Embracing Decoloniality to Engage Global Citizenship Education - National Council of Teachers of English
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Embracing Decoloniality to Engage Global Citizenship Education

From NCTE’s Standing Committee on Global Citizenship

This post was written by NCTE member Jillian Kneeland, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.


“We don’t have to fully know others to learn from them and expand our own epistemic horizons.” —Gerald Campano

As committee members, we have wrestled with embracing decoloniality in our literacy teaching while staying committed to the ideals of global citizenship. Decoloniality has grown as a value system that supports the development of localized systems of knowledge to combat Eurocentric universal ideals (Mignolo 2020). At the same time, Global Citizenship Education (GCE) has its roots in globalization and can be said to uphold these very ideals if left unchecked and when lacking criticality (Gardner-McTaggart 2016). How, then, can decoloniality inform a pedagogy that seeks to center student identity and experience as central to shared understandings and human interconnectedness that we hope for GCE to promote? With decolonial literacy practices, we might explore how, despite the challenges of institutional coloniality, we may, alongside our students, participate in epistemic disobedience in pragmatic commitments in day-to-day teaching and learning (Domínguez and Seglem 2023).

Gardner-McTaggart (2016, 8) suggests the fundamentally shared goals of GCE are to guide each student to be a “global citizen prepared to interact with empathy, reflection, and cross-cultural understanding” while noting that “the main challenge in forming a global citizen is in creating a classroom that is truly representative of ‘the globe’ in all its wealth and diversity.” Likewise, many see decoloniality as a set of uncompromising beliefs in the acknowledgment of marginalized identities and lived experiences (e.g., Said 1978; Quijano 2000; Mignolo 2002). Decoloniality in pedagogy represents a return to honoring the knowledge of the individual, a release of authority, a cultivation of something that moves us beyond representation and toward the enunciation of possible (truths), and an emancipatory way of teaching and learning (Gaztambide-Fernández 2014). I have come to understand that decoloniality is both a fluid and fixed position: fixed in the project of empathy and fluid in the endeavor always to make room to understand and defeat Otherness.

To embrace decoloniality in secondary literacy spaces to engage students in a more critical GCE, educators can turn to texts such as Domínguez and Seglem’s (2023) Decolonizing Middle Level Literacy Instruction. With a wealth of pragmatic, meaningful strategies, the authors urge educators to engage with coloniality through “epistemic disobedience, [which] is not just learning a new set of tools or picking up showy, performative lessons and curriculum activities that are more ‘humanizing’ or responsive. Epistemic disobedience requires that we are critical in our analysis of praxis, finding ways to see where coloniality emerges in our daily lives” (Domínguez and Seglem 2023, 13). This includes the more physical act of implementing decolonial literacy teaching and learning as expanding student wisdom rather than enforcing knowledge upon them. Composing Our World (Boardman et al. 2021) also provides detailed guidance around implementing decolonizing, student-centered approaches to literacy instruction through project-based learning that honor student capacities in ways that directly connect to elements of empathy and human understanding. In line with suggestions from these resources, educators are encouraged to use inquiry-based instruction to nurture introspection, connect humans to one another, position everyone as experts, leverage multilingualism, and nurture cultural change, among other humanizing outcomes.

We need to consider the potentiality and centrality of students by allowing them to demonstrate their skills in multimodal literacies, to update our practices to become more adept in guiding our co-learners through principles of decolonial literacy, and to broaden the horizons of our standards to decentralize what counts as knowledge through more expansive and creative forms of assessment. When we focus on the decolonial narratives that our students are telling with their resistance to our teaching, we can all participate in the collective healing that decoloniality offers to educators and students. Taking a decolonial stance to GCE in literacy spaces by adhering to a reflexive examination of texts and how they relate to our understanding of ourselves and others may contain promise for connective discourse and the development of ideals of understanding and respecting difference.



Boardman, Alison G., Antero Garcia, Bridget Dalton, and Joseph L. Polman. 2021. Compose Our World: Project-Based Learning in Secondary English Language Arts. New York: Teachers College Press.

Campano, Gerald. 2021. “Nurturing Communities of Inquiry Across Difference: Decolonial Social Formations in Literacy Research and Practice.” In Ideas That Changed Literacy Practices: First Person Accounts from Leading Voices, edited by Dennis Alvermann and Donna Sumara. Gorham, ME: Myers Education Press.

Domínguez, Michael, and Robyn Seglem, R. 2023. Decolonizing Middle Level Literacy Instruction: A Culturally Proactive Approach to Literacy Methods. New York: Routledge.

Gardner-McTaggart, Alexander. 2016. “International Elite, or Global Citizens? Equity, Distinction and Power: the International Baccalaureate and the Rise of the South.” Globalisation, Societies and Education 14, no.1: 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/14767724.2014.959475. 

Gaztambide-Fernández, Rubén. 2014. “Decolonial Options and Artistic/AestheSic Entanglements: An Interview with Walter Mignolo.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 3, no. 1 (May): 196–212.

Mignolo, Walter. D. 2002. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference.” South Atlantic Quarterly 101, no.1 (December): 57–96. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-101-1-57.

Mignolo, Walter. D. 2020. “On Decoloniality: Second Thoughts.” Postcolonial Studies 23, no. 4 (October): 612–618.  https://doi.org/10.1080/13688790.2020.1751436.

Quijano, Aníbal. 2000. “Coloniality of Power and Eurocentrism in Latin America.” International Sociology 15, no. 2 (June): 215–232. https://doi.org/10.1177/0268580900015002005. 

Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon.


Jillian Kneeland is a PhD candidate in literacy studies with the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. Kneeland also serves as an instructor in the secondary humanities teacher education program. Prior to returning to her studies, she taught high school English at several international schools, including in the UK, Turkey, and Panama.


The Standing Committee on Global Citizenship works to identify and address issues of broad concern to NCTE members interested in promoting global citizenship and connections across global contexts within the Council and within members’ teaching contexts.

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.