Global Education: Bringing the World to Your Classroom

I love to travel. In my eight years of teaching, I have seized several (free) opportunities to see the world. Travel has enriched my teaching, allowing me to bring international experiences directly back to my students.

This year I participated in the Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship, a program of the U.S. State Department.

I joined 64 teachers from around the country in completing an online course on best practices in global education. In February, we attended a global education symposium in Washington, D.C., accompanied by administrators from our schools.

And I just returned from an eye-opening trip to Brazil with 10 other TGC teachers. We spent two weeks observing and co-teaching in schools (both public and private). Other teachers in the program traveled to India, Ghana, Indonesia, Morocco, and Ukraine.

One takeaway from my fellowship experience is a clearer understanding of what teaching global competencies might look like in practice. The Asia Society and the Council of Chief State School Officers have produced a series of global competence matrices (PDF). I started using these matrices this year as a way to evaluate my own curriculum. Recently, I’ve been embedding competencies into my student assessment rubrics.

The four main elements of the global competence matrix are:

  • Investigate the world.

    • Recognize perspectives.

    • Communicate ideas.

    • Take action.

We should be teaching our students these skills, and of course, mastering the competencies ourselves. They probably sound familiar: Some call them 21st-century skills, and others refer to them as the new basics. Students need to go beyond their comfort zones and actively learn from (not just about) people who have different worldviews.

This is not a call to throw out the curricula that we are currently using. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to enhance our practice and create a more rigorous and meaningful learning environment for our students.

In teaching U.S. history this past school year, I have worked with colleagues to revise our Progressive Era and Great Depression units, incorporating more opportunities for students to develop global competencies.

Investigate the World and Recognize Perspectives

Progressive Era unit: After a look at Teddy Roosevelt and the creation of the national parks system, students learned about differing views on the management of public lands a hundred years ago (focusing on John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and Richard Ballinger). Students analyzed and debated the decision to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite. We tried to push students to recognize their own perspectives within the spectrum of preservationist, conservationist, and laissez-faire attitudes.

Great Depression unit: We redesigned our Great Depression unit to follow an arc that led to a study of the Great Recession of 2007-09. We began by looking at the causes of the 1929 stock market crash and the widespread bank failures that followed. Then we moved on to study the “alphabet soup” of New Deal programs and the impact of the depression on people’s everyday lives. Next, we compared different economic perspectives on the causes of and responses to the Depression, including a theoretical comparison of capitalism and communism.

Communicate Ideas/Taking Action

Progressive Era unit: We finished the unit by turning to the present. Students studied the current debate over the Keystone Pipeline project. After role-playing a town hall meeting on the pipeline issue, students wrote letters to President Obama that showed an understanding of multiple perspectives and incorporated the history of American conservationism and environmentalism. We hope that the President will be impressed by the level of global competence in the 100 letters, especially the act of sending them.

Great Depression unit: Similarly, we ended the Great Depression unit in the present. We looked at the recent economic recession, focusing on the collapse of the housing bubble, and the growing income inequality gap. Students debated three perspectives on economic policy:

  • The call for a “New New Deal” and increased taxation of the wealthiest Americans.

    • A focus on deficit reduction and tax cuts.

    • A call for a new, more just system altogether.

Background materials included rhetoric from the Obama campaign, the Republican Party’s economic platform, and the Occupy Movement. We hope that students take action by personally engaging with these important issues, and that those who are eligible voters will feel informed enough to participate in this November’s presidential election.

But you don’t have to be a social studies teacher to incorporate the global competencies—the matrices address numerous content areas.

And you don’t have to take students across international borders. You can help your students practice the skills of recognizing different perspectives and communicating ideas effectively in your own classroom, engaging the diverse perspectives found in your own community and school.

There are also easy ways to connect with classrooms around the world. You can start by simple class-to-class communication and then advance to collaborating with classes in other countries on specific projects. (I’ve listed some of my favorite resources below.)

GTCS and its message internationally

Tom Hamilton, GTCS Director of Education, Registration and Professional Learning

‘How would you feel about completing the training exercise in the Maldives?’

An interesting question to be asked in an email from a colleague working for the World University Service of Canada.

However, the next sentence gave a little more context and a pause for thought.

‘Dubai has fallen through as the Afghans can’t get visas for there but the Maldives government is prepared to accept them for a working visit.’

So what is GTC Scotland doing in connection to Afghanistan? Well, making a contribution to the development of its Initial Teacher Education (ITE) system, that’s what, through being part of a Canadian government financed scheme entitled the Teacher Certification and Accreditation of Teacher Training Institutions in Afghanistan (TCAP).

Which is why I recently spent four days in Malé, the capital of the Maldives, presenting on the GTC Scotland approach to the accreditation of ITE.

My fellow presenters were one from Canada and two from New Zealand; all very experienced academics who had worked extensively internationally and knew about accreditation systems from various parts of the world. The audience was 14 staff from the Afghan Ministry of Education, 10 male and four female. We also had the support of one Afghan technician and two translators, one male, one female.

And I had two days of leading the input to explain, debate and defend the Scottish approach to the accreditation of ITE.

Arriving a day early I was privileged to hear my Canadian and New Zealand colleagues give excellent presentations on the academic underpinnings of accreditation systems and key points about their place within the governance and quality assurance of education systems. This was really good to have heard before my presentations as it allowed me to give greater emphasis to some points and also to provide practical examples of issues that had been presented in a theoretical manner on the day I observed.

I began with some contextual background about Scottish education and GTC Scotland and its central role within the education system. The Afghans found the GTC Scotland role fascinating and were very clearly struck by the notion of an independent body carrying out the functions that GTC Scotland has. They were senior civil servants, and no matter what country they come from civil servants always see things through that governmental lens, so to have an independent body taking forward what they saw as government tasks was very thought provoking for them.

I explained how GTC Scotland’s Council is constituted with a majority of members being elected registered teachers, but also having places for nominated members and, finally (and very importantly), places for lay members. I explained about the need for GTC Scotland always to act in the public interest and stressed the difference between a professional regulatory body and a union. I explained the significance of GTC Scotland reporting to Parliament rather than to the Scottish Government. This last point is a subtlety for many in Scotland but the Afghans, as government officials, quickly understood the significance.

I told them about the powers of GTC Scotland to determine teaching qualifications and the programmes that lead to them. I stressed the Scottish Standards for teachers and the Guidelines for Programmes of ITE in Scotland and I explained our process of accreditation through which all Scottish ITE programmes must successfully pass in order to run. I elaborated how our accreditation panels are constituted and stressed the necessity of having independent external members as well as GTC Scotland Council members on the panels. I stressed the need to have absolute probity in the process with declarations of interest and the avoidance of conflicts of interest.

I explained at some length the need to have organisational mechanisms to ensure the processing of documents, making sure that practical and logistical arrangements work. We talked about the necessity of having a clearly identified Servicing Officer to act as a guide and adviser to the panel, and also acting as note taker and report writer.

I presented on the roles of those on accreditation panels and stressed the importance of the Chair’s position. We discussed collegiality and how to encourage openness from ITE providers so that the process was seen as rigorous but not punitive.

A lengthy section was reserved to how the decision-making process was completed. Should the programme be accredited or not? With or without conditions? With recommendations? What’s the difference between conditions and recommendations? The Afghans accepted that GTC Scotland has 50 years of history and experience on which to draw but they still found it difficult to accept that panel members could come to a consensus on a decision simply through discussion. They wanted (and are probably right to want at this early stage of the development of their processes) clear guidelines on scoring systems with overtly stated criteria on which a decision would be based.

They asked really insightful questions and were often several steps ahead of the presentation, jumping to the really key features of processes. They engaged extensively in debate with me and the other presenters. They engaged extensively in debate amongst themselves which was really gratifying to see as it suggested that my presentation was relevant to their system and its developments.

All in all it was two fascinating and really worthwhile days.

My final half day with them was a visit to the Maldives Qualifications Authority (MQA) where they met the Maldives Education Minister and heard about the role of the MQA: a mixture of SQA and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education here in Scotland. I found this really interesting – which probably says something sad about my own interests! Also of real interest to me was how the MQA, with permission, had made extensive use of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. Scottish educational influence indeed.

Now, for those of you picturing me lying on a sun kissed, desert island beach, let me tell you something about Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Malé is on an island less than three kilometres in length, an island which you can walk round in 45 minutes, with a population of 150,000!

Space is clearly at a premium so they simply build up on any available piece of land, with multi-storey buildings everywhere. There’s only so many roads you can have on an island that size but they still appear to have a lot of cars – and then there are the motorbikes. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes, and no quarter is given to pedestrians. You took your life in your hands every time you stepped off the pavement. (Indeed the Chief Executive of the MQA was only just back at work after being seriously injured having been knocked down by a motorbike, while he had been parking his!)

And can I just mention the weather which was in some ways remarkably like Scotland for most of the time I was there – low cloud and poor visibility, blowing a gale and punctuated by torrential downpours. But admittedly it was also 30 degrees … unlike the 4.5C it was when I returned to Edinburgh.

Am I over egging the weather pudding? Perhaps, because on my last day the sun did come out, and then it was far too warm. Typical curmudgeonly Scot.

And what about the Afghans? They were fascinating with some genuine cultural differences to contend with. They were smart folk with senior posts within the Afghan government. They had lived through really difficult times and yet they all believed in the power of education to improve things. In 2002 there were hardly any pupils in Afghan schools, and certainly not girls. The school system now has 13,000 schools with 9,000,000 pupils, although they admitted that that still doesn’t include many girls in remote areas. Afghanistan used to have four teacher training colleges and now it has 48. There are now 180,000 teachers in Afghanistan but the civil servants were open about admitting that over recent years the focus had been on quantity, while they now needed to begin to focus on quality, hence the desire to accredit teacher education programmes.

The male-female dynamics of the group were also fascinating with the four women civil servants deferring to their male counterparts in making points or asking questions. They were clearly valued colleagues but the culture was of the men speaking up first and then the women coming in later. Not quite what you would expect of Scottish civil servants – and certainly not of Scottish teachers.

That said, one of the women spoke good English and in conversation with her one morning I asked what they had done the previous evening. The women had gone to the cinema. And what had they seen. Well, obviously, the film of the moment – Spectre.

