Tools for building Cosmopolitan and Global Identity in a school open to the world.

César García-Rincón de Castro (2013)                                               

We are on our way to an evolutionary change towards global humanism and justice, towards authentic cosmopolitan citizenship. We have long been driven by the efforts, projects, theories and intuitions of those who have come before us on this journey of the human being, men and women, towards peace, happiness, habitability and justice. The innocent cultural-media colonisation of the system (economic, political and educational), with its individualistic behavioural and attitudinal pedagogical proposals, useful for the labour market but sterile for human development, has concealed from us the tip of the pyramid where there awaits, captive and watched by the ushers of post-modernity, the essence that pervades and governs attitudes, values, competence and conduct: the identity and the meaning of life. This pyramid of neurological levels formulated by Robert Dilts and Gregory Bateson (Stahl, 2012), which is highly useful and has proven successful in the fields of therapy, coaching and also education, must be the starting point for our reflection and for a sixth generation of Development Education (henceforth, DE) that crosses the barrier of value-attitudes and, going back to social philosophy and existentialistic humanism, daring to take a step towards the important questions, towards the meaning of global life. This requires a change in perspective, in our way of thinking and in the descriptive language used in the semantic field that defines DE. When the concepts of old lead to the paths of old, we must try using others to explore new mental and behavioural/mental paths and routes.


The interesting and thought-provoking analysis given to us by Manuela Mesa Peinado more than a decade ago now, when she had the intuition to visualise the path of DE in 5 stages or generations, which coincide approximately with decades, going from the ’50s to the ’90s, ended, in her revised version from 2000, with three interesting questions to which we have yet to find answers. I intend to set out here on a pedagogical journey-proposal to do just that, or at least to start a proactive debate.


In her article entitled “Entre la caridad y la ciudadanía global” [Between Charity and Global Citizenship] (2000), the revised version of “Evolución del concepto de EpD” [Evolution of the Concept of DE] for the Planning and Evaluation Office (OPE, in Spanish) report from the mid-’90s, the title of which summarises 50 years of pedagogical efforts to change the world and make it more just and habitable for everyone, Mesa Peinado left us, as mentioned before, three highly thought-provoking and challenging questions which I cite here:

“These processes have important ethical, theoretical and practical implications for education in general and for development education in particular.

  • In the field of values and attitudes: how do we combine ethical universalism and the value of solidarity with the critical capacity needed to deal with negative stereotypes?
  • In the cognitive field: how do we provide the knowledge needed to place the events broadcast by the media into their social and historical context, in order to interpret them correctly?
  • Most importantly: how do we make values, attitudes and knowledge contribute to commitments, participation and change?

Of course, these are not new questions for development education. As mentioned, these are the same issues that led it to arise more than four decades ago now. What is new is the international context, which makes it more difficult, and at the same time more urgent, to find answers”.

In just over a decade there has been an authentic revolution in educational methods and techniques, which are not yet very noticeable (we see no more than the tip of a large iceberg) but are of such a magnitude that in the next 5-10 years we will see substantial changes in ways of teaching and building knowledge, attitudes and values, and even in the design of schools. Multiple intelligences, learning for understanding, visual thinking or visible thinking, cooperative learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), thinking routines, experiential learning (Kolb’s cycle), the European Key Educational Competences model, etc., have all appeared quietly but are calling for increasing space in classrooms and didactic programmes in both formal and informal educational settings. We are now on a new stage, in another kind of school and education, although, as mentioned, it is not yet perceptible and visible enough. However, those of us who have daily contact with educators and educational institutions do notice it, as we also notice the sympathies and hopes that these pedagogical models awaken.

Basically, in this article I intend to initiate a thoughtful and proactive, while also scientific, process to launch us into the orbit of sixth generation DE, which, in accordance with the model by Dilts and Bateson, we could call the generation of Global Cosmopolitan Identity.

