New engaged learning curriculum offers gateway to the world

Launching this fall, the Department of Anthropology’s new Global Gateways course sequence will give students the opportunity to prepare for, and make the most of, Cornell’s rich assortment of off-campus opportunities, from engaged learning programs to study abroad. The Global Gateways three-course curriculum utilizes techniques of active learning and peer mentorship to promote hands-on, practical development of intercultural engagement skills.  The curriculum development was supported by a 2016 Internationalizing the Cornell Curriculum grant, an Engaged Curriculum grant and a grant from the College of Arts and Sciences Active Learning Initiative.

“Whether you are heading to another continent or out your door, the most important skill for thriving in today’s global marketplace is the ability to connect, collaborate, and create across lines of social and cultural difference,” says Adam T. Smith, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology. “As recent events have shown, the skills of intercultural engagement have never been more critically in need than they are today.”

Says Hayden Kantor PhD ’16, the postdoctoral associate for Global Engaged Learning in anthropology: “As anthropologists who think very critically and profoundly about how to connect with people in different communities and contexts, we thought our department would be well positioned to offer this curriculum. But we recognized that the same old model of lecture or discussion wasn’t going to cut it for these courses. We need to give our students some active and engaged pedagogical approaches to develop themselves as global citizens, with practical skills and theories they can put into place.” 

The first course, ANTHR 1900: Global Engagements:  Living and Working in a Diverse World, introduces students to the principles of engaged learning and provides opportunities to participate in service learning projects on campus and in the Ithaca community, building the skills of intercultural engagement. The second course, ANTHR 3901: Going Global: Preparing for Engaged Learning, is a pre-departure, half-semester course that convenes with 1900 during the second half of the semester.  The course helps students preparing for study abroad to hone the anthropological skills needed for intercultural communication and reflection. The third course, ANTHR 3902: Coming Home: Making the Most of Engaged Experiences, is a half-semester course that meets with 1900 during the first half of the semester. Coming Home is a post-study abroad course where students reflect on their experiences and mentor students who are considering off-campus opportunities. The Global Gateways. The Global Gateways curriculum is open to students from any major, college, and level of experience who are going on or are interested in any off-campus program.

“One of the ways we hope to increase the numbers of students studying abroad is to give them a taste of what it’s like to learn in a non-traditional environment, to have active learning, to do your own project, to have a relationship with a community partner. That taste early on can build momentum for global and engaged experiences,” Kantor says.

A unique element of the three courses is their linked nature: students in the Going Global course will join students in the semester-long Global Engagements course in discussions with international students on campus; Global Engagements students will also join discussion groups in the Coming Home course to encourage peer-to-peer mentoring. 

The goal of the Global Gateways curriculum is to give students the opportunity to learn like anthropologists. Anthropology entails careful observation, active participation and open minded conversations, skills students can learn to cultivate and apply to many parts of their academic career. Moreover, anthropological writing is an important skill for students to learn.  “We are delighted to have teamed up on this curriculum with the Knight Writing Institute,” says Smith. “They bring unparalleled expertise in how to cultivate a commitment to written expression.  For anthropology, this means using vivid description and compelling narratives to bring unfamiliar worlds closer to home and at the same time unsettle our own routines and beliefs.” 

The students write in their critical reflection journal every week, and the assessment of that writing is a major component of the course, says Kantor. Some of the writing assignments aren’t graded; with others, the students have the opportunity to revise based on the professor’s feedback. Their work is posted on e-portfolio, a software system designed for interaction. They’ll workshop their ideas with students from the other courses and their peers within their own class. 

The courses also take an innovative approach to discussing texts. Rather than leading the entire class in a discussion, course instructors will flip between different formats. In one, a student might lead the discussion about a reading. Or the students might break up into small groups, each tackling a different aspect of the reading, with the groups then answering questions from the other groups about what they discussed. Another format used will be the think-pair-share model, which gives every student the chance to contribute. 

“One of the problems we have in a traditional discussion class is that it’s dominated by extraverts and the introverts -- often the strongest and deepest thinkers -- are shy to share their views,” explains Kantor. “In the think-pair-share model, you give every student the chance to contribute something and make it a more collaborative activity.”

On campus, Global Gateway is partnering with the English Language Support Office (ELSO) and is supported by the Study Abroad office and the Public Service Center; community partners include the History Center in Tompkins County and TST BOCES.

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