So, some cultural differences but also lots of things in common including a belief that education can make a difference, that the quality of teachers matters and that Initial Teacher Education has to provide the foundation for a teaching career. Was it worth my travelling a long way to make this input? That’s really a question for the Afghan audience but my perception of their interest levels and engagement was that it really was worthwhile, gave them food for thought and spread the word further about the success of Scottish education.

The Educational Value of Field Trips

59-global-learning-400x250The school field trip has a long history in American public education. For decades, students have piled into yellow buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as theaters, zoos, and historical sites. Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing field trips because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture. More-advantaged families may take their children to these cultural institutions outside of school hours, but less-advantaged students are less likely to have these experiences if schools do not provide them. With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.

Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline. Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours. For example, the Field Museum in Chicago at one time welcomed more than 300,000 students every year. Recently the number is below 200,000. Between 2002 and 2007, Cincinnati arts organizations saw a 30 percent decrease in student attendance. A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.

The decision to reduce culturally enriching field trips reflects a variety of factors. Financial pressures force schools to make difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources, and field trips are increasingly seen as an unnecessary frill. Greater focus on raising student performance on math and reading standardized tests may also lead schools to cut field trips. Some schools believe that student time would be better spent in the classroom preparing for the exams. When schools do organize field trips, they are increasingly choosing to take students on trips to reward them for working hard to improve their test scores rather than to provide cultural enrichment. Schools take students to amusement parks, sporting events, and movie theaters instead of to museums and historical sites. This shift from “enrichment” to “reward” field trips is reflected in a generational change among teachers about the purposes of these outings. In a 2012‒13 survey we conducted of nearly 500 Arkansas teachers, those who had been teaching for at least 15 years were significantly more likely to believe that the primary purpose of a field trip is to provide a learning opportunity, while more junior teachers were more likely to see the primary purpose as “enjoyment.”

If schools are de-emphasizing culturally enriching field trips, has anything been lost as a result? Surprisingly, we have relatively little rigorous evidence about how field trips affect students. The research presented here is the first large-scale randomized-control trial designed to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum.

We find that students learn quite a lot. In particular, enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.

Design of the Study and School Tours

The 2011 opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Northwest Arkansas created the opportunity for this study. Crystal Bridges is the first major art museum to be built in the United States in the last four decades, with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment in excess of $800 million. Portions of the museum’s endowment are devoted to covering all of the expenses associated with school tours. Crystal Bridges reimburses schools for the cost of buses, provides free admission and lunch, and even pays for the cost of substitute teachers to cover for teachers who accompany students on the tour.

Because the tour is completely free to schools, and because Crystal Bridges was built in an area that never previously had an art museum, there was high demand for school tours. Not all school groups could be accommodated right away. So our research team worked with the staff at Crystal Bridges to assign spots for school tours by lottery. During the first two semesters of the school tour program, the museum received 525 applications from school groups representing 38,347 students in kindergarten through grade 12. We created matched pairs among the applicant groups based on similarity in grade level and other demographic factors. An ideal and common matched pair would be adjacent grades in the same school. We then randomly ordered the matched pairs to determine scheduling prioritization. Within each pair, we randomly assigned which applicant would be in the treatment group and receive a tour that semester and which would be in the control group and have its tour deferred.

We administered surveys to 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools three weeks, on average, after the treatment group received its tour. The student surveys included multiple items assessing knowledge about art as well as measures of critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and sustained interest in visiting art museums. Some groups were surveyed as late as eight weeks after the tour, but it was not possible to collect data after longer periods because each control group was guaranteed a tour during the following semester as a reward for its cooperation. There is no indication that the results reported below faded for groups surveyed after longer periods.

We also assessed students’ critical-thinking skills by asking them to write a short essay in response to a painting that they had not previously seen. Finally, we collected a behavioral measure of interest in art consumption by providing all students with a coded coupon good for free family admission to a special exhibit at the museum to see whether the field trip increased the likelihood of students making future visits.

All results reported below are derived from regression models that control for student grade level and gender and make comparisons within each matched pair, while taking into account the fact that students in the matched pair of applicant groups are likely to be similar in ways that we are unable to observe. Standard validity tests confirmed that the survey items employed to generate the various scales used as outcomes measured the same underlying constructs.

The intervention we studied is a modest one. Students received a one-hour tour of the museum in which they typically viewed and discussed five paintings. Some students were free to roam the museum following their formal tour, but the entire experience usually involved less than half a day. Instructional materials were sent to teachers who went on a tour, but our survey of teachers suggests that these materials received relatively little attention, on average no more than an hour of total class time. The discussion of each painting during the tour was largely student-directed, with the museum educators facilitating the discourse and providing commentary beyond the names of the work and the artist and a brief description only when students requested it. This format is now the norm in school tours of art museums. The aversion to having museum educators provide information about works of art is motivated in part by progressive education theories and by a conviction among many in museum education that students retain very little factual information from their tours.


