Exploring Identity through a Global Lens
June 8, 2020
by Sharon Goh, Professor of Student Development / ESOL / Adult Education
Participating in the Globalizing Curriculum Faculty Learning Community (FLC), run by ACC International Programs in collaboration with the UT-Austin Hemispheres consortium this 2019- 2020 school year, was an enriching experience for me, both personally and professionally. Our cohort consisted of ACC faculty members from different disciplines and I benefited so much from their expertise and collaborative spirit. Our group had the opportunity to listen and engage with a variety of guest lecturers each month, discussing issues such as global citizenship, social justice, immigration, climate change, and more. One of the common themes that emerged through these lectures is that other countries face many of the same human rights and globalization issues that we do in the US, though interpretations and solutions vary depending on a host of factors such as culture, religion, and nationalism.
As I began to formulate how to bring what I have learned from this learning community back to the classroom, I decided that my curriculum for Learning Framework: Effective Strategies for College Success needed to be reviewed again, this time with a more global lens. I began to consider more about who my students are, the varied identities they bring to the classroom, and how I can use their strengths to build and forge connections and create class content that is meaningful and relatable.
Lending a global lens to my curriculum encouraged me to think beyond my own identity and experiences to be more inclusive of my students’ varied identities and experiences. For example, time management may seem a straight forward topic but I realized I also had to acknowledge the reality of time poverty for my students who juggle multiple responsibilities and jobs in order to survive – and that it cannot simply be solved through the use of a calendar or a prioritized to-do list. Stress management may be particularly shaped by societal expectations of gender norms and self-care more difficult to implement depending on cultural expectations. Or in discussing career exploration, a fuller picture of our career aspirations can be developed by examining our varied identities and how gender, race, culture, societal norms, and more favor or disfavor particular job fields.
When I revised my class curriculum, I began adding in opportunities for students to explore these areas of identity in their own lives and the lenses in which they view the world. One of my first questions to them is “How does who you are shape what you know about the world?”. I encourage them to look beyond their own experiences, to stretch their critical thinking skills, to view diversity as a resource, and to practice cross-cultural communication and responsiveness in the classroom, workplace, and everyday life.
As important as it is to focus on the inner work, learning should inspire action, and so students are assigned a Service-Learning Project as their capstone assignment. Volunteering with a local organization of their choice gives students an opportunity to engage in critical self-reflection of their biases and values and the ability to demonstrate their knowledge and sensitivity to social justice issues when applied to community engagement.
Being a part of the Globalizing Curriculum Faculty Learning Community has invigorated my passion to create learning spaces where students are able to engage in discourse based on relevant real-world situations, problems, and solutions. Applying a global lens to our class furthers students’ abilities to exercise critical thinking skills, make informed choices, and to become successful learners and responsible citizens of their communities, both small and large.
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