School Leadership for Quality Global Learning


This paper introduces a project, School Leadership for Quality Global Learning, which focuses on the links between leadership at different levels within educational institutions and quality global learning. The paper outlines briefly the changing societal context within which education is operating currently and speculates about the future context before exploring some key ideas, issues and strategies by reporting on a workshop involving some 25 student teachers. Building on an explanation of quality global learning the paper seeks to illustrate several of its key principles through discussing the workshop and its outcomes.

The workshop was designed to challenge the student teachers' thinking about leadership in an increasingly globalised society and about how the education system should respond and the implications for how people learn and how educational institutions are organised. It also raised questions about the purposes of schools and the role of learning and educational leadership. Following introductory activities that allowed the participants to share their initial ideas about the notion of globalisation and, therefore, raised their overall awareness, the student teachers used a 'World Cafe activity' to investigate in greater depth the implications for education of a globalised context. Two key areas were the focus of their in-depth discussions; the potential for individuals to be overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the challenges faced by society and the nature of difference and commonality that has always been a feature of society. In the final phase of the workshop, the participants synthesised their thinking by considering the implications of their ideas for both learners and educational leaders.

The workshop demonstrated that the student teachers welcomed the opportunity to engage with these issues, but that they had previously given little thought to how such issues may impact on their learners. Further, it would appear that few considered their roles in school beyond that of 'teachers', but would be reflecting how the workshop could influence their own classroom practice as both teachers and leaders. The workshop left some of the student teachers frustrated; for example, in wanting to explore further the implications of their debates for the actual curriculum they teach and how they could to teach it. The session left the workshop leaders with a number of challenges as well as some element of frustration in that the main outcome was, in reality, an agenda and motivation to do considerable follow-up work.


This paper asserts that the increasingly globalised nature of present day society has significant implications for education - as it should be experienced, provided and led. For example, Reid and O'Donoghue (2006:565) argued that contemporary changes in young people's capacity to manage, process and interpret information alone means that a reassessment of all aspects of education is necessary and went on to refer to Kress's call for 'education for instability' in an 'age of uncertainty' in which:

" education for the stabilities of well-defined citizenship or participation in stable economies must be replaced by education for creativity, innovativeness, adaptability, ease with difference and comfortableness with change."  (Kress cited in Reid and O'Donoghue, 2006:560)

Educational structures and experiences are required that provide learners, teachers and leaders with the coherence and confidence to explore key concepts relating to the complexity of change. All those involved in education need to understand the commonality that exists between individuals and groups in different locations and situations, and they also need to recognise the uncertainty, even confusion, that exists surrounding what is learned and taught. These Seven Cs echo Kress's comments, whilst also relating to Heilman's Seven Capabilities for Global Citizenship (2008) - curiosity, compassion, critically, collaboration, creativity, courage and commitment.

Thus, one challenge is to provide an educational experience that recognises that learners have a role to play in their own education as well as providing opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions required if they are to survive and thrive in, and contribute to, society (Serf, 2008). The challenge raises questions about the purposes of school, about the role of learners and learning and about how schools be led. It is a premise of this paper that global learning offers a valid response to this challenge. Global learning is about meeting the educational needs of learners in an increasingly globalised society, helping them to see themselves as global citizens; helping them to have a deeper knowledge and understanding of inter-dependence; and to have opportunities to participate in their education, such as shaping the curriculum they experience. Quality global learning provides a clear focus for planning, leading and experiencing education, whilst ensuring that participants engage with the complexity of contemporary issues and the dynamic of change. Global learning has "given new energy to challenging assumptions about 'global' and 'local' and that the 'global' is often presented as if it is some other place. A key aspect of global learning is that the global is here too and that if we seek to build better understanding we need to appreciate the commonality of the human experience as a local scale here and elsewhere in the world." (Tide~, 2008).

This paper describes and illustrates one element of a project that focuses on the links between leadership at different levels within educational institutions and quality global learning, and is one aspect of a joint project between the School of Education, Wolverhampton University, Tide~ global learning and Julie Wooldridge (Independent Educational Consultant) that aims to examine the nature and purpose of education in an increasingly globalising society.

The project has a number of aspects, including that of employing workshops to provide participants, who may have relatively limited experience of engaging with issues related to learning in an increasingly globalising society, with opportunities to investigate the implications for learners, teachers and educational leaders of how education may respond to the demands of a changing and unpredictable future.

This paper draws on one workshop to illustrate some of the strategies employed, some of the debates generated and some of the challenges facing the project team.


This workshop with student teachers was intended to challenge participants' thinking about leadership in a contemporary context and to relate their ideas to current documentation such as QCA's The global dimension in action and the Sustainable Schools framework. The workshop, which lasted two hours, provided opportunities for the student teachers to explore how the education system should respond to an increasingly globalising society and the implications for how people learn and how educational institutions are organised. It also raised questions about the purposes of schools and the role of learning and educational leadership.