Recalling Tour Details. Our research suggests that students actually retain a great deal of factual information from their tours. Students who received a tour of the museum were able to recall details about the paintings they had seen at very high rates. For example, 88 percent of the students who saw the Eastman Johnson painting At the Camp—Spinning Yarns and Whittling knew when surveyed weeks later that the painting depicts abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied on slave labor. Similarly, 82 percent of those who saw Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter could recall that the painting emphasizes the importance of women entering the workforce during World War II. Among students who saw Thomas Hart Benton’s Ploughing It Under, 79 percent recollected that it is a depiction of a farmer destroying his crops as part of a Depression-era price support program. And 70 percent of the students who saw Romare Bearden’s Sacrifice could remember that it is part of the Harlem Renaissance art movement. Since there was no guarantee that these facts would be raised in student-directed discussions, and because students had no particular reason for remembering these details (there was no test or grade associated with the tours), it is impressive that they could recall historical and sociological information at such high rates.

These results suggest that art could be an important tool for effectively conveying traditional academic content, but this analysis cannot prove it. The control-group performance was hardly better than chance in identifying factual information about these paintings, but they never had the opportunity to learn the material. The high rate of recall of factual information by students who toured the museum demonstrates that the tours made an impression. The students could remember important details about what they saw and discussed.

Critical Thinking. Beyond recalling the details of their tour, did a visit to an art museum have a significant effect on students? Our study demonstrates that it did. For example, students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of Crystal Bridges later displayed demonstrably stronger ability to think critically about art than the control group.

During the first semester of the study, we showed all 3rd- through 12th-grade students a painting they had not previously seen, Bo Bartlett’s The Box. We then asked students to write short essays in response to two questions: What do you think is going on in this painting? And, what do you see that makes you think that? These are standard prompts used by museum educators to spark discussion during school tours.

We stripped the essays of all identifying information and had two coders rate the compositions using a seven-item rubric for measuring critical thinking that was developed by researchers at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The measure is based on the number of instances that students engaged in the following in their essays: observing, interpreting, evaluating, associating, problem finding, comparing, and flexible thinking. Our measure of critical thinking is the sum of the counts of these seven items. In total, our research team blindly scored 3,811 essays. For 750 of those essays, two researchers scored them independently. The scores they assigned to the same essay were very similar, demonstrating that we were able to measure critical thinking about art with a high degree of inter-coder reliability.

We express the impact of a school tour of Crystal Bridges on critical-thinking skills in terms of standard-deviation effect sizes. Overall, we find that students assigned by lottery to a tour of the museum improve their ability to think critically about art by 9 percent of a standard deviation relative to the control group. The benefit for disadvantaged groups is considerably larger (see Figure 1). Rural students, who live in towns with fewer than 10,000 people, experience an increase in critical-thinking skills of nearly one-third of a standard deviation. Students from high-poverty schools (those where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches) experience an 18 percent effect-size improvement in critical thinking about art, as do minority students.

A large amount of the gain in critical-thinking skills stems from an increase in the number of observations that students made in their essays. Students who went on a tour became more observant, noticing and describing more details in an image. Being observant and paying attention to detail is an important and highly useful skill that students learn when they study and discuss works of art. Additional research is required to determine if the gains in critical thinking when analyzing a work of art would transfer into improved critical thinking about other, non-art-related subjects.

Historical Empathy. Tours of art museums also affect students’ values. Visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas, peoples, places, and time periods. That broadening experience imparts greater appreciation and understanding. We see the effects in significantly higher historical empathy and tolerance measures among students randomly assigned to a school tour of Crystal Bridges.

Historical empathy is the ability to understand and appreciate what life was like for people who lived in a different time and place. This is a central purpose of teaching history, as it provides students with a clearer perspective about their own time and place. To measure historical empathy, we included three statements on the survey with which students could express their level of agreement or disagreement: 1) I have a good understanding of how early Americans thought and felt; 2) I can imagine what life was like for people 100 years ago; and 3) When looking at a painting that shows people, I try to imagine what those people are thinking. We combined these items into a scale measuring historical empathy.

Students who went on a tour of Crystal Bridges experience a 6 percent of a standard deviation increase in historical empathy. Among rural students, the benefit is much larger, a 15 percent of a standard deviation gain. We can illustrate this benefit by focusing on one of the items in the historical empathy scale. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “I have a good understanding of how early Americans thought and felt,” 70 percent of the treatment-group students express agreement compared to 66 percent of the control group. Among rural participants, 69 percent of the treatment-group students agree with this statement compared to 62 percent of the control group. The fact that Crystal Bridges features art from different periods in American history may have helped produce these gains in historical empathy.

Tolerance. To measure tolerance we included four statements on the survey to which students could express their level of agreement or disagreement: 1) People who disagree with my point of view bother me; 2) Artists whose work is critical of America should not be allowed to have their work shown in art museums; 3) I appreciate hearing views different from my own; and 4) I think people can have different opinions about the same thing. We combined these items into a scale measuring the general effect of the tour on tolerance.

Overall, receiving a school tour of an art museum increases student tolerance by 7 percent of a standard deviation. As with critical thinking, the benefits are much larger for students in disadvantaged groups. Rural students who visited Crystal Bridges experience a 13 percent of a standard deviation improvement in tolerance. For students at high-poverty schools, the benefit is 9 percent of a standard deviation.

