Transformation through citizenship

This source preferred by Chris Shiel

Authors: Shiel, C.

Start date: 10 June 2009

‘Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development – and turn it into a reality for all, the world’s people.’ (Kofi Annan, UNSG, 2001)

This paper draws upon the experience of a strategic approach to developing global perspectives at Bournemouth University (BU). The approach aligns internationalisation and sustainable development within the aim of developing global citizens. It is suggested that globalisation and sustainable development are concerns that cannot be ignored – they also require new ways of thinking – enhancing approaches for transformational learning may result in better learning and better solutions to the challenges of sustainability? But can learning environments be set up to inspire transformational learning? The paper suggests that it is possible but that the journey is not easy. The experience at BU is briefly described, with some examples of how developing global perspectives is transforming learning and also transforming the way the university addresses discharges its responsibility as a ‘global citizen.’ It is suggested that ‘emancipatory action,’ in the sense used by Habermas (1984, 1987) requires ‘starting from where the learner is,’ challenging assumptions and enabling the exploration of tacit belief systems. The paper describes how learners at BU are being challenged to make sense of their role in an interconnected world; how staff are rethinking the curriculum and developing new perspectives and; how all learners are being encouraged to locate the global in the local, and in relation to their personal and professional lives. The paper concludes by suggesting that transformational learning for both students and staff is important if higher education is to play a role in addressing the challenges faced by society. If learners are to be effectively prepared for a future that is fragile, evolving and uncertain then the status quo is not sufficient.

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