SRU duo researching international preschool teachers’ approach to global citizenship


Student and professor try reading books of differenct language

From left, Sara Tours, Slippery Rock University assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood, reviews preschool-age books written in various foreign languages with her student, Jacqueline Routhier. Tours and Routhier are conducting research to better understand how international preschool teachers approach global citizenship education.

June 24, 2019

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — If anyone from Slippery Rock University has the worldview to conduct research into teaching global citizenship, it's Jacqueline Routhier. After all, the junior early childhood/special education major from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, spent more than half her childhood in Singapore.

"I get really excited about learning," said Routhier, who shared that enthusiasm with Sara Tours, assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood. It was during the pair's ensuing discussion about early childhood assessment that their shared excitement sparked a partnership.

"We wound up talking about global citizenship and (Tours) said to me, 'We should do research; do you want to do research with me?,' and I figured, 'Sure, why not?' From there were had a series of meetings to plan the research and figure out what we wanted to do."

The duo are conducting research of international preschool teachers and their approach to global citizenship in the classroom. The faculty-student research project received $5,000 funding through SRU's Summer Collaborative Research Experience grant program. Tours and Routhier will conduct an online survey for at least 100 preschool teachers across a sampling of what they hope will represent at least 10 countries.

But the focal point of their project was years in the making, with seeds planted seemingly more than a decade ago.

Born in the United States, Routhier moved to Singapore with her family when she was eight years old because her father was transferred there for his work. She graduated from the Singapore American School, a private international school with American-based curriculum, where she conducted a senior research project analyzing how seventh-graders develop through self-introspection.

"From a very young age, I had an understanding of diversity and how people think differently than I do," Routhier said. "That perspective benefitted me as I became older, so I think it's very important to look at how the teachers in the U.S., as well as other countries, view global citizenship and see how we can support that idea more."

The definition of "global citizenship" will be intentionally left off the survey so the researchers can ask preschool teachers for their interpretation of what it means, but global citizens are generally considered as people who "perceive themselves as members of a global community; are aware of the wider world; respect and value diversity; and are willing to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place," according to Harry Chernotsky and Heidi Hobbs, coauthors of "Crossing Borders: International Studies for the 21st Century."

William Howe and Penelope Lisi, coauthors of "Becoming a Multicultural Educator," define global citizenship education as "teaching students to be global citizens by providing knowledge and skills for working with different international cultures through curriculum that includes studying customs, perspectives, language and social behaviors of people in other countries."

"We're trying to see if preschool teachers are incorporating global citizenship education, how they're doing it, what they think it means in the context of preschool and if they think it's necessary to teach it," Tours said. "If they're not teaching it, we want to know if they think they are prepared enough to implement it and in what ways teacher education or workshops could better prepare them."

"I thought it would be interesting to look at it because if you start to get a glimpse of global citizenship at a younger age, the depth of knowledge and awareness of your global surroundings is much deeper and greater as you get older," Routhier said. "When you get to high school and learn world history, you'll have a better sense of the world."

The SRU research team is interested in similarities and differences of how global citizenship education is perceived across and within different counties. They plan to use the results to address the way preschool teachers prepare their students to understand their place in the world, either through teacher education curriculum or direct programming to current teachers such as a professional development workshop.

"When teachers talk about global citizenship, they tie it to social studies, but we don't teach it as often as (mathematics, reading and science) because there are no mandated standardized tests covering (social studies)," Routhier said.

"Global citizenship doesn't have to be a unit of a class; it can be incorporated with other things being taught," said Tours, who harkened back to her time as a doctoral student at Florida State University in 2013. It was during that time that she taught a kindergarten class at the American School of Valencia, a school in Spain similar to Routhier's previous school in Singapore. While there, Tours introduced global citizenship education into her class for topics like counting money by having students from Sweden, Korea and China bring in currency from their families' home countries.

Routhier is eager to learn more ways to help preschool teachers get engaged with the topic of global citizenship. Once the survey is administered, Routhier will spend 100 hours this summer analyzing the data. The study will be completed by the end of August.

"For me, this brings the fun back into learning," Routhier said. "I love learning in the classroom, but the grades stress me out and with this research I can focus on understanding what others think about global citizenship. It's really exciting."

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |