Paradox and Parallax: Possibilities for Transformative Learning in an Online International Trans-Disciplinary Course on Global Citizenship

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‘Global citizenship’, in the current academic institutional climate of increasing internationalization and marketization, has come to mean many things and understandings can range from ‘raising awareness’ and ‘being nice to strangers’ to critical engagement and committed advocacy and action. Often its deployment is intended to evoke the full ambit of intersectionalities of the global justices, but is also used to promote the institution as supporting ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘relevant’ learning, as in UBC’s slogan: “Education for Global Citizenship”, supporting an international image on a public relations front. Nevertheless, the possibility exists, in the study of concepts of great global importance and ethical imperative in a course on global citizenship, for a highly self-reflexive, thought-provoking, critical and transformative experience for learners. It offers opportunities for students and instructors debating together across the world, in a connected community of practice, to view global issues from different situated locales, a variety of angles, and multiple perspectives – as if taking a look at the Earth in parallax. The course is internally reflective in asking what global citizenship might mean and what a pedagogy of global citizenship might look like and how it might be enacted. It does not avoid paradox, contingency and contradiction, but embraces difficult knowledge and dilemma towards committing to responsible action and reflective judgment however this might be understood personally and collectively in ‘glocal’ contexts. In this presentation, a group of course instructors offer narratives of transformation and possibility through their engagement in an online international trans-disciplinary distance education course, “Perspectives on Global Citizenship”, based at UBC. In/through the course, critical connections between the global and local are made that permit a commitment to a range of justices urgent to our times, while creating a supportive ‘commons’ to enable participants to do justice-seeking, global citizenship work with personal choice and integrity.


Keywords: Global Citizenship, Transformative Learning, Paradox, Contingency, Dilemma, Contradiction, Advocacy and Justice-Seeking Action, Global and Local, ‘Glocal’ Contexts, Ethical Imperative, Self-Reflexive, Critical, Thought-Provoking, Situated Contexts, Supportive ‘Commons’, Narratives of Transformation, Pedagogy, Practice
Stream: Equity, Social Justice and Social Change; Community, Culture, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Dalene M. Swanson

Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Secondary Education
Faculty of Education, University of Alberta

West Vancouver, BC, Canada


Dr. Shelley Jones

Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada

Dr. Shelley Jones has a PhD in Education from the University of British Columbia. Her PhD research was concerned with gender, education and international development, with a specific focus on Uganda. Her MA in education, also done at UBC, focused on global education and social justice. Shelley is a qualified teacher and has taught all levels of education (primary, elementary, secondary, tertiary, adult) in formal and non-formal settings in a range of international contexts, including Uganda, Canada, England and Japan. She has developed a number of courses relating to education and international development, and is an instructor of the UBC Sociology 433A course, “Perspectives on Global Citizenship”.

Terry O'Donovan

Communications Director
Doha, Qatar

Terry O'Donovan is a part-time lecturer in Global Citizenship in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. He has more than 20 years of experience in corporate social responsibility and communications in global contexts, and has held senior positions in Southern Africa, North America and the Middle East. He was educated at the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch in South Africa, and Stirling, in Scotland.

Ref: L09P0998