An Exercise in Global Competency – Connecting Students to Bigger Ideas

Although global competency is defined in various ways, the sweeping changes of globalization—new information and technologies, increasing economic integration, and the emergence of global environmental, economic, social and political challenges—demand an urgent and thoughtful re-examination of what is learned in the classroom for both economic and civic reasons.

In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Education provided the following definition for a globally and culturally competent individual:

  • Proficient in at least two languages;
  • Aware of differences that exist between cultures, open to diverse perspectives, and appreciative of insight gained through open cultural exchange;
  • Critical and creative thinkers, who can apply understanding of diverse cultures, beliefs, economies, technology and forms of government in order to work effectively in cross-cultural settings to address societal, environmental or entrepreneurial challenges;
  • Able to operate at a professional level in intercultural and international contexts and to continue to develop new skills and harness technology to support continued growth.

This definition is part of the look U.S. Department of Education’s Framework for Developing Global and Cultural Competencies to Advance Equity, Excellence and Economic Competitiveness.

Calling educators interested in gaining global competency & learning best pedagogical practices. After taking online modules- I am making my way through the U.S. Department of State and IREX Global Education course & earning digital badges to share the details of my achievements in the course- Try it!

#globaleducation #globalcitizenship #IREX #Fulbright #globalcompetence

Graduation Rates Are Increasing, but Students with Special Education Needs Are Still in Peril

Author: Christine Powell, Ed. D

At face value, the state of American education is on an upswing; 2014 was a landmark year, with the highest graduation rate on record in American high schools. An increase in the number of students that earn a diploma has been a reliable indicator of the preparedness of our youth to pursue college and career opportunities. The upward trend in graduation rates has some scratching their heads about the trustworthiness of these numbers. The argument made, is that the uptick has been realized by a lowering of the standards, making the value of a diploma seemingly less than it once was. But until there is another way to benchmark student achievement, the diploma is the standard, and it is better to have one than not. 

Absent from this conversation is an acknowledgment that graduation numbers for students receiving special education services continue to be appalling, despite alleged cutting of the criteria. Many high schoolers receiving special education services never make it to graduation, as evidenced by graduation data. In 2016, 61 percent of students with disabilities graduated from high school; a glaring 20 percentage points lower than the national average of 82 percent for students without disabilities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2013-2014 data indicates that in 20 states, the graduation rate for students with disabilities is lower than the national average by an additional 3 percent, meaning that these students often lack the fundamental skills to move into the workforce. These same students who leave their education early are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, less inclined to go back to school, and less likely to live on their own (Newman et al., 2001). 

The silver lining is that federal initiatives, to include the Civic Marshall Plan, require schools to address the achievement gaps of subgroups to include students with special education needs. The aim is to raise graduation rates to 90 percent, and have students complete at least a full year of postsecondary education or training by the year 2020. With every passing year, schools and educators are learning more about how to help students with disabilities as research continues to explore available evidence and expertise for ways to assist with the systemic challenges in working with diverse populations.

Accordingly, there are recommendations to support students with special education needs. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recommends several practices to prevent students from dropping out of school. Included are targeted and schoolwide interventions such as assigning adult advocates to students, providing increased academic support and enrichment, and adopting personalized learning and strength-based teaching schoolwide. Research supports inclusive education practices, finding that across all disability classifications, students with special education needs who were in inclusion settings for the majority of the school day, graduated at a higher rate than students in disability-specific programs. Additionally, a peer reviewed study showed that effective practices to include increased collaboration between special education and general education teachers, access to core curriculum, and targeted professional development for behavior management lead to improved student achievement for students in special education. And perhaps most promising are the positive effects of student engagement in career technical education (CTE) as a remedy to the alternative to dropping out. When students with special education needs successfully participate in a CTE course, they are less likely to drop out, more apt to compete for competitive wages post-graduation, and develop the skills and attributes required for future education and training. 

These recommendations, although significant and revealing, will likely not be enough to substantially close the current 20 percent graduation gap between students with special education needs and their peers in general education. Keeping students engaged and in school requires acting on the above research-based recommendations, as well as continued investment in creating an eco-system of support. Most importantly, there needs to be transparency in graduation rates, and a targeted pledge to close the gap and ensure all students graduate ready for what lies ahead. 

