Integrate International Knowledge and Skills into Curriculum and Assessment

Students at an Asia Society International Studies School. Photo: Eric O'Connell

A school’s curriculum defines what students are expected to learn. As such, it is the primary vehicle through which international knowledge and skills can be integrated into students’ learning. Although many people associate international curricular content solely with social studies or world languages, international knowledge and skills can be integrated into every curriculum area, from math and language arts to visual arts and science. This special edition on curriculum provides examples of how international content can be integrated across the curriculum. These examples, as well as those included in our guidebook for secondary schools, Going Global: Preparing Our Students for an Interconnected World, demonstrate that the variety of approaches available and show that teaching and learning about the world is within reach of every type of school. Our website provides expanded articles and curricular resources for all grade levels.  

To improve student learning, this broadened curriculum content needs to be married to the best practices in instruction. And, indeed, certain instructional features are common across all curriculum areas in an exemplary, globally-focused school. These include: motivating students through engaging, relevant content; combining a focus on deep content knowledge with reasoning skills and analysis of multiple perspectives; exploring cultural universals and common themes as well as deepening appreciation of cultural differences and diversity; demonstrating interconnectedness--connecting the local to the global and the past to the future; using purposeful inquiry into large questions; using primary sources from the United States and other countries; emphasizing interaction with people in other parts of the world as part and parcel of the learning process; and placing strong value on the ability to communicate across cultures and in languages other than English.

Assessment is also an essential element to consider when internationalizing a school’s curriculum and culture. The importance of standardized tests as a source of data on student achievement as well as an accountability measure cannot be underestimated, but these assessments need to be seen as the “floor” of achievement aspirations for students, rather than the “ceiling.” As schools move toward engaging students with global content and developing learning experiences in which students study global challenges, there is a need to develop assessments of learning for tasks, products, and outcomes not measurable by traditional standardized tests. One example is the work Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network is conducting with the Stanford School Redesign Network and Envisions Schools, a charter school organization. A set of rubrics have been designed for each academic content area to outline standards of “college ready” student work and the knowledge, skills, and dispositions representing global competence. These rubrics are now being piloted as part of a graduation portfolio system and also drive the instructional planning of the ISSN schools to assure that students are participating in appropriate learning experiences. Schools might consider using a graduate profile (see ours), and then create a portfolio of measures, including but not limited to standardized test scores, for students to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions outlined in the graduate profile.

Want to learn more? See our guidebook for middle and high schools and their districts, Going Global: Preparing Our Students for an Interconnected World.