Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Inclusion and Social Development

First Advisor

Meghan Kallman

Second Advisor

Joan Arches

Third Advisor

Sarah Stanlick


Global citizenship education is one way to better prepare individuals to learn about global systems, understand their own place in those systems, and act with others to create a more just world. While global citizenship education has big aspirational goals, for this to be effective, educators must better understand what pedagogical strategies impact the development of global citizenship capacities in students. This study aims to understand the potential of one emerging pedagogical strategy in the context of higher education –online community-based learning– for fostering global citizenship capacities in an increasingly interconnected and digitized world. This research is guided by a purpose-driven transdisciplinary approach as well as experiential learning theory and critical pedagogy. With this grounding, global citizenship is conceptualized in this study as having three key elements: critical reflection, collective action, and justice. This mixed-methods analysis examines data from three institutions who moved their in-person community-based learning programs to the fully online modality during COVID school closures and includes pre/post survey data (n=187) and interviews (n=23). Mixed-methods analysis of pre/post survey data found that directly after program completion students overwhelming self-reported that participation in a online community-based learning program facilitated the development of new knowledge, mindsets, and motivation to participate in future civic actions. Analysis of interviews conducted with alumni one to three years after program completion found that the majority were participating in civic action, mostly in the form of volunteerism, and alumni felt that participation in the online community-based learning program was a way to sustain their commitment to social action during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future. Alumni also reported various ways that skills (i.e. language) and mindsets (i.e. valuing non-Western perspectives) gained in the online community-based learning program were applied to their education or professional lives. Evidence emerged that forming trusting interpersonal relationships with individuals in the partner-community (mentors, peers, community members) in the online modality was the key program condition which influenced a change in student learning that then impacted a change in future actions. Further, mixed-methods analysis found that first-generation-to-college students reported greater learning gains than their non-first-generation peers. First-generation students displayed several attitudes and experiences—openness to an unfamiliar learning environment, intrinsic motivation for experiential learning, intercultural collaboration, and experience with resisting systems of oppression—which facilitated their learning. Finally, this analysis suggests that most students displayed conceptual knowledge of critical reflection and justice as central pieces of global citizenship; they also experienced Freire’s (1970) conscientization, or motivation to transform unjust systems; however, only a few were able to actualize this learning into future collective civic action, and this became even more challenging after leaving the campus community. In the online context most students were working independently on product-oriented tasks, which may have resulted in learning skills that increased confidence and motivation to participate in future social action while at the same time instilling an individualistic attitude towards global social change. While less common, students who displayed an understanding of collective action as an important part of civic participation were more likely to have worked on collaborative tasks with partner-community members where they had the opportunity to recognize the benefits of learning and acting with others. And those who did report participating in collective action with the goal of addressing root problems of inequities, did so mostly through involvement in on-campus advocacy for issues like environmental, racial, or gender justice. This research suggests that even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and a rapid change to online learning, college students were eager to develop new knowledge, mindsets, and skills and that they are applying these capacities to their future actions. Thus, educators have the opportunity to develop curriculum which begins to foster global citizenship capacities that students may carry forward into future actions that are critical, collective, and just.


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