Global Learning

Global learning is a critical analysis of and engagement with complex, interdependent global systems and legacies (such as natural, physical, social, cultural, economic, and political) and their implications for people’s lives and the earth’s sustainability. Through global learning, students should:

  • Become informed, open-minded, and responsible people who are attentive to diversity across the spectrum of differences.
  • Seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities.
  • Address the world’s most pressing and enduring issues collaboratively and equitably (AAC&U, 2014).

What is Global Learning at Cornell?

Global learning can happen anywhere: on or off campus, in the classroom, in the lab, in the field, and abroad. There are many expressions and manifestations of global learning from a pedagogical point of view. A global learning experience could be a course that engages broad international questions and issues or particular regions, cultures, and languages, or both.

Regardless of the setting in which Cornell students experience global learning, our graduates are expected to “[d]emonstrate knowledge and awareness of different cultural practices, values, beliefs, and worldviews and an understanding of their own cultural perspective; communicate effectively and respectfully with individuals from different backgrounds and across a multicultural society; demonstrate curiosity, flexibility, adaptability, and tolerance for ambiguity; investigate themselves and others as cultural beings, understanding the implied values and assumptions that underlie cultural norms and traditions” (Learning Outcomes at Cornell, 2018, para. 4).

At Cornell, there are many examples of global learning programs and experiences, and faculty work separately and together to address common global learning challenges and to develop and share best practices.

Considerations for Global Learning

  • Consider disciplinary content in a global context.
  • Reflect on the intersection between one’s own worldview and identities, and personally meaningful international learning experiences to better mentor and support student learning.
  • Create ethical and engaged international partnerships and learning opportunities for students.
  • Not all students will have the same experience while abroad. Prepare to engage these differences so that all may learn more.
  • Create a course and study abroad experience with attention to intercultural learning, ethics, and best practices related to service learning, internships, language learning, or discipline-specific concerns, as relevant.
  • Get prepared to be prepared. Find support at Navigate, or contact the manager of international travel health and safety in the office for the vice provost for international affairs.
  • Make an emergency plan.
  • Plan pre-departure in-country and post-travel teaching and learning that includes opportunities for reflection, debriefing, and mentoring.

Getting Started with Global Learning

We organize the course design process into three or four stages, stopping at key moments to reflect—even though we call the process “backward design,” in practice, your thinking will move back and forth along your expected timeline to inform your plan.

Questions to keep in mind as you get started:

  • What do I want my students to be able to do, know, or value as a result of taking an internationally-focused course or participating in a global learning experience?
    • How will my students be different after this learning experience?
    • How will I know my students have changed? In other words, what evidence will students provide to show they have changed?
  • How will I know my students have learned? How will I assess global learning?

Some features of courses with a global focus, or of global learning experiences in general, include:

  • A focus on intercultural learning and inquiry, developing intercultural competencies, and effective mentoring.
  • Teaching strategies that support global learning such as developing a practice of critical reflection, working with cultural objects, using ethnographic methods, using maps effectively and critically, developing global literacy skills, and adopting intercultural competence development frameworks, etc.
  • Place-based enrichment, “content-in-context” in designing off-campus experiences, as well as attention to logistics and practical matters.
  • Intentional planning and attention to design to maximize learning and use mistakes and failure as learning moments.
  • Inclusive practices that engage diversity for the benefit of all students’ learning.
  • Best practices for increasing international student participation and learning.


Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2014). Global learning VALUE rubric. VALUE: Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education.Retrieved from

Deardorff, D. (2015). Demystifying outcomes assessment for international educators: A practical approach. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Learning Outcomes at Cornell. (2018). Office of the Provost at Cornell University. Retrieved from

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning outcomes: A common sense guide (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.