Preparing Students for Global Citizenship

Preparing Students for Global Citizenship

As the world grows more interconnected and interdependent, how can we prepare our students for global citizenship? We can start by teaching students about their roles as global citizens and helping them to develop their skills in metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Preparing Global Citizens

In the Curriculum for Global Citizenship, Oxfam proposes key knowledge, skills, and values students need in order to thrive as global citizens.

Global citizenship involves… It is not…
asking questions and critical thinking telling people what to think and do
exploring local-global connections and our views, values and assumptions only about far away places and peoples
exploring the complexity of global issues and engaging with multiple perspectives providing simple solutions to complex issues
exploring issues of social justice locally and globally focused on charitable fundraising
applying learning to real-world issues and contexts abstract learning devoid of real-life application and outcomes
opportunities for learners to take informed, reflective action and have their voices heard tokenistic inclusion of learners in decision-making

Many of these elements, such as exploring the complexity of global issues, engaging with multiple perspectives, and self-reflection, ask students to examine their own assumptions and shift perspectives. In short, they rely on metacognition and cognitive flexibility.

Metacognition and Cognitive Flexibility 

Metacognitive awareness is an integral component of academic and lifelong success. You can promote students’ academic self-awareness by helping them think about their thinking and understand their learning strengths and challenges.

It is also important for students to develop self-awareness of their own values and judgments. We all understand the world through the lens of our own cultural identity, experiences, and personal values. Because conflict often arises out of misunderstanding, students can explore how viewing multiple perspectives on a situation is a path towards mutual understanding or resolution.

Students also use metacognition and flexible thinking to develop the social awareness and relationship skills that are essential for connecting with others. When students can step into their peers’ shoes, they begin to build the skills they need to explore the many sides of complex issues that impact the global community. 

 Perspective Taking: 3 Whys 

The 3 Whys thinking routine(also available in Spanish↗) from Project Zero can get students thinking beyond their own experience.

  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?

This routine ensures that students first establish a personal connection to the issue at hand. Students are then asked to switch perspectives and step into the shoes of the people and the world around them. This thinking routine aligns well with cognitive flexibility strategies featured in the SMARTS curriculum, such as the “I’m Wearing Your Shoes” lesson.

For both the elementary and secondary SMARTS curriculum, the Lesson Focus Sorter (available under “tools” when logged in to SMARTS) is a great resource for selecting lessons that address areas such as flexible thinking, perspective taking, self-advocacy, social awareness, and self-understanding.

For more information on global citizenship, check out these resources: 


  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: