Academic journal article Peer Review

Developing a Global Perspective for Personal and Social Responsibility

Academic journal article Peer Review

Developing a Global Perspective for Personal and Social Responsibility

Article excerpt

One of the four essential learning outcomes of a liberal education advocated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities is for students to develop a sense of personal and social responsibility. Through its Core Commitments initiative, AAC&U (2007) is working with colleges and universities to make this goal a central part of a movement in higher education to change the way we can think and educate our young people for the twenty-first century. The authors of this article argue that this essential learning and developmental goal which we call global perspective - can be enhanced if it is further interpreted within the context of educating students to be citizens of a global society.

The traditional-aged college student needs to develop and internalize a global perspective into her thinking, sense of identity, and relationships with others. This holistic student developmental perspective is grounded in sound student developmental theory, but given the changing societal demands and expectations, we argue for an enhancement of student development along four "vectors" that one of us (Chickering 1969; Chickering and Reisser 1993) identified and defined as important in the psychosocial development of college students. These four vectors are:

1. Moving through autonomy toward interdependence

2. Establishing identity

3. Developing purpose

4. Managing emotions


In the second edition of Education and Identity, Chickering and Reisser shifted the emphasis of this volume from developing autonomy to moving through autonomy toward interdependence. They wrote, "With the growing knowledge that every action has an impact on others and that freedom must be bound by rules and responsibilities, individuals moving toward interdependence learn lessons about reciprocity, compromise, sacrifice, consensus, and commitment to the welfare of the larger community." (140) That "larger community" now requires not only global; "reciprocity, compromise, sacrifice, consensus, and commitment" (140) but also much greater sophistication than was the case forty years ago. We need to understand, empathize, and communicate with persons who differ dramatically in national origin, ethnicity, religious, and spiritual orientations, as well as in race and gender. So moving through autonomy toward interdependence has become a much more challenging task and much more critical for leading a satisfying and productive life.


Identity is the second vector that one needs to develop to take on a global perspective. Colby and Sullivan (2009) recently identified it as one of three major constructs for understanding the development of individual and social responsibility. Identity refers to one's special sense of self, having a coherent self-image that can serve as a motivational force. They argue that persons with a civic and moral identity and sense of obligation to society are more apt to behave in ways that fulfill individual and social responsible goals. Thus, from today and into the future, students' horizons for developing identity need to be global. Our identity formation must be enriched by more wide-ranging experiences, knowledge, and insights.


Purpose, the third vector, related to intentionality and establishing priorities, centers around the questions of "Who am I?" and "Who am I going to be?" It has both an inward and outward characteristic. Inwardly, it brings to an individual a sense of calling, an attachment to something beyond themselves that provides meaning and significance. It is also motivating - it energizes the person into action. Outwardly, purpose has consequences, since the actions based on fulfilling that purpose influence others. Developing purpose is a way to think broadly and to view one's life in a manner that encompasses career plans and aspirations as well as personal interests and interpersonal and family commitments and responsibilities. …

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