The workshop was designed to raise participants' initial awareness of the impact of globalisation on society (today and in the future) and support them in exploring in more depth the dissonance that exists in at least two key areas related to education in the 21st century:

The possibility that learners, regardless of age, may be overwhelmed by the challenge that increasing globalisation presents to society and the extent to information and perceived knowledge may be valued and 'believed'.

The nature of difference and commonality that has always been a feature of society.


To raise participants' awareness of globalisation and provide the opportunity for an preliminary exploration of what this may involve, working in four groups of five or six, the participants were asked to examine 10 photographs that had been selected by the project team because they raised issues about the process of globalisation. The participants were asked to select one of the photo's (by sticking a Post-It with their name on 'their' photo) that raised an important issue for them about the nature of globalised society. The participants were asked to discuss their choices within their groups before feeding back to the whole cohort on one of the photo's selected by their group. All of the groups agreed that it was not an easy task to identify one photo', but a number of themes emerged from the feedback. For example, two of the groups stated that they had rejected what they saw as 'stereotypical images' of globalisation (satellite dishes and mobile 'phones); one selected a photo' of a London street demonstration against the war in Iraq, whilst another opted for an image of a car production line. Both groups pointed out that either of the two photo's could have been taken in a number of locations across the world.

One group, however, refused to identify one single photo', arguing that "It all depends on what you mean by globalisation". This allowed the workshop leaders to state explicitly the aims of the activity i.e. to introduce the breadth of the agenda in an accessible way without using a great deal of time and to gain some awareness of their existing knowledge, experiences and attitudes towards the topic.

The second activity required the student teachers to consider what their children's world would look like in 45 years time. Again working in small group, they were asked to use Figure 1: A Wheel of Change to record their ideas about six inter-related themes - the environment, the economy, technology, society, quality of life and who decides? (political decision-making).

Figure 1: A Wheel of Change [download]

Eaves-dropping on their discussions, listening to their brief feedback to the whole group and reading their 'completed' wheels, one feature stuck the workshop leaders; the degree of pessimism that characterised their visions of the future. The vast majority of their written and spoken comments painted a very depressing image of the world in 45 years time. For example, society was characterised as 'greedy', 'lazy', 'crime-ridden' and 'violent'; the environment was 'less green', 'more polluted', and 'more industrialised'; the economy will be subject to the 'usual cycles' and the "poor will be very poor, the rich, very rich". The political landscape will be equally as desolate, with "dictatorship", "large industrial companies" and "the media" firmly in control. As noted above there is "The possibility that learners, regardless of age, may be overwhelmed by the challenge that increasing globalisation presents to society" and this group displayed this characteristic. However, this is not unusual, as illustrated by Hytten and Bettez (2008:168): "… teaching this topic (globaisation) is … fraught with tensions, particularly since studying issues of suffering, exploitation and injustice from a global perspective can be overwhelming."

One possible strategy to employ in the future when suing this activity/stimulus is to stress that participants should consider what they see as both positive and negative aspects of the world in 45 years time.

From our experience there is no reason to think that this group of student teachers is significantly different to other such groups. They are working hard to gain QTS, put significant energy into their teaching and enjoy working in school. They appreciated fully that whilst they will be dealing with a range of controversial and potentially depressing issues, they cannot "dump these problems" on their children. They were aware of their responsibility to be both realistic and optimistic in how they approach such issues in the classroom. This is not an easy task, as Hytten and Bettez (2008:169) stress, "often our teacher education students feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities connected to these visions and unsure of how to best to direct their energies."

The first two activities of the student teacher workshop were intended to expose the complexity relating to our increasingly globalising society and introduce some initial ideas as to the implications for education. The student teachers demonstrated an awareness of some of the features of current society and the ability to consider the future, but it would appear that they had not, until this point, linked these ideas to their role in schools. They welcomed this opportunity to debate and speculate about such issues as change and their role as classroom and school leaders in supporting learners to explore such issues themselves.


The main activity of the workshop was based on a World Cafe activity ( and focused each group on one of two key areas - knowledge and knowing (How do I know?), and diversity and commonality (Are them "others" different?). Each group was given one of two sets of questions (see Figure 2) and asked to use the questions as prompts in their discussions about the implications of responding to young people's educational needs in an increasingly globalised society. Each participant was also given a felt-pen and asked to note their ideas, comments and discussions on their tables - or rather on the paper tablecloth that had been provided. After some 30 minutes, all but one member of the group moved to another table, where the one remaining member of that group acted as a guide - to describe and explain the original discussion - and as a scribe - to note down any additional comments or observations that the 'visitors' made. Group members then returned to consider what had been added to their 'discussion', before reporting on two key points from the activity.

The outcomes of the groups' discussions are illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 2: Sets of question

A question to explore the tension between focusing on difference and commonality. The tension between optimism and doom and gloom …

© Tide~ global learning 2008

Figure 3: Outcomes of World Cafe Activity

The participants’ responses demonstrated the success of this activity in providing the space and structure for them to address a series of fundamental questions about individuals, society and education, as well as illustrating that it is wrong to assume that one cannot consider such questions in a relatively short period of time without eliciting a simplistic response.  Further, it illustrates a means by which we can encourage student teachers not to be prescriptive in how they deal with these and related issues in their teaching.  It is a challenge to afford student teachers the ‘mental space’ and ‘cognitive structure’ to explore such questions in a crowded ‘teacher training course’, both vital if they are to operate in schools in ways that are conducive to education that develops the knowledge, skills and dispositions required for learners to survive and thrive in, and contribute to, society.


The final activity required participants to consider what issues the workshop had given rise to for thinking about learning in schools and how it is to be organised.  They were directed towards two large posters - one headed, “What does this mean for learners?” and other, “What does this mean for school leaders?”

Participants were encouraged to write bullet point headlines on Post-Its and stick them on the appropriate poster.  The whole group was then split into two and allocated one of the posters where they had to organise the headlines into themes.  Working independently, the two groups identified a number of themes in common; for example, both groups identified “Pressure” as a theme.  Learners were seen as being under peer pressure to conform, as well as pressure to perform academically.  Leaders are under pressure to conform to an image of ‘the effective school leader’; to produce academic results; and to manage change whilst taking risks, frequently without any perceived support.  Another common theme was “Individualism”, which was linked on both posters to a third common theme; “Equal Opportunities”.  Here the notions of personalised learning/provision featured, as well as responsibility for personal actions and to other members of (the school) society.  Many of the notes on the ‘Learners’ poster related to “Expectations” and can, perhaps, be summarised by one in particular; “Can a child be a child?”, which was linked to expectations set by the media as well as by the ‘Standards Agenda’.  On the ‘Leaders’ poster, a related question was noted under the theme of “The Development of the Child”; “Are we disabling children’s learning?” and reflected in the comment, “need to be aware of what’s important to the child”.

In considering “What does this mean for learners?” and “What does this mean for school leaders?”, the student teachers arrived at a range of fundamental issues and recognised the parallels between learners and leaders.  They began to consider explicitly, for the first time they stated, the implications of these issues for themselves as classroom leaders and, in the longer term, school leaders. The session concluded when the participants’ attention was drawn to the supplementary material provided; for example, further details of some of the current educational initiatives that link leadership and global learning and resources which would allow similar issues to be explored in another setting i.e. South Africa.


Each participant completed an evaluation form and a representative sample of responses is produced in Figure 4.

Figure 4:  A Sample of Student Teachers’ Comments

It is clear that the workshop encouraged the student teachers to reflect on the activities in the light of their own classroom practice and that they enjoyed the session, but that they felt some element of frustration in not being able to link their experiences directly and immediately to the curriculum they expect to teach in school.

In reflecting on the workshop, the workshop leaders identified several points to further consideration.  For example, stressing positive and negative aspects of the world in 45 years time and asking participants to respond to six prompt questions in the World Café activity must be reconsidered – it was simply too many and dissipated the discussion.  One key, focused question would perhaps have better served the purpose.

It was clear from the participants’ comments and reactions that they had given little, if any, thought as to the possibilities of becoming school leaders in, say, five years time – perhaps not even to the notion of the teacher as the classroom leader - and none to the challenge of what their learners will need in 45 years time.  Participants welcomed the opportunity to reflect on these areas, as well as on how their roles in school link to the bigger global issues.  They were challenged by the choices teachers have to make in dealing with controversial and complex questions; for example, striking a balance between optimism and pessimism relating to such issues as climate change.

Overall the workshop identified three challenges.  Firstly, how to support participants in debating an unknown future and being confident in recognising that if this is to be a meaningful debate, they will be dealing with the ‘unknown and the uncertain’; secondly, how to create legitimately the space in an over-crowded and relatively prescribed teacher-training curriculum.

Finally, the workshop leaders experienced a sense of frustration in that whilst the session raised a wide range of issues relating to the implications of globalisation for schools and how they are organised and managed, the main outcome of the workshop was an agenda for a second session i.e. the two posters of Post-Its.  If a second session is not available, then the third challenge of the workshop emerges; what is required is a more focused conclusion that leads the participants to explore the links between school leadership and global learning still further.


Heilman, E. (2008) Including Voices from the World Through Global Citizenship Education, Social Studies and the Young Learner, 20(4), pp30-32.

Hytten, K. & Bettez, S. (2008) Teaching Globalisation Issues to Education Students:  What’s the Point?, Equity and Excellence in Education, 41(2), pp168-181.

Kress, G. (2000) A curriculum for the future.  Cambridge Journal of Education, 30(1), pp133-145.

Reid, A. & O’Donoghure, M. (2004) Revising enquiry-based teacher education in neo-liberal times.  Teacher and Teacher Education, 20(6), pp559-570.

Serf, J. (2008) Global Learning in a changing and unpredictable world, Forum for promoting 3-19 comprehensive education, 50(3), forthcoming.

Tide~ (2008) Tide~ global learning: Report to the AGM, April 2008.  Birmingham: Tide~global learning.