Teaching, Learning and Living the Graduate Attribute of Global Citizenship within and beyond disciplinary boundaries. A case study in Applied Linguistics.

  • Date: 18 May 2012
  • Location/venue: Oxford Brookes University, Harcourt Hill Campus, Oxford , England, OX2 9AT

The Higher Education Academy Discipline Workshop and Seminar Series.


This seminar has three main goals. First, it seeks to offer practical interpretations of the graduate attribute of global citizenship in individual teaching practices. Secondly, it aims to challenge assumptions that the language of global citizenship attributes is empty rhetoric. Thirdly, it critically explores how links between theory and pedagogy can enhance the student learning experience.


Graduate Attributes are now a key driver of teaching and learning practices in UK Higher Education (ESECT 2004). These refer to skills, knowledge and abilities of graduates, which go beyond disciplinary content knowledge or technical expertise, and are intended to prepare students to be active agents of social good both in the workplace and the community. Amongst the various descriptors of such attributes is that of ‘global citizenship’. This identity marker reflects a contemporary, international way of thinking in today’s local academic communities and globalising world. At Oxford Brookes University, the graduate attribute of ‘global citizenship’ is defined in the Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience 2010-2015 as: Knowledge and skills, showing cross-cultural awareness, and valuing human diversity. The ability to work effectively, and responsibly, in a global context. Translating such new types of knowledge into teaching materials and activities raises challenges for colleagues across the subject disciplines.

From an institutional perspective, global citizenship is often a central thread of university internationalisation strategies which aim to advance existing practices in relation to the quality of the learning experience for international and home students. More specifically, in the human and social sciences, global citizenship is being constructed in various disciplines in both different and overlapping ways. Drawing on research (e.g. Block 2011) and evaluation studies this seminar critically considers how academics in the disciplines of English and Applied Linguistics are articulating global citizenship in their own voice, and in ways that make the student learning experience transformative.

Block, D. (2011) ‘Citizenship, Education and Global Spaces’ Language and Intercultural Communication. 11(2), pp.162-170

ESECT (2004) Employability in Higher Education: What it is – what it is not. HEA http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/employability/id116_employability_in_higher_education_336.pdf


9.30-10.00 Registration and Coffee

10.00-10.15 Welcome and outline of seminar

10.15-10.45 Key paper 1: Professor David Block, Institute of Education, London

Exploring global citizenship: from cosmopolitanism ideal to class politics

In this paper I examine the notion of the global citizen (and global citizenship) and I consider how it has emerged against a backdrop of other key constructs in applied language studies (and the social sciences in general), such as globalisation, internationalisation, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism. I also relate the idea of the global citizen to socio-economic stratification and class politics and practices both within nation states and across nation states, examining the prospect that there is today an emerging transnational middle class which transcends borders.

10.45-11.15 Key paper 2: Rachel Wicaksono, York St John University

Internationalising talk: A discourse-analytic approach to raising students' awareness of their construction of (in)competence and (mis)understanding in mixed language groups

How might we prepare our students to work effectively, and responsibly, in a global context? How might such preparation take place in situations where International students are assumed to be a threat to the achievement of mutual understanding in classroom talk? How might new types of knowledge about 'international classroom talk' be translated into teaching materials and activities? In this presentation I aim to explore how links between theory, research and pedagogy can enhance the internationalised student learning experience. The first half of this presentation explores the construction of (in)competence and (mis)understanding in talk between British and international students at York St John University. In the second half, I consider practical ways in which students' awareness of alternative ways of listening and talking in internationalising UK universities might be raised.

Data collected from mixed language groups of students show a number of ways in which the British students treat the achievement of mutual understanding as potentially threatened by the English language 'incompetence' of their international interlocutors. Evidence includes the multiple proactive repetition/rephrasing of questions and the substitution of ‘easier’ lexical items for those diagnosed as troublesome. While these and other strategies can provide a resource for maintaining the flow of talk, they also, in some cases, result in further misunderstanding and a reinforced perception of the international student as an incompetent user of English.

Counterbalancing the orientation of the British students to the language 'incompetence' of their international interlocutors is challenging, for a number of reasons. In an attempt to sensitise students to these issues, a mixed language group of students worked with me to design an online learning activity subsequently published under a Creative Commons licence. The activity aims to raise awareness of English as a lingua franca and explore alternative models for the description of (mis)understanding and (in)competence in international situations. This presentation will include a demonstration of some features of the online introduction to English as a lingua franca.

The discourse analytic approach to language awareness-raising that we take in the online learning activity runs counter to much of the over-generalised 'communication skills' advice available for students (and staff) working in international situations; such as "be direct", "be clear". Instead, we encourage students to take a 'bottom-up' approach to the effect of their talk on their classroom roles, task outcomes, identities and assessments of their interlocutors' (in)competence.

11.15-11.30 Coffee

11.30-12.00 Key paper 3: Juliet Henderson and Mary Deane, Oxford Brookes

Subject global citizen?

Even as an increasing number of universities commit to producing graduates possessing the attributes of ‘a global citizen’, both the concept and ways to support students’ development in this area remain problematic. The risk of defaulting to ‘empty rhetoric’, to straddle the divide between top-down initiatives and confusion and resistance on the disciplinary ground is real. To address this gap, our paper seeks to open up discussion about how to teach and assess global citizenship knowledge within and across disciplines. A further important aim of the paper is to frame ‘the global citizen’ in today’s university as an object of pedagogical and social theory. This is to serve as a counterfoil to perceptions of the notion of global citizenship as a superficial, university branding exercise.

We start with the question: ‘How can we invite undergraduates to contextualise new global citizenship knowledge and identity in assessment?’ We argue for the use of ethnographic-style undergraduate research as a strategy for allowing student writers to go beyond tick-box approaches to graduate attributes. The methods of inquiry and writing associated with ethnographic research, and its recognition we are continually creating our own reality in the texts we read and write, make it a particularly useful tool for students to explore their own global citizen subject positions as the emergent property of relations between local and global (con)texts, cultural identity and empirical experience.

This paper examines the ways in which students attempt to capture the textually mobile concepts of self and other. This is explored by studying students’ written responses to an assessment brief that requires them to undertake ethnographic-style research. It does so through a comparative analysis of the rhetorical moves in two assignments produced in an undergraduate course in intercultural communication, a course premised on the importance of learning to dialogue across difference and contribute to diversity in higher education.

12.00-12.30 Chair led discussion – review of the morning and future directions

12.30-1.30 Lunch (poster presentation of Undergraduate global citizenship research)

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