Educating for Global Citizenship: What do we know? What can we show? Where are we going?

By Eric Hartman

A student entered my office and shared that she broke down in tears at the shopping mall. The tears flowed because she connected with children in Bolivia, she briefly made a difference in their lives, and every day since she returned home she wanted to do something to continue to make a difference. But she had no idea where to start. In the language of the service-learning community, she felt profound values and commitment shifts but she lacked the knowledge, skills, and efficacy to make a global difference. I wondered if it was possible to make that difference – and I wondered what precisely universities intended when they claimed to “create global citizens” and “educate for global citizenship.” Thus my dissertation focused on:

    • What is global citizenship?
    • How might we educate for it?
    • How might we know whether we are succeeding?

I came at this work with a service-learning background, and I was working at the time at the nexus of a nonprofit-university partnership that encouraged global service-learning. The focus therefore became education for global citizenship through global service-learning. I proceeded in several stages, though they were often simultaneous:

  1. I adapted domestic civic engagement measures (Myers-Lipton, 1998) to the global context and employed a pre- / post- on global service-learning students to see whether they were increasing in global civic engagement, efficacy, and awareness in a manner that paralleled domestic students’ experiences. They were not.
  2. I dove into the theoretical articulations of global citizenship to better understand that literature (Appiah, 2006; Carter, 2001; Delanty, 2000; Dower and Williams, 2002; Falk, 2000; Heater, 2002; Held, 2002; Nussbaum, 1996, 1997; Singer 2002).
  3. I conducted interviews with people who identify as global citizens to develop an en vivo sense of how global citizens define themselves.
  4. I researched global civil society in theory and practice, better understanding the role it must play in any conception of agency that transcends the bordered state (Keane, 2003; Cohen and Arato, 2004; Falk, 2002).
  5. Drawing on the reflective practice suggested in the service-learning literature (Eyler and Giles, 1999), and working collaboratively with several colleagues (now co-authors), we developed a six-credit short-term immersion course model that integrates 3 credits of conventional academic study with 3 additional credits of systematic, deliberate, reflective learning about community-driven service, intercultural understanding, and global citizenship.
  6. We trained faculty members at a partner institution on integrating that pedagogy and course model. The faculty members led summer courses to the same destinations as had been the case in #1 above.
  7. I again examined pre- and post- civic engagement scores. This time students showed statistically significant positive movement on self-reported global civic efficacy and awareness.

The scales to which they responded:

The Global Awareness and Efficacy Scale, which had a Cronbach Alpha of .83 (indicating the prompts measure similar things; statistically speaking, the prompts ‘hang together’ well), consisted of the following items, while possible responses included strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, or strongly disagree:

  • I identify with being part of a global community.
  • I understand how actions in my local community may affect others around the world.
  • I am aware of actions I can take to improve the global community.
  • I feel I have the ability to make a difference in the global community.
  • I will try to find a way to make a positive difference in the community.

The Global Civic Engagement Scale, which had a Cronbach Alpha of .81, consisted of the following items after the prompt: “How often do you/ How often do you plan to,” with possible responses including never, not very often, sometimes, very often, and always.

  • Write or email newspapers or organizations to voice your views on an issue.
  • Stay updated on international news.
  • Vote.
  • Learn as much as possible about candidates or ballot questions before voting.
  • Discuss international issues with family members or friends.

A colleague recently asked me why this was never published. That is an excellent question. I did submit it once and received a suggestion to revise. (The dissertation is available in full online). And then, as I directed a growing nonprofit organization that was training faculty on this pedagogy and engaging in community-driven development around the world, I forgot all about it. I’ve written other, highly related pieces since then, which I’m going to share a bit about below. Now that I’m a full-time faculty member, I’m also going to resubmit this year. In any case, highly related piece #1 is a chapter recently co-authored with Richard Kiely. It moves further to integrate critical perspectives and student voice in a conception of global engagement. First we review the literature to demonstrate:

(1) citizenship theorizing in service-learning is premised on state-centric assumptions; (2) global citizenship conceptualizations advanced to date have been nonexistent or insufficient; (3) global service-learning must acknowledge its position in the frequently negative history of international development; (4) there is a deliberate effort within service-learning to move toward critical service-learning; (5) juxtaposing service-learning and neoliberalism calls attention to the question of ethical global engagement in the context of decreasing state and increasing market power; and (6) service-learning is at its core continuously reflective, questioning, and therefore antifoundational (Butin, 2007; Hartman, 2008; Kiely & Hartman, 2007). Additionally, several compelling critiques of programmatically and methodologically weak versions of international service-learning have emerged from students (Zemach-Bersin, 2008), faculty (Madsen-Camacho, 2004), and development workers-turned bloggers (Holligurl, 2008), explicitly targeting imbalances of power and privilege in global service-learning programming.