The improvement in tolerance for students who went on a tour of Crystal Bridges can be illustrated by the responses to one of the items within the tolerance scale. When asked about the statement, “Artists whose work is critical of America should not be allowed to have their work shown in art museums,” 35 percent of the control-group students express agreement. But for students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of the art museum, only 32 percent agree with censoring art critical of America. Among rural students, 34 percent of the control group would censor art compared to 30 percent for the treatment group. In high-poverty schools, 37 percent of the control-group students would censor compared to 32 percent of the treatment-group students. These differences are not huge, but neither is the intervention. These changes represent the realistic improvement in tolerance that results from a half-day experience at an art museum.

Interest in Art Museums. Perhaps the most important outcome of a school tour is whether it cultivates an interest among students in returning to cultural institutions in the future. If visiting a museum helps improve critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and other outcomes not measured in this study, then those benefits would compound for students if they were more likely to frequent similar cultural institutions throughout their life. The direct effects of a single visit are necessarily modest and may not persist, but if school tours help students become regular museum visitors, they may enjoy a lifetime of enhanced critical thinking, tolerance, and historical empathy.

We measured how school tours of Crystal Bridges develop in students an interest in visiting art museums in two ways: with survey items and a behavioral measure. We included a series of items in the survey designed to gauge student interest:

• I plan to visit art museums when I am an adult.

• I would tell my friends they should visit an art museum.

• Trips to art museums are interesting.

• Trips to art museums are fun.

• Would your friend like to go to an art museum on a field trip?

• Would you like more museums in your community?

• How interested are you in visiting art museums?

• If your friends or family wanted to go to an art museum, how interested would you be in going?

Interest in visiting art museums among students who toured the museum is 8 percent of a standard deviation higher than that in the randomized control group. Among rural students, the increase is much larger: 22 percent of a standard deviation. Students at high-poverty schools score 11 percent of a standard deviation higher on the cultural consumer scale if they were randomly assigned to tour the museum. And minority students gain 10 percent of a standard deviation in their desire to be art consumers.

One of the eight items in the art consumer scale asked students to express the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “I would tell my friends they should visit an art museum.” For all students who received a tour, 70 percent agree with this statement, compared to 66 percent in the control group. Among rural participants, 73 percent of the treatment-group students agree versus 63 percent of the control group. In high-poverty schools, 74 percent would recommend art museums to their friends compared to 68 percent of the control group. And among minority students, 72 percent of those who received a tour would tell their friends to visit an art museum, relative to 67 percent of the control group. Students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are more likely to have positive feelings about visiting museums if they receive a school tour.

We also measured whether students are more likely to visit Crystal Bridges in the future if they received a school tour. All students who participated in the study during the first semester, including those who did not receive a tour, were provided with a coupon that gave them and their families free entry to a special exhibit at Crystal Bridges. The coupons were coded so that we could determine the applicant group to which students belonged. Students had as long as six months after receipt of the coupon to use it.

We collected all redeemed coupons and were able to calculate how many adults and youths were admitted. Though students in the treatment group received 49 percent of all coupons that were distributed, 58 percent of the people admitted to the special exhibit with those coupons came from the treatment group. In other words, the families of students who received a tour were 18 percent more likely to return to the museum than we would expect if their rate of coupon use was the same as their share of distributed coupons.

This is particularly impressive given that the treatment-group students had recently visited the museum. Their desire to visit a museum might have been satiated, while the control group might have been curious to visit Crystal Bridges for the first time. Despite having recently been to the museum, students who received a school tour came back at higher rates. Receiving a school tour cultivates a taste for visiting art museums, and perhaps for sharing the experience with others.

Disadvantaged Students

One consistent pattern in our results is that the benefits of a school tour are generally much larger for students from less-advantaged backgrounds. Students from rural areas and high-poverty schools, as well as minority students, typically show gains that are two to three times larger than those of the total sample. Disadvantaged students assigned by lottery to receive a school tour of an art museum make exceptionally large gains in critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance, and becoming art consumers.

It appears that the less prior exposure to culturally enriching experiences students have, the larger the benefit of receiving a school tour of a museum. We have some direct measures to support this explanation. To isolate the effect of the first time visiting the museum, we truncated our sample to include only control-group students who had never visited Crystal Bridges and treatment-group students who had visited for the first time during their tour. The effect for this first visit is roughly twice as large as that for the overall sample, just as it is for disadvantaged students.

In addition, we administered a different version of our survey to students in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Very young students are less likely to have had previous exposure to culturally enriching experiences. Very young students make exceptionally large improvements in the observed outcomes, just like disadvantaged students and first-time visitors.

When we examine effects for subgroups of advantaged students, we typically find much smaller or null effects. Students from large towns and low-poverty schools experience few significant gains from their school tour of an art museum. If schools do not provide culturally enriching experiences for these students, their families are likely to have the inclination and ability to provide those experiences on their own. But the families of disadvantaged students are less likely to substitute their own efforts when schools do not offer culturally enriching experiences. Disadvantaged students need their schools to take them on enriching field trips if they are likely to have these experiences at all.

