting the different and sometimes competing conceptions. In their review of the literature on GCE in teacher training, Yemini et al. (2019) highlighted how this field encompasses several distinct subtopics, such as global sustainability and critical thinking skills, that also influence the teacher education process. As such, preparing teachers to facilitate global citizenship requires them to engage with socially and politically loaded subjects in a global context. Such training cannot be limited to the transmission of academic knowledge alone but should include developing an awareness of and sensitivity to how they and others might act as global citizens in a complex, interconnected world (Hansen, 2010). Gaudelli (2016), for example, offered us to reexamine the neoliberal values that frame how the concept of global citizenship is taught, offering as an alternative “to explore diverse possibilities that strive towards a common understanding of shared humanity on a fragile planet coupled with a commitment to addressing social problems through engaged public participation” (p. 7).


This study resulted from an educational partnership in which student-teachers from three institutions in the U.S.A, Germany, and Israel collaborated online. Participants were drawn from the teaching of social studies/civics advanced methods courses. Thirty-seven student-teachers participated in the online activity: 16 were American, 11 were German, and ten were Israeli. The participants included 20 men and 17 women from various age groups and academic backgrounds.

A two-stage, collaborative online activity was designed and implemented. In the first stage, participants responded to prompts related to global migration. In the second stage, participants were sorted into heterogeneous groups, including students from all three countries. They were asked to respond in writing to one another’s comments from the first stage and to offer, as a group, a global migration policy proposal that would balance countries’ human rights obligations with their obligations to their own citizenry.

These activities resulted in written documents that reflected both personal reflection and group-generated discussions. These documents were analyzed following Creswell’s (2013) model of spiral data analysis. First, codes and categories were created based on the generated data and reflection memos. The data was then interpreted based on the themes that emerged from the coding process. Finally, the thematically organized data was studied to identify the relationships among the different themes.


The main content topics that emerged from the analysis of the online interactions among the participants were:

  1. Tensions between global, national, and local identities: participants expressed multiple viewpoints regarding their personal identities, ranging from their national affiliations to their roles as global citizens to their local connections. These multiple points of reference reflected how complex and nuanced their future roles as teachers are.
  2. Responsibility regarding global migration: when confronted with the real-world issue of migration, the participants’ multiple affiliations, as detailed above, impacted their views about responsibility for global migration. Responses ranged from “the world community” to “the host country” and even to “the immigrants themselves.” Whereas several participants saw migration as a global issue to be solved by international collaborations, others viewed it only from their national perspective. Several even ascribed individual responsibility to the immigrants themselves, without making connections to social, national, or global contexts.
  3. Citizenship issues, such as questions about who belongs to a country and who has the right to influence policy, also determined how participants related to substantial legal rights issues. Tensions emerged around political issues of who has a voice and who has a right to have their voice heard.

The online interactions with student-teachers from other countries forced participants to reflect on these topics while considering their own views on global issues and their future roles as teachers. By reflecting on personal and political issues such as affiliation and belonging and questions of power relations and rights, the participants were forced to confront complex and multifaceted points of view. This had a twofold effect: first, participation in the activity raised student-teachers awareness of these issues by forcing them to make personal connections; Second, discussing these topics highlighted participants’ thinking about their classroom teaching. Several participants reported an increased sensitivity to a multiplicity of views as a direct outcome of this activity. Two main themes demonstrate this point:

Theme #1 – Dealing with Multiple Viewpoints and Complex Topics. Participants struggled with the question of whether one should try to convince others of a particular view or whether they should accept the alternative viewpoints. Following the online activity, participant #10 stated:

The online activity also reminded me that people’s backgrounds impact the way they view things and my future students might have very different views towards one topic. It is important to understand different arguments and discuss the topics from multiple perspectives.

Regarding the discussion on migration that took place as part of the shared document activity, participant #1 explained:

I learned that the issue of migration is very complex, and people come to the issue with many different opinions and perspectives, particularly as the issue of migration relates to their own family/personal experiences. As a future teacher, I think it would be interesting to explore the complexities of the issue, but it is important to be sensitive/mindful of how personal this topic might be for some students.

Participant #22 stated, “As a future teacher, I will want to broaden students’ points of view by thinking of the world as a community, rather than rival countries.”

Most participant interactions could be characterized as either “raising and countering arguments” or as “posing inquiries to understand others’ views better.” For instance, in a reflection on the activity, participant #29 explained, “some opinions are far away from my opinion, but it is good to know what they think and think for me, how can I change their mind or help them to find new opinions.” On the other hand, participant #9 questioned the sincerity of the views presented by a fellow participant “whose positions were so radically conservative as to suggest that they were perhaps not responding in good faith.”

Theme #2 – Discussion Content. A majority of the discussion dealt with defining key terms (such as migrants vs. refugees) and using these definitions to construct precise arguments. Group 1’s shared document, for example, states, “Oftentimes an immigrant leaves their country of origin because of threats to long term health and safety, which are not immediate enough to be a refugee.” Group 2’s shared document offers a debate on political refugees, stating, “Some refugees are political refugees – meaning that they stood up to a government that they felt was wrong, and were perhaps jailed, and thus have a criminal record in their home country.” Group 3’s document offers the following clarifying question: “Do you mean that the state would only allow immigrants to enter the country when they encounter a life-threatening situation? So what will happen after the life-threatening issue is being addressed?” Similarly, Group 5’s shared document asks:

What do we all mean by “screening processes,” and what constitutes a characteristic that is unacceptable? If a refugee was found to have a violent past, would it not be fair to first take into consideration the circumstances under which he/she felt compelled to act violently?

These excerpts related to both identified themes demonstrate how online interactions through a shared document forced participants to think more in-depth about the topic discussed and its pedagogical implications. Regardless of the content, it was the online interactions that helped participants problematize the topic and push them to refine their own views. Based on this analysis, we may claim that international online activities like these enable student-teachers to better reflect not only on their political views but on their future roles as teachers as well.


These findings demonstrate how online interactions prompted teacher candidates to reflect on the content being discussed not only as a global political issue but as a pedagogical one. Interactions highlighted the multiplicity of perspectives and the complexity of the topics, and the need to be sensitive to students and consider their personal experiences. Moreover, participants engaged in self-reflection regarding how they can potentially relate to the various views expressed as future teachers, particularly those with which they disagreed.

In other words, the results of this study showed that through their online interactions and international collaborations, student-teachers developed an increased awareness of other viewpoints. Considering the theoretical suggestions to view GCE not just as an academic discipline to be taught but rather as an existential mindset, such awareness is crucial. Building such pedagogical awareness may encourage and equip future teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to promote a more inclusive approach to global citizenship while confronting and dealing with controversial topics in the classrooms.


Whereas a majority of the body of literature on GCE relates to this field’s normative aspects, these findings point to the importance of relating to pedagogical teaching practices within teacher education programs. Moreover, based on the focus on pedagogy, as a result of this study, several additional pedagogical practices may be examined further, including, for example, the implications of international travel (Patterson, 2015).


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Developing Global Sensitivity Among Student-Teachers

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