We then, “point explicitly to a weakness attributable to the global service-learning field (and much of the academy) as a whole: conceptualizations have been foisted down from above, rather than developed through grounded theory, ethnography, and practice (Crabtree, 2008; Hartman, 2008; Kiely, 2010; Plater et al, 2009). As a matter of theory and practice, community service-learning, community-university engagement, and popular educational models explicitly value knowledge developed through interaction and dialogue.”

We therefore,

“draw on data from three distinct sources (Kiely & Hartman, 2004; 2007, Hartman, 2008). We have one set of semi-structured, ongoing, qualitative interviews conducted with a set of students who self-initiated a service-learning partnership between a Tanzanian community and a large Research 1 University in the American South. Second, we have a set of semi-structured interviews conducted with a group of students representing a large Research 1 University in the Northeast following their participation in a global service-learning course in Bolivia. Finally, we draw on a multi-methods study of global service-learning programming with more than 160 students in diverse courses at diverse locations (Kiely & Hartman, 2004; 2007).”

Our efforts lead to an articulation of critical global engagement:

Critical global engagement takes as a contingent yet firmly held truth that all humans are equally deserving of common dignity. Critical global engagement recognizes the vast diversity of truth systems that exist in the world, and the possibility – indeed the certainty – that we will continue to more deeply understand and revise our sense of what it means to be fully human. Critical globally-engaged pioneers (we borrow this terminology from Richard Falk (2000), who recognizes global citizens as being on a journey to an as-yet-unimagined tomorrow) understand the arrogance involved in ‘global thinking’ (Esteva & Prakash, 1997) and therefore approach knowledge and action with deep humility. As pioneers committed to the notion of equal human dignity, however, they will move to action in ways consistent with affirmative postmodernists (Yappa, 1996), who recognize possibility for just action in specific situations and commitments.

The entirety of the chapter, quoted at length above, will be available in: Hartman, E. and Kiely, R. (2013). Interrogating Global Citizenship. In M. Johnson and P. M. Green (Eds.), Crossing boundaries: Tension and transformation in international service-learning. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing.

The book project, nearing completion, will integrate the insights mentioned here as well as Richard’s considerable work with adult learning theory, intercultural learning, and our collective work with our colleagues Jessica Friedrichs and Christopher Boettcher on reflective practice, integrating learning outcomes, community-driven service and development, and – in a phrase – critically reflective global service-learning practice.


Eric Hartman is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Global Studies at Providence College. He is  the editor of this site and lead author for Building a Better World: The Pedagogy and Practice of Global Service-Learning. He has taught service-learning courses or led co-curricular programs in Bolivia, Ghana, Jamaica, The Navajo Nation, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Peru, and Tanzania. He is currently focusing on community partnerships in Providence, RI.    


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Carter, A. (2001). The Politcal Theory of Global Citizenship. New York: Routledge.

Crabtree, R. (2008). Theoretical foundations for international service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service, 15(1), 18-36.

Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. United States of America: Cornell University Press.

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Kiely, R. (2004a). A chameleon with a complex: Searching for transformation in international service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 10 (2), 5-20. 

Kiely, R. (2004b). A Transformative Model for Service-Learning: A Longitudinal Case Study. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, 12 (1).

Kiely, R. (2005). Transformative international service-learning.  Academic Exchange Quarterly, 9(1), 275-281.

Madsen-Camacho, Michelle. (2004). “Power and Privilege: Community Service Learning in Tijuana” Michigan Journal of Community-Service-Learning, 10(3): 31-42.

Mitchell, T. (2008). Traditional vs. critical service-learning: engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning, vol 14, no 2, 50 – 65.

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One Response to Educating for Global Citizenship: What do we know? What can we show? Where are we going?

  1. Eric Hartman says:

    I should add that a doctoral student just directed me to an excellent global citizenship scale developed in 2010 by Morais and Ogden. Their article appears here in The Journal of Studies in International Education:,%20GCS.pdf. I recommend the article. It’s very thoughtful.

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