The process that I am going to follow can be summarised in the following five steps:

Process stages Tasks in this stage
1. Search for the descriptor dimensions of Global Cosmopolitan Identity. Seeking key references and concepts through DE authors and thinkers from the ’70s on (third generation forward) that work along the lines of the construction of Global and Cosmopolitan Identity (GCI).
2. Definition of the GCI descriptors based on Key Educational Competences (under Spanish Organic Law on Education, LOE) Creating guidelines for learning goals and generative tasks that arise when crossing or hybridising the basic GCI dimensions and the 8 key educational competences.
3. Analysing the GCI dimensions from various logical dimensions or levels of learning. Based on Robert Dilts and Gregory Bateson’s pyramid (neurological levels), reflecting on pedagogical practices in DE and visualising potential obstacles in reaching higher levels of “evolutionary changes”. Manuela Mesa’s questions refer to level 4 of the pyramid (generative change): we have been unable to go beyond or up to levels 5 and 6, and this is the key point: the identity and dimension of meaning.
4. Researching learning methodologies that help to overcome the obstacle of generative change to move toward evolutionary change. Developing projects, didactic units, activities and tasks that use sequences and strategies that make it possible to anchor learning to evolutionary change levels: personal-social identity (level 5) and the existential-meaning dimension (level 6).
5. Implementing educational projects for DE using modern learning methodologies and assessing their impact on evolutionary change. Developing DE within the framework of GCI using PBL methods, cooperative and project-based learning, Kolb’s cycles and Dilts & Bateson’s process-sequences.


Dilts & Bateson’s pyramid offers a topographical model of the human mind and psychology in general, and is based on the concept that changes occurring at higher levels will influence the entire system of a person’s values, capacities and behaviours, in accordance with the model of neurological levels by Dilts & Bateson (Stahl, 2012), summarised in the table below:

Levels Key questions Type of change
1. Existential What is the ultimate purpose of this task? Evolutionary (transpersonal-global)
2. Identity Who am I/are you in this task?


3. Value/Attitude Why am I going to do it, and what for? Generative

(internal world)

4. Capacity How am I going to do it?
5. Conduct What do I have to do? Corrective

(local external world)

6. Environment Where am I going to do it and with whom?


It is easy to see that DE for prosocial-solidarity conduct or behaviour (corrective changes) will have little success if it is unable to affect the area of capacities and values (generative change) and, ultimately, identity and the meaning of life for a person (evolutionary change), the global-existential dimension.

According to this interesting model, which is often used in coaching and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) therapy, in which Robert Dilts adapted Gregory Bateson’s levels of logic model, neurological levels are subordinate to each other, and any change at higher levels involves a correlative change at lower levels. In response to the question as to whether a change is also possible in the ascending direction, from conduct, capacities and values towards identity and meaning, Dilts answers affirmatively, but stresses that this is much more difficult. Thus, if we are able to foster changes at the identity and meaning of life level, we will be sowing and fertilising the field for developing prosocial, cosmopolitan and global citizenship behaviour and capacities. In other words, the curriculum programmes of the LOGSE (General Organic Law on the Educational System), based on concepts, procedures and attitudes, in precisely that sequence of logic, followed the path of the pyramid in exactly the opposite direction: 1) what do I have to do/know, 2) how can I do it and 3) why am I doing it. But at no time did they consider what meaning all of this had for a person and for identitary global citizenship (that would have earned them top grades).

The innocent cultural colonisation (I have taken the idea of “innocent” from the thought-provoking critical essay by Galbraith in “The Economics of Innocent Fraud”, 2004) I referred to at the beginning reached the educational agendas of almost all the NGODs, even the proposals by authors that reflected on DE, and I include myself among them, as a subject innocently colonised by pedagogical trends. In a non-explicit, almost token, manner, or with certain hesitation, existential issues arise in some materials and authors, and ethics and moral development are spoken of: above all, the need for global and cosmopolitan identity is seen in fifth generation DE proposals by Alejandra Boni (2007), and more so in authors on education for solidarity and volunteering, such as Luis Aranguren (2008), or in DE competence proposals such as that of Miguel Ardanaz and César García-Rincón (2013), but not as an important and essential dimension to be programmed and assessed, as such.