-International Connections- Great day sharing with Chinese educators from ZHEJIANG VOCATIONAL COLLEGE. Thx- @PNathan4Kids

Today I had the privilege of speaking at University of California Long Beach.

Through the College of Professional and International Education I met with educators from Zhejiang Vocational College of Special Education located in China. What a great exchange of information-

Educators sharing best practices & learning from one another. Our focus was how schools support students with special education needs in vocational programs. Oh, yeah…there was cake! 🎂

Shout out to California State University, Long Beach
College of Professional and International Education

Thank you, @PNathan4Kids & Chao Huang.

Parents: Help Your Child ‘Marie Kondo’ Their Learning Space

August 2019 Back To School Dr. Christine Powell

My Web Page Lets Connect on LinkedIn Twitter @DrCPowell

A messy workspace is not always the hallmark of a creative mind- It can be down right distracting. Dr. Christine Powell, Special Educator, provides 6 tips inspired by organizational guru, Maria Kondo, to create a calm and centered workspace.

Keep distractions to a minimum

Research supports the fact that disorganization causes stress, and that clutter affects the way we work. Adults are often more disciplined than children and realize that creating an organized workspace can facilitate good work habits and shorten the amount of time spent on tasks. Children often need to be taught how to get organized. Although they may like their workspaces messy and cluttered, science supports the fact that a chaotic workspace increases distractions, decreases focus, and may case anxiety. With this in mind, here are six tips to help you and your child tame the clutter and create a workspace worthy of an A+. 

Creating a Study Space

Whether the study space is in a general use area of your home or a corner of a separate room, the study space should be relatively free from noise and visual distractions. These diversions can be in the form of high traffic areas of the house, noise from a television, or individuals talking on the phone. When you are creating a space, position a table or desk in a well-lit corner of a room, away from disturbances that will pull your child’s attention from studying. Ideally, the child should be seated facing away from activity, and preferably, they should not be facing a window. Although the view might be beautiful, it might be tempting to look outside and cause distractions, making it challenging to concentrate.

Consider the Light Source

Light has a psychological impact on students, which can affect their learning and studying. Studies have found that students perform significantly better on standardized tests in classrooms where natural light is present. Overly harsh lighting, to include florescent light can be harsh on the eyes, and it is recommended to use natural light when available. A work area that is too dark may induce feelings of tiredness, which impacts motivation and effort. When studying in the evening, it is recommended using a lamp that has a flexible arm. An adjustable arm will allow your child to focus the stream of light, eliminating glare and shadows, which may result in squinting. Reducing glare can cut down on eye strain and increase focus. Additionally, research suggests that using white to natural bulbs creates a light source that is easier on the eyes and facilitates alertness.

Only the Basics

An optimal study space should have the materials your child needs to complete tasks within arms reach. These items include pens, paper, laptop, study aids, etc. A functional study space should not have attention-stealing knickknacks, as clutter can contribute to over-stimulation. Over-stimulation may have a negative effect on how your child adjusts emotionally to the task of studying or completing homework. Enlist your child to help with decluttering, explaining the thinking behind putting distracting items away. While supporting your child to take the lead, encourage them to spot the difference between items that may help contribute to studying verses others that are attention thieves.

Comfy Seating

Comfortable seating is often the most overlooked aspect of creating a well-designed study area. When considering the type of seating that is most conducive for your child, asking for their input is essential. Having buy-in will create ownership on your child’s part and may encourage increased time on task. You do not need to invest heavily in a special chair, as nowadays there are many alternatives to a conventional chair, to include Yoga Balls, backless chairs, and stools. Whatever type of seating you choose, it must be comfortable. Make sure that your child’s feet can reach the floor, which will assist in physical stability and aid in feeling stable and in control.

Take A Technology Inventory

Unless a computer, iPad, or other technological device is necessary for homework or study, make sure it is off and out of sight. There is no better time to teach your child the benefits of being unplugged and developing concentration skills. Although getting your child off their device may prove challenging, research supports study time without phone use. Research published in Computers In Human Behavior (2013) found that students spend only two-thirds of their time working on school assignments during study time when they have access to their phones. Help your child understand that study time will decrease without the added distractions of media-tasking. If a computer device is required, consider setting parental controls on social media platforms to assist your child in developing the skills necessary to unplug during study time.

Go Green 

A study by the University of Edinburgh published in Landscapes, and Urban Planning (2012) found that individuals are less stressed when they spent time in nature. If spending time at a nearby park or in a green space is limited, consider getting a small desk plant. The effects of increased greenery may prove beneficial in helping to create a calming environment conducive to homework.  

All Set

Creating a space at home to study should be a combined effort with you and your child participating. The start of a new school year provides an opportunity for parents to work with their children to declutter and rework their home study space. Use these tips to help create a space that makes the grade.

Author: Christine Powell is a special educator, researcher, and education advocate helping parents and students make purposeful educational decisions. She is a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award fellow and adjunct professor.


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Highlights-Fulbright Inquiry Project In Singapore

My Fulbright inquiry project has yielded information I hope impacts education training opportunities for students w/ diverse learning needs. The title is Vocational Education and Training in Singapore: Examining Programs and Practices In Support of Students with Special Education Needs.  Please share this information as my goal is to support access & equity in career opportunities for as many students as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want more information.


May You Have Bold Adventures With A Friend

Everyone should travel internationally at least a few times in their lives and everyone should create an opportunity to travel with a friend. I mean at least once travel with someone you like a lot outside of family, that you have a great time with, and that is up to seeking out adventures. A recent trip to Thailand with my dear friend of 13 years, Karen, proved to be a trip full of once in a lifetime experiences that included staying overnight with a hill tribe on the top of a mountain, to trekking for hours in the jungle. But I am getting ahead of myself here; the trip started in Singapore.

Having already spent the better part of six months in Singapore on a Fulbright grant, my time doing research was coming to an end. On my calendar this meant I had just one more visitor, a dear friend from back home. Karen and I had talked about her coming to Singapore at the end of my stay and scheduling could not have been better as it coincided with summer break. Her job at a middle school meant she had some leave over the summer. About 5 days into her trip we were searching the internet with the intention of next heading to Thailand when Karen comes across an add for an eco-adventure in northern Thailand. I’m up for most anything, so with little thought, and throwing caution to the wind I say, “Book it!”

With our email sent and reservations now on the books, Karen reread the summary out loud of what this eco-adventure entailed and I grew increasingly nervous. Nervous due to the fact that I’m 53 years old and Karen, much more fit than myself, is approaching 60. I would say we are both in relatively good shape from our years of running and hiking together, but the agenda for this trip pushed my mental boundaries. With Karen’s enthusiasm and can- do-attitude, I was on board and willing to give it a go. 

Once in Thailand we firmed up the details and each packed a small day pack for our outing. Our adventure started with a 1.5 hour van trip into the hills of northern Thailand. Once we arrived at the base camp, the fun started right away. We donned motocross gear from head to toe and rode an hour on mostly flat, muddy terrain that skirted an elephant sanctuary park. I was feeling a bit cocky as we headed up into the hills. My confidence waned as I fought with my handle bars for two hours climbing the rocky, dirt trail that lead us up into the mountains.

We came to rest near the top of the mountain near Huay Kakap, an indigenous village that is part of the Kerrin tribe. We were graciously shown around the village by our host Pim, and her younger brother, 5 year old Anu.

Dinner was prepared for us as we stargazed and relaxed.

With no electricity, we had candles and flashlights to light our way. We stayed in a traditional bamboo house on stilts, where we slept on almost comfortable mattresses swaddled in mosquito netting. 

We woke with the rooster crowing, and I learned they wake up way before the sun rises. After feasting on breakfast and the view, we were met by our guide, Ken. We both grabbed our packs and he led us for 3 hours through the jungle on a trek past four separate waterfalls. He showed us different plant species, picked fruit for us, he made Karen a wreath of ferns, and trail blazed the path for us.

We jumped in the last waterfall to clean off, get refreshed, and revive ourselves for one more hour of trekking out of the bush.

We arrived back to base camp and had yet another meal prepared for us. We feasted on fresh pineapple, green curry, rice and vegetables. 

With nourishment and a quick rest we headed out for our next adventure, white water rafting for 3 hours. By this time Karen could tell I was wilting so she encouraged me by telling me I just had to hold on for this part. I wanted to believe her as I was beginning to feel the effects of the last 24 hours. We once again donned safety gear, met our rafting guides and jumped in our kayaks. The trip down the river was riveting and despite my eyelids growing increasingly heavy, the crashing currents, huge boulders, and my guides stern directions to paddle faster kept me awake and somewhat on point.

