For the past ten years, the authors have been researching what predicts viewing the self as a global citizen and the subsequent outcomes. We define global citizenship as “global awareness, caring, embracing cultural diversity, promoting social justice and sustainability, and a sense of responsibility to act” (Reysen et al., 2012, p. 29). In the remainder of this article, we’ll review the theory and research behind a model of antecedents and outcomes of global citizenship identification and review some of our research within an education context. For more explanation and citations for the research discussed, see Reysen and Katzarska-Miller (2018).
A Model of Global Citizenship Identification
A social identity theoretical perspective (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner et al., 1986) posits that individuals belong to various groups (e.g., occupation, gender, ethnicity). At times people act as individuals, but at other times they act as group members. Each group contains consensually shared normative content (e.g., attitudes, emotions, behaviors) that distinguishes one group from another. Greater identification (i.e., degree of psychological connection to the group) predicts greater adherence to the norms of the group. Reysen and Katzarska-Miller (2013) constructed a model of antecedents and outcomes of global citizenship identification (see Figure 1).
We identified two antecedents to viewing the self as a global citizen. First, a normative environment represents the people, places, and things in one’s daily life that encourage a person to be a global citizen. For example, if one is surrounded by friends, family, teachers, supervisors, media, and/or government that encourages one to be a global citizen, then individuals will be more likely to feel psychologically connected with the identity. Second, global awareness represents one’s knowledge of the world and felt interconnectedness with others in the world. These two variables predict viewing the self as a global citizen.
The extent that individuals identify with global citizens then predicts six clusters of prosocial values and behaviors:
- intergroup empathy (empathy for people outside one’s ingroup),
- valuing diversity (embrace and desire to learn about other cultures),
- social justice (equitable treatment of all humans),
- environmental sustainability (desire to protect the natural environment),
- intergroup helping (desire to help people outside one’s ingroup),
- feeling the responsibility to act for the betterment of the world (felt obligation or duty to act).
These six clusters represent the normative content associated with the identity label of a global citizen. Indeed, if you ask people to describe a global citizen, you’ll find themes largely reflecting these values and behaviors. Additionally, we used these norms to inform our definition of global citizenship.
Global Citizenship Education
Based on the model, we have a clearer understanding of what educators and administrators should focus on to engender global citizenship identification in students. Activities, lessons, and students’ school environment, in effect, should focus on the two antecedents: normative environment and global awareness. At times interventions work on one antecedent more than another, and other times the activity influences both antecedents. We briefly describe research that highlights each of these antecedents for viewing the self as a global citizen.
In early research regarding students’ normative environment, we manipulated the messages coming from faculty and administrators. For example, students were presented with a speech from an administrator that described globalization similar to Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat (i.e., negative portrayal) or in a positive manner (e.g., more opportunities to work in other countries) before measuring students’ global citizenship identification. The negative framing of globalization reduced identification compared to the positive frame. In a similar study, we presented students with a faculty member who described the concept of global citizenship positively or negatively to find a similar outcome. The results show that how individuals in positions of power in one’s normative environment describe global citizenship has a direct impact on students’ identification. Other studies show that students’ perception that the university as a whole, and specific classes, promote global citizenship also influences students’ identification. Thus, through explicit endorsement, teachers and administrators can encourage global citizenship. The school environment can also promote identity through interventions focusing on normative environments (e.g., campus recycling, hallway displays, study abroad).
As noted, global awareness is a combination of the perception that one is knowledgeable about the world and felt interconnectedness with others in the world. Our research shows that that perception is more important than factual knowledge of the world for predicting global citizenship identification. However, as students learn more factual knowledge about the world, they are likely to perceive themselves as knowledgeable. In one study, we counted the number of words in class syllabi related to global citizenship and assessed students’ antecedents and outcomes of global citizenship identification at the beginning and end of the college semester. More global words predicted an increase in global citizenship over the course of the semester. In a similar study, we asked students how global their class was to find that the perception the class contained global elements predicted an increase during the semester. Thus, including global content in classes can increase students’ global citizenship identification, which has downstream benefits, such as an increase in prosocial values and behaviors.
The research within psychology, as well as other disciplines, has only increased in recent years. There are a variety of factors yet to examine for engendering global citizenship. We’d like to close by noting that we expect short-term or one-shot interventions that haven’t been effective in our experience. We expect that long-term and widespread changes within the school environment will be most effective at increasing students’ global citizenship identification. In effect, we predict a whole school approach with teachers, administration, and the wider community explicitly encouraging taking on the identity and promoting values related to global citizenship would best move students toward global citizenship. Given the beneficial outcomes we’ve consistently observed in our research, we suggest such efforts are needed.