Are we experiencing a new pedagogical-cultural colonisation? By all appearances, this is not the case, given that no one has spoken yet of this model of neurological levels in development education or in the educational system in general, which is caught up, when not completely entangled, in its discourse on competence (level 3). But we must remain alert so that the system does not refit it, package it and sell us a “light product” or watered down version of it, because this model of neurological levels is very powerful and boldly goes against the current, causing a surge of ethical depth that exposes and shatters the dominant discourse, so it is expected that it would cause concern in certain circles. In fact, in the field of marketing the appropriation of identity already exists, as Vidal (2008) tells us, since brand loyalty as a feature of one’s identity, or brand identification (the Nike person, the Tommy person or the Apple person) has been spoken of for some time now. Imagining citizens leaving school with GCI (Global-Cosmopolitan Identity) is bad news for nationalism, determinism, capitalism and many more -isms.

After analysing and reading several authors on the concept of Cosmopolitan Identity, I have managed to define the following five descriptors:

GCI Descriptors Definition Connections with school Support tool
Projected historical sense We exist in a specific space and time, we are a product of history, of our recent history and the biographers thereof, creators of new histories in conjunction with others. -Family events and changes.

-School-related historical context.

Biography portfolio


We are what we can become, we are our “element”, upon which we build an identity and a life’s project, but this talent has meaning if shared with others. -Professional interest profile.

-Academic record.

Talent portfolio
Constructive diversity We are diverse in our ways of thinking, ways of learning, genetics, cultures, biographies and needs, and through this diversity we construct collective identification hubs that, in turn, also construct us. -Coexistence plan.

-School volunteering or service learning.

Commitment portfolio
Reflective research We are what we know and research, what we discover rather than what we are told, we are, inasmuch as we reflect on the world and its events, and our position regarding such events. -School research projects.

-School newspaper.

Truth portfolio
Biosystemic energy[1] We are energy that is being exchanged and constantly evolving, inter-dependent system units that consume and produce all kinds of energy, tending toward holistic conservation and care for the biosystems in which we participate. -Science laboratories.

-Rural and urban ecology activities.

Earth portfolio

While this is neither explicit nor final, but rather merely informative, I have shown some of the connections between these descriptors and common activities and tasks at schools, so that, from the outset, the link and connection can be seen between these 5 dimensions and school life. I have also suggested that a series of student portfolios could be developed vertically (across all educational levels, with differing degrees of complexity from pre-school to post-compulsory secondary school). A portfolio is nothing more than a folder/binder, either in physical or electronic format, in which the student gradually adds information, details, and reflections in diverse formats (graphic, written, visual, musical, video…) on a certain subject and, in conjunction with the educator, observes the evolution thereof, the learning gained over time in this dimension.

Once the key descriptors of Global Cosmopolitan Identity (GCI) have been defined and selected, the next step consists of creating a dialogue with the Key Educational Competences of the LOMCE (Spanish Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality) (2013), in the case of Spain, or with the key competences or essential learning-values of other educational systems. This process can also be carried out using the key pedagogical dimensions of a single educational institution, whichever is preferable or considered more effective. The truth is that these dimensions should be developed by and are applicable to all kinds of students, whether they live in a mansion or in a slum, in the country or in the city, etc. They are all historical, vocational, diverse subjects, researchers of reality and ecosystems.

The method for creating this matrix consists of a process of pedagogical hybridisation, or mixed intelligences, in crossing the 5 dimensions of GCI with the different formats of the mind or intelligences represented in the key educational competences. There are many ways of doing this, but I have chosen to consider the connecting points as positive and generative capacities, which, in themselves, offer clues and represent a source of ideas for teaching teams in scheduling them and lowering them to the appropriate performance or competency training level. A sample matrix of competence in linguistic communication would be as follows:

GCI Descriptors Competence in linguistic communication
Projected historical sense I am able to narrate and write my history as a person and as a group in diverse human and cultural spaces over time.