Policy Implications

School field trips to cultural institutions have notable benefits. Students randomly assigned to receive a school tour of an art museum experience improvements in their knowledge of and ability to think critically about art, display stronger historical empathy, develop higher tolerance, and are more likely to visit such cultural institutions as art museums in the future. If schools cut field trips or switch to “reward” trips that visit less-enriching destinations, then these important educational opportunities are lost. It is particularly important that schools serving disadvantaged students provide culturally enriching field trip experiences.

This first-ever, large-scale, random-assignment experiment of the effects of school tours of an art museum should help inform the thinking of school administrators, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists. Policymakers should consider these results when deciding whether schools have sufficient resources and appropriate policy guidance to take their students on tours of cultural institutions. School administrators should give thought to these results when deciding whether to use their resources and time for these tours. And philanthropists should weigh these results when deciding whether to build and maintain these cultural institutions with quality educational programs. We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education; we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments. The school field trip is an important tool for meeting this goal.

Scotland to host International Teaching Summit

Scotland has been chosen to host an International Summit on the Teaching Profession, an event that brings together education ministers, teacher trade unions and education leaders from across the world to share global best practice in education.

The news was announced at the close of this year’s summit in New Zealand, held on 28 and 29 March. Canada, Germany and Hong Kong have also been selected to host the event, with the summit in Scotland provisionally scheduled for 2018.

A Scottish delegation attended this year’s summit in Wellington, led by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell. The delegation included Ken Muir, Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, and Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

Mr Russell, who made a joint presentation with Mr Flanagan to the summit, said:

“The past two days in Wellington have brought together Education Ministers, teacher trade unions and education representatives, from across the globe, and facilitated discussions on how best, our teacher workforces can be supported in delivering education for children and young people.

“The collaborative approach we take in Scotland in delivering education has attracted great interest and enabled a number of productive bi-laterals with Education Ministers from around the world.

“The considerable interest in what we do made our invitation to come to Scotland all the more powerful and I am delighted that the OECD has accepted our bid.”

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the EIS, said:

“The key feature of these particular summits is that they focus on joint trade unions and government discussions. This allows teacher trade unions to present a united front to represent their members, on the issues that face them in the classroom every day. Given the emphasis on OECD PISA this is a significant debate that teacher trade unions must be involved in, at this international level.”

The Benefits of Joining a Management Training Programme

The core principles of management are quite simple. Regardless of what you are managing, the main objective is always the same: to make the best use of the resources available in order to achieve the long-term aims and short term milestones on time. Today, managers perform a variety of different duties in the corporate environment. Staff managers are responsible for keeping tabs on employees and managing different teams. Procurement managers are responsible for making sure that substantial inventory is available at all times, in order to ensure that the company’s production processes aren’t hindered.

Companies generally hire managers in order to lead teams and get work done. Over the past couple of centuries, hundreds of different management theories have been published. However, that doesn’t mean that the concept of management was introduced in the past two hundred years. In fact, scholars have been writing about the importance of management for thousands of years. Back in the days of ancient Greece, many distinguished scholars wrote about the qualities to look for in leaders and managers.

However, the principles of management have changed drastically since then. Today, managers need to be quick and decisive, and must maintain a proactive approach. Joining a management training programme is one of the best things that you can do if you want to excel in your career and wish to become better at your job. Here are just some of the many benefits that you get from joining a training programme.

Expert Insight into Modern Management Principles

Gone are the days when people used to rely on the theories put forth by Frederick Taylor or Herzberg. Nowadays, companies want to hire people who are able to make decisions quickly. The value of time has become immensely important.

After the market crash of 2008, many people ended up losing their jobs. Those who managed to retain theirs were working on a knife’s edge. Even a small mistake could get them kicked out. However, if you have taken a course on management principles, you could apply these concepts in your work life and get better results. These courses are taught by professional managers who have worked in the industry for many years. They will be able to offer expert advice that you won’t find in textbooks.

Better Job Offers

If you have completed a course from a reputable institute, your chances of finding a decent job will increase dramatically. It’s tough to find a job as it is these days. There’s a lot of stiff competition that managers face. If you have completed a course from a reputable institute in London, you can just list it on your resume and get a better job offer.


One of the biggest advantages that you get from taking a course on management is the number of contacts that you will make. You can exchange business cards with other participants. It is going to do wonders for you in your career as you climb up the corporate ladder.

Can you imagine a World’s Fair in 100 years’ time? Will we be able to celebrate our planet and our global success in securing an equitable future for all?

In 2016 we’re faced with significant global issues including mass migration and climate change (particularly at the forefront of people’s minds following the recent UN climate agreement in Paris). The United Nations was created by world leaders at the end of the Second World War as a way of systematically and collectively addressing the global issues of the time – international peace and security, and managing the mass relocation of people and homelessness. Today, however, despite the best of efforts, the world and the planet remain at risk.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described climate change as a “quintessentially global issue”. It is clearly a challenge that no country can meet on its own. So how are we going to deal with this global issue? Where does education in the 21st century fit in and how can it positively contribute?