The views were breathtaking and the cold water was exhilarating. We both managed to make it down the river unscathed & still smiling.

Needless to say, both Karen and I were nodding off on the van ride back to our hotel. With a few high-fives, some great pictures, and even better stories, I can honestly say that this adventure would not have been nearly as fun without my dear friend. And to those of you who need encouragement to push yourself beyond even your own expectations, may you be blessed with a friend or two that signs you up for adventures and may you go boldly along!  

Thank you, U.S. Embassy for highlighting a Fulbright Distinguished Award In Teaching grantee. There are 3 of us here in Singapore exploring education! #fulbright #fulbrightdat

Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai- The Do’s and Don’ts and Learning On the Fly

Sometimes serendipity provides the most meaningful learning experiences; that is what happened this past week on a trip to Dubai that culminated with being in the Gulf during the ending of Ramadan. Three Fulbright teachers conducting research in Singapore planned the trip to the Gulf state to coincide with the school exam period in Singapore. Although we had some idea that Ramadan was scheduled to end during our visit to Dubai, we had no fixed date or time, only speculation. What transpired was an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the country’s culture and heritage and participate in a celebration unlike any in the United States.

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Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims observe it all over the world as a period of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. During this sacrosanct period, contemplation, worship and self-improvement take place daily. Ramadan this year began on May 6th and was expected to finish on or around June 3rd, which just so happened to coincide with our visit to Dubai. The reason the ending date is not set is that it depends on the sighting of the new moon.

Being a visitor to Dubai during this holy period made this trip an extraordinary opportunity to learn cultural competence. I made a list of several Do’s and Don’ts observed during the visit that I would like to share:

The Do’s and Don’ts & Learning On the Fly

Do… Wear conservative clothing. Although the Gulf states are known to be conservative, during Ramadan it is especially important to dress with modesty. Signs at the local mall requested for both men and women to wear clothes that covered both their shoulders and knees.

Dubia dress code

DoBe respectful and conscientious of those who are fasting. Drinking and eating out in public during daylight hours is considered distasteful. Look for designated areas that are screened off from public view.

DoParticipate in using festive greetings when interacting with locals during the Ramadan season such as Ramadan Kareem (generous Ramadan) and Ramadan Mubarak (congratulations, its Ramadan).

DoGet up early before the sunrises and participate in Suhoor, a pre-dawn meal before the fast begins for the day. Look for a’ la carte meals in restaurants to try local dishes and feast on traditional food choices.

Don’tEat, drink, or chew gum in public spaces during daylight hours. Places include in taxis, on the street, the local mall or other places where you may be in the company or proximity of someone fasting. Not only is it considered rude, but breaking this law is legally punishable.

Don’tSmoke in public places. This isn’t something that is healthy to do in the first place, but smoking during Ramadan should be avoided in public places or in outside spaces. Smoking should be done in discreet, designated areas only.

Don’tBe loud or obnoxious as Ramadan is a period of quite religious devotion and self- reflection. Be mindful of disturbing others and refrain from flamboyant displays of activity and celebration.

me at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Ramadan ended on Monday, June 3rd, called by the official moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arab. What followed in Dubai was a multi-day celebration which began with the breaking of the fast. Eid Al-Fitr ensued, a celebration lasting for three days. This period began with festivities, families gathering at hotels for meals, and visits to the mosque for prayer. We were caught up in the local celebration and viewed a spectacular display taking place at the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the night of June 3. There was a water show as well as a spectacular light presentation.

The Burj Khalifa tower was illuminated by LED lights programed with traditional symbols to include the crescent moon, eight-pointed star, the mosque, and the ruler of Dubai, the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Crowds, including families and young working men with time off swarmed the area in celebratory fashion to indulge in food and drink.

All in all, the trip was a wonderful success, enhanced by the chance opportunity of being in a country with a rich culture and the experience of being immersed in a period of religious observance followed by celebration. The travel dates were a well-timed to witness an incredible cultural practice. It was learning on the fly, and a wonderful part of the Fulbright experience that won’t soon be forgotten. So in the spirit of Eid al-Fitr, “May every year find you in good health,” or Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair.

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