I am able to communicate my talent and develop it through language, highlighting its value for others.
Constructive diversity I am able to communicate in contexts of cultural and linguistic diversity, to create something together.
Reflective research I am able to understand reality, question it and name it through the use of appropriate language.
Biosystemic energy I am able to understand and regulate, through language, the processes of my interaction in diverse ecological contexts.


In assessing these capacities and learning experiences, I find the learning for understanding proposal defined in depth in the book-paper “Teaching for understanding. Linking research with practice” by Martha Stone (Buenos Aires – Paidós, 2003) highly interesting. An adaptation and proposal for this model is published in “La Evaluación de las Competencias Básicas” [Assessment of the Key Competences] by Carmen Pellicer and María Ortega (Madrid – PPC, 2009), from which we can take excellent suggestions and ideas on assessment of educational competences. The theoretical foundations for the “Teaching for Understanding” project, compiled by Martha Stone, lie upon decades of work led by David Perkins, Howard Gardner and Vito Perrone. According to these authors, understanding consists in a type of flexible knowledge in which the student relates what he/she knows with experiences, values and attitudes, and produces something new based on what he/she knows, that is, he/she uses the information in an innovative way. Because this is what is truly of interest to us: that students use what they know and experiment in building the cosmopolitan and global identity that will change the world and make it more just and habitable.


Understanding, as construed by these authors, must not be confused with reading comprehension or other kinds of comprehension in the sense commonly used by educators. The concept of understanding that we are dealing with refers to broader processes than mere memorisation and comprehension. Furthermore, it refers not only to concepts and theories but also to conceptual frameworks, attitudes and values. It is difficult to acquire and put into practice a value if its meaning is not understood well in a broad scope of situations and experiences.


The teaching for understanding model is broad, but for the purposes of having an instrument for assessing and defining Global Cosmopolitan Identity herein, the progressive scale of levels of understanding that these authors use will be highly useful:


  • Level 1. Naive understanding. This features students with little personal autonomy, who are externally focused (dependent upon the forces of the external setting), with weak and highly fragmented mental learning networks based on highly intuitive and mythical-popular knowledge.
  • Level 2. Novice understanding. This features students that have at least a few means and basic mental theories that provide them with certain autonomy of thought and foundations upon which to build sound knowledge, but they still mix the rational with the popular-mythical-intuitive.
  • Level 3. Apprentice understanding. This features students that are already on their way to understanding, have basic foundations, are focused on building their mental maps and making them more intricate, and are motivated to do so, although certain gaps and cognitive or attitudinal contradictions still arise as regards the reality that is the subject of the knowledge or learning.
  • Level 4. Mastery understanding. This features autonomous students as regards social and cognitive issues, with highly organised networks of ideas or viewpoints within a domain or field of knowledge. They display rapid and original movements and products of thought (the intelligence is expressed in cognitive products, according to H. Gardner, 2004), creating new associations, examples and responses consistent with their conceptual frameworks.



Through this scale of understanding we can assess the projected historical sense crossed with linguistic competence, for example, with the following rule for hetero-assessment by teachers:



I am able to narrate and write my history as a person and as a group in diverse human and cultural spaces over time.

Naive understanding

Novice understanding

Apprentice understanding

Mastery understanding

The student does not consider his/her roots and history, or does so in a vague and disorganised fashion, nor is he/she aware of his/her history projected into the future. The student refers to his/her roots and culture, but in a very basic and ethnocentric manner, without going beyond the nuclear family and only referring to the past. The student has ample knowledge about his/her family ties and cultural origin, is aware of the changes that have taken place in his/her family, culture and world, and considers his/her future history. The student has broad knowledge of his/her personal biography, positioning it in the history of his/her family and ancestors, as well as in his/her territory and country of birth within a global setting and shows interest in his/her current and future history in a global world.