According to Professor Charles Hopkins, who recently visited Scotland and GTC Scotland in his role as UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education, the UN remains the best tool we’ve got. When speaking at a University of Edinburgh open lecture, he described the UN as a meeting place, where nations can come together in an effort to deal with big global issues. Back in 1985, Professor Hopkins was tasked, along with others, to come up with a global development model that would address the desire of 80 per cent of the world’s population “to live like Europeans and North Americans” and simultaneously the desire of 20 per cent of the worlds’ population (those in the Americas and Europe) for environmental protection – no easy task.

He explained that the pragmatic decision was, “we’ll go with development, but it should be development that is sustainable”. This is the compromise that remains today. Embedded in this decision are so many important questions and in particular – “sustaining what and for whom?”

Positive action and results have followed out of this initial piece of work. First there was Agenda 21: the first work programme established by the UN (in 1992) to advance sustainable development. This was followed by The Millennium Development Goals and in September last year the world agreed on a new set of goals – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As a nation, Scotland was one of the first countries to offer public support for this universal agenda for sustainable development for the next 15 years.

What is the Role of Education?

There is no doubt that education has a crucial role to play in the development of future generations and leaders in order that they have the skills and confidence to develop innovative solutions for a better future.

Goal 4 of the SDGs is Quality Education, with the goal being to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.”

But it’s not just about ensuring access to education. Target 4:7 reads: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”. There are strong echoes of GTC Scotland’s Professional Values here (embedded in the Professional Standards), of which respect, social justice and learning for sustainability sit front and centre. It is the role of schools and teachers to make these values live every day.

The challenge

“Education for sustainable development” is a reorienting of education to meet sustainable outcomes, not about adding a new subject or area to the Curriculum. In reality, it demands the repurposing of the world’s entire education system. Hopkins explained: “After Rio in 1992, education for sustainable development was “considered” but people didn’t understand what it was and saw it as something for someone else. We started working on guilt: ‘If this is the world we’re giving young people then what is our responsibility as education leaders? That worked a bit. But now what we’re finding is that it is a part of education quality. How can you have a quality education if you’re not addressing [sustainability]?”

Professor Peter Higgins, University of Edinburgh, who also spoke at the open lecture, explained that in Scotland, we instead use the phrase “Learning for Sustainability” to describe our particular approach. “It is more than Education for Sustainable Development; it includes global citizenship and outdoor learning too”. He explained that Learning for Sustainability has become a feature of Scottish Government policy over the last 10 years. Scotland is recognised internationally for being forward-thinking and proactive in this area. And in terms of the work of GTC Scotland, Learning for Sustainability is embedded throughout the Professional Standards at all levels. However, although much has been done to embed Learning for Sustainability within the Scottish education system, there is more to do.

So what next? What else can we do? This is what GTC Scotland Chief Executive Ken Muir asked Charles Hopkins. His answer: “Re-examine the purpose of education'”. Ask the fundamental question, “Why are we educating people?” And, if it’s not for a sustainable future, ask what is it for?”

World Teachers’ Day – empowering teachers, building sustainable societies


In the busyness of our day-to-day lives we don’t always have time to sit back and put things in perspective. The minutiae of everyday living overwhelms the big picture. But today I’d like us all to take the time to stop and think about that big picture.

Education and good teachers in particular are understood to be the key to creating sustainable societies, fit for the future. Each and every one of us has a role to play in preparing young people for a future in which there are no certainties.

It is important to remember the central role that teachers play in society at a time when negative views about education are presented in the press on a regular basis. Negativity can de-motivate us, so let’s remember today the exceptional work that is going on in schools and colleges across Scotland and beyond. The complexity of teaching is not something that is readily understood by those outwith the profession. The job of a teacher is challenging, without a doubt, but it’s hugely rewarding. The hard work and dedication of the profession to deliver high-quality learning and teaching, and make a difference to the lives of young people, day in day out, is not always recognised but it cannot be underestimated.

World Teachers’ Day is also a time to look beyond education in Scotland and think about teachers in other parts of the world. What we may consider to be basic necessities – electricity, technology, science equipment, textbooks – are lacking in many classrooms. However, the differences between our own education system and that of other countries, of course, extends well beyond resources. It is important to think about what we can learn from our colleagues in other countries, and what we have to offer them.

Despite the undoubted challenges of being a teacher today, I am always enthused by the passion displayed by our profession. This is a passion that we need to share and pass on to the next generation. Worldwide it is estimated there is a need to recruit 25.8 million school teachers if every child is to receive a primary education by 2030. The Scottish Government has launched a recruitment drive to encourage more people into the profession. We need to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in the profession; teachers who match up to the professional standards set out by GTC Scotland and who accept regulation as a key element of being a professional. We owe it to the students of the future, as well as future society, to do all we can to ensure that teaching is seen as an attractive and rewarding lifelong career.

However, not only do we need to recruit and retain more teachers, we need to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills they need to do their job properly, and that they are supported in their career-long development. Promoting professional learning, developing enquiring professionals and engaging in a meaningful way in Professional Update are all key elements of the infrastructure designed to do these things. All of us have an important role to play in building a stronger, self-sustaining profession that supports lifelong learning and teaching.

World Teachers’ Day – a time to say thank you

The theme for this year’s World Teachers’ day, ‘Invest in the future, invest in teachers’, aptly recognises the important role teachers, lecturers and other educational professionals play in society, our joint futures and the wider world in which we live.

Teachers have the enormous responsibility of educating a future generation who will go on to hold roles in all corners of Scottish society. And teachers are responsible for educating global citizens, who will play an active and important part in a globalised multicultural society. The critical role of teachers to prepare young people for this challenge in a rapidly changing world cannot be underestimated. It is a demanding and complex job; something that is not always fully appreciated.

Today is about recognising this and thanking teachers all over the world for the work they do in educating and improving the life chances of our children and young people.

World Teachers’ Day is also a time to look beyond education in Scotland and think about what life is like for teachers in other parts of the world. Think of what we have that others do not; for example, what we may consider to be basic necessities – electricity, resources, classroom facilities. But also think about what we can learn from our colleagues in other countries.

We recognise that teachers and young people face ever-changing demands on them, and we applaud teachers for rising to these challenges and delivering high-quality outcomes for their learners. We also recognise that some teachers still have concerns about the recently launched Professional Update process. We want to reassure teachers that Professional Update is about supporting them in their Professional Learning – it is an investment in our teachers, in order that they can deliver well for our current and future learners.

On behalf of everyone at GTCS, I send thanks to teachers around the world for their invaluable work and express our commitment to continuing to support and invest in the teaching profession in Scotland.

Scots teachers take learning global in Rwanda

It won’t be their usual summer break, and it’ll be a whole new classroom. The teaching will be different and their home life filled with cultural experiences and challenges. However, there will be bags of inspiration, enthusiasm, similarities and a warm welcome when fifteen Scottish teachers leave their classrooms behind on the last day of term and head to Rwanda to live and work for four weeks.

Fifteen teachers from the Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus area are taking part in the Global Learning Partnerships (GLP) programme, a learning opportunity that will greatly improve and support the long-term development of global education within their schools and enhance global citizenship values in young people.

The programme is run by The Wood Foundation (TWF), the philanthropic charity created by Sir Ian Wood and family in 2007. The programme falls under the ‘Developing Young People in Scotland’ category with the main focus on global citizenship. Other areas focused on by TWF in this category are youth philanthropy, childhood poverty, and positive pathways for young people leaving full-time education.

The GLP experience enriches practitioners while interweaving the effects of globalisation with Learning for Sustainability, providing children in Scotland with a unique and fascinating insight into another culture through the teachers’ experience of working and living in the East-African communities.

While overseas, the practitioners will also provide mentor support to enhance and improve the development of their East-African counterparts. Fully immersing themselves in the lifestyle aims to boost the teachers’ confidence, knowledge and understanding of teaching for Learning for Sustainability, returning to nurture socially responsible, outward looking pupils.

The fifteen teachers heading to Rwanda this summer will be the second cohort of teachers visiting Rwanda through the GLP programme after it was established in 2013, with the first group of teachers taking part in summer 2014.

Over the next few months Teaching Scotland will be following two teachers as they travel to Rwanda during the summer holidays as part of the GLP programme.

International showcase for Scottish education

Education Secretary leads delegation to New Zealand in partnership with Trade Unions
Scotland will lead a UK delegation to the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, organised by the OECD and Education International, being held in Wellington, New Zealand on March 28 and 29.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell and Larry Flanagan of The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will make a joint address to the annual summit which brings together education ministers, national teacher trade union leaders from 13 states including the USA, Germany, Japan, Denmark and Sweden.

Ken Muir, Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) will also be part of the delegation which will represent the UK and highlight Scotland’s key educational strengths while identifying best practices worldwide that will strengthen the teaching profession and raise student achievement.

Mr Russell said:

“The key priorities of the Summit align with our own priorities for Scottish education: breaking the link between poverty and attainment, investing in teacher excellence and a curriculum focussed on pupils’ experiences to help them achieve success.

“Scotland’s teachers are amongst the best in the world. This is an opportunity to promote the excellence of our workforce and its critical role in helping our children and young people to achieve success while learning from other delegations including other top performing states.

Mr Flanagan commented:

“The International Summit on the Teaching Profession is an important event which will bring together teacher trade unions and education policy makers from across the globe. The summit provides an important opportunity for countries to work together to address the many challenges facing education around the world and to share their knowledge and expertise.

“It is significant that each delegation will be comprised of both teacher representatives and government Ministers; in Scotland we have a strong political consensus around Education and the summit will allow us to highlight the importance of constructive dialogue and partnership working in ensuring high-quality education provision. The EIS, together with kindred teacher representatives, will play a full and active role as part of the Scottish delegation alongside Scottish Government, led by the Cabinet Secretary.”

Mr Muir added:

“I am honoured to be part of this education delegation. GTCS already has strong links with the New Zealand Teachers Council and we have shared regulatory best practice over the years. I look forward to providing the conference with information about the on-going work of GTCS including the scheme of Professional Update which launches in August and our revised Professional Standards which have already generated much interest from overseas.

“We know Scottish education and the close cooperation amongst all parties involved is highly regarded abroad, but there is much we can learn from other countries and it will be interesting and useful to engage in this two-way communication of ideas.”

The Summit is jointly organised by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Education International.