global skills
English language classes are a great way to help students develop global skills. Source: Shutterstock

There has been a noticeable shift towards educating students, in both schools and universities, on how to develop global skills.

Global skills are those that must be developed in order to operate in an international context. As the rise of technology leads more and more companies towards becoming globally interconnected, these skills are important for all to acquire – particularly international students.

Interpersonal communication, collaboration, critical thinking, intercultural competence and citizenship, and digital literacy are just some of these global skills.

While these traits are being embedded in university courses through experiential learning activities and by other means, they can also be taught through English classes – a typical college requirement for most students.

The report Global Skills: Creating Empowered 21st Century Citizens by Oxford University Press ,has shed light on the fact that English language teaching (ELT) is ideal for teaching students how to develop these skills.

It stated, “Whether students are learning English as a foreign or second language, communicative methods used in teaching English are compatible with the teaching of global skills.

“With regard to the value of learning the English language, the prevalence of English internationally means that English is increasingly seen as a vital life skill in itself.

“Arguably, English is a global skill in its own right and, as such, can be an excellent medium for learning global skills.”

Here is how global skills can be integrated into English language teaching.

Communication and collaboration

These skills can be effectively developed through activities in an English language class, but they must go deeper to ensure students are not only learning how to be communicative, but also learn the nuances of interpersonal communication such as empathy and being a good listener.

According to the report, “Promoting communication skills lies at the heart of good ELT practice. However, while many language teachers already emphasize the importance of understanding context, communicative purpose, and audience, they may spend less time explicitly considering empathy, perspective-taking, and the skills of being a good conversation partner.”

Therefore, language learning should include activities in which students can develop these skills such as active listening, using open questioning and showing interpersonal interest.

Teachers can also help students learn empathy through film, art and literature where they can see the world through other eyes and points of view, which helps them gain an international perspective.

For teaching collaboration skills, group work where everyone can participate equally and actively should be integrated into the classroom.

As the report states, “Collaboration can be strengthened by working with codes of conduct, including specifying roles and responsibilities, to ensure participants know what is needed and expected of each other. ”

Creativity and critical thinking

These skills are very important for students to develop for a number of reasons, but how can teachers foster the development of these skills in an English language classroom?

For creativity, opportunities should be provided where students can share their experiences and ideas in a supportive atmosphere so they can also develop self-confidence to freely express these thoughts.

According to the report, “Teachers can promote lateral thinking through tasks that allow for multiple responses.”

For example, instead of asking students to write the simple form of verbs such as “go” and “buy”, it would be better to ask them to write an essay such as “Tell me four interesting things you did on a recent holiday”, where they will use past simple verbs while exercising their creative thinking and writing skills.

As for critical thinking, activities should be introduced that teach students how to critically evaluate information. Teachers can introduce essay topics or have them read paragraphs about climate change, politics or other issues that affect society, and then discuss these themes in the classroom.

Intercultural competence and citizenship

An English language class is an ideal setting for students to develop these skills as they have multiple opportunities to interact and learn from students from other cultures.

According to the report, “In language education, openness to other cultures and an appreciation of different cultural perspectives and ways of communicating is one of the foundations of communicative competence and intercultural awareness.”

Besides learning in a multicultural setting, schools can help students enhance these skills by providing opportunities such as excursions, cultural visits and student exchange programmes, as well as introducing diverse subject matter such as international films and literature instead of sticking to the norm.

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