Thus, in each of the Global Cosmopolitan Identity dimensions, we must assess, on the one hand, the degree of understanding that the students achieve of the dimension (knowing) through progressive goals for understanding, and on the other, how they transfer or make this understanding visible to their capacity to behave locally and globally (knowing how to do) through progressive tasks for understanding and, thirdly, how this understanding-action defines their attitudes and values (knowing how to be) through ontological reflection. These three dimensions, “knowing, knowing how to do and knowing how to be”, are precisely what comprise a competence, which must always have the reference of a specific context or situation, and this is also important because competences are not floating in a void, they must take place in “where and with whom” contexts (first level of Dilts and Bateson’s pyramid).


Competence dimensions Learning for understanding Questions in the teaching programme
KNOWING Goals for understanding What do they need to understand?
KNOWING HOW TO DO Tasks for understanding What do they need to practice?
KNOWING HOW TO BE Ontological reflection What do they need to reflect upon?


Therefore, we can now return to the previous example of crossing a projected historical sense with linguistic communication.



Learning for understanding I am able to narrate my history as a person and as a group in diverse human and cultural spaces over time.
Goals for understanding -Learning the names of family relationships and ties

-Placing my family within a broader setting

-Comparing my historical and cultural model with others

-Imagining and drawing my future history

Tasks for understanding -Explaining my history in a photo sequence

-Making my family tree

-Telling the story of my native neighbourhood or town

-Explaining how and where my ancestors met

Ontological reflection -Knowing that I am a product and part of a history

-Knowing that I am a creator of history

-Knowing that I am a biographer of myself and others

-Knowing that I am a small history within a large history

As seen, the programme options are quite broad, and there are no set rules for this, except for the learning selection criteria, which we shall now see in the next paragraph. Once we have defined the 5 GCI descriptors and placed them in a specific educational sphere or map, the purpose, as mentioned above, is to create a dialogue among them and move down Dilts & Bateson’s pyramid to the tangible sphere of behaviours, capacities, competences and tasks, without losing sight of the dimension of identity and meaning that must pervade the entire process (evolutionary change level). Therefore, the best procedure is that which is agreed upon and built by each teaching team within each specific educational context, be it in the north or in the south.


Through the pedagogical hybridisation of the 5 GCI dimensions with the 8 key educational competences, we come up with a lovely, thought-provoking table with 40 learning objectives or goals for understanding in the formulation of teaching for understanding. Logically, we will not be able to address them all, and therefore we will have to select those that we feel are most relevant at each educational level and in each context, or else sequence them over a 3-year cycle, for example. A good checklist for selecting these goals for understanding is the one proposed by Blythe (1998), in which the key characteristics of generative topics (themes, questions, concepts, ideas that generate powerful and essential understanding for the students) are described:


Which learning objectives or goals for understanding

are we going to select from the matrix?

  • ·         Those that provoke curiosity in the students, those that get them most excited.
  • ·         Those that are of interest to the teachers, those that stimulate them most.
  • ·         Those that are the most accessible based on the means and resources available to us, and that are the most relevant to each educational context.
  • ·         Those that are likely to establish more connections with other knowledge or intelligences.
  • ·         Those that are related to other curriculum contents, in order to further anchor the learning.


In relation to learning and understanding methods, in preparing and sequencing GCI tasks and projects, we shall begin with Kolb’s Cycle. The main key to this method lies in the logical activity sequencing path or process, rather than, interestingly, in what is best known, the Learning Styles. The Kolb sequence follows 4 steps, which are summarised in the following table:


Kolb stages Description Example
1. Multi-sensory experience This consists of an initial meaningful, intensely emotional and preferably multi-sensory (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) experience that manages to awaken the curiosity and grab the attention of the student. Disco-label: we turn on disco music and everyone comes in. The doorman of the disco has the strange habit of placing a label on the back of everyone who comes in. No one knows what they have on their backs, but they will find out by how others behave with them.
2. Reflection and observation Narration of how each of us has felt with their label (some are positive, like “hug me” or “bow to me”, and others are negative, like “exclude me from the group” or “look at me with disdain”). Each of us sticks their label to a sheet of paper on which we have previously suggested some questions: how did you feel? who or what does the doorman represent?
3. Abstract conceptualisation We gradually move toward the concept of stereotypes, and with the educator’s help, we construct and define them together. There are also two more questions on the sheet of paper: why do we label others? why does society label people? are there labels in class?
4. Experimentation and transfer to other contexts We transfer this to our closest reality, based on the roles we play in life: in class, in our neighbourhood, with friends, at home, in sports… Questions like, “how can we free ourselves of the tyranny of labels?” Or, “what do you say we create an anti-label campaign”, and so on, help transfer the understanding of stereotypes to reality. We could also propose doing field or history research, or looking in the news, etc.


In this regard, the tasks and activities we schedule within this sequence will be much more powerful and meaningful for learning. It is also interesting to realise that with this type of sequencing we cover the entire range of classroom learning styles, namely, expressive, narrative, abstract-conceptual and experimental.


As an alternative or complement to Kolb’s sequence, we can establish thought sequences or routines or schedule activities based on Dilts and Bateson’s model. We are going to apply this to a very simple task, which could consist in raising awareness about the recycling of domestic oil for use as an alternative energy source:


Levels Key questions Example
1. Existential What is the ultimate purpose of this task? We live in a global world in which our way of using local energy affects the ecological balance and many economic and social processes.
2. Identity What does this task have to do with me? I have become aware of my capacity to influence my surroundings and to propose solutions.
3. Value/Attitude Why am I going to do it, and what for? Because oil pollutes and can be used as a renewable energy source.
4. Capacity How am I going to do it? I will explain to my family what they must do with oil and how to recycle it.
5. Conduct What do I have to do? Observe and explore what is done with oil at home and who does it.
6. Environment Where am I going to do it and with whom? Locate the task at home and/or at school if the school is to be an intermediary in recycling.


These questions help us to dig deeper and go where we really want to go with the activity, as regards both the proper and progressive steps to be taken and in assessing the point to which we pierce the neurological structure of learning. This shall be done using the boomerang effect: we start at the bottom and work up, from simple to complex, from the setting to the meaning. And when we manage to accomplish the evolutionary change (identity + meaning) through several activities (this is not accomplished with just one activity or from one day to the next) it will come back with strength, pervading everything else, and forever, properly anchored in the neurological structure.


If, after conducting the activity and collecting a ton of oil, the students have not understood that they have the ability and responsibility to influence in their settings in an ecological sense, and that, furthermore, this contributes to the balance of the global biosystem, and thus a better life for everyone, we have not accomplished anything interesting, and we are not building a Global Cosmopolitan Identity.


Project-based Learning and PBL (Problem Based Learning) have a lot in common and represent two powerful tools for DE. We can define them through their own semantic field, or their dictionary, composed of the following concepts, which have little or nothing to do with traditional (and, in many cases, current) schooling. Through contributions by Patricia Morales and Victoria Landa (2004) and by Alberto Muñoz and María del Rosario Díaz (2009), the concepts composing the map of understanding for this method are:


Meaningful learning: is that which is of interest to the student because he/she becomes emotionally involved in it and it is based on his/her previous knowledge and current needs and experiences within a specific socio-cultural context.


Comprehensive focus: this kind of project and learning comprehensively works on several subjects, disciplines and fields of knowledge, as well as skills and competences, and therefore it is perfect for working on multiple intelligences.


Prior knowledge: the starting point for the learning is the students’ prior knowledge, what they know, what they do not know, what they partially know and what they know incorrectly.


Student researcher: the projects consist of research challenges for the students, in which they must search for information, solve mysteries or attempt to gather data from a specific reality.


Functional or transferable learning: learning under the project-based approach has the virtue of being directly applicable to a certain reality, and as they are also based on competences, they are transferable to other realities, meaning that the students can be skilful and act successfully in a different context or new situation.


Cooperative learning: work is generally done in small groups or teams in which, in addition to sharing knowledge and experiences, students have the opportunity to develop communication, negotiation and general teamwork skills.


Scientific method: project-based learning uses the scientific method as a roadmap or logical path that defines, with varying complexity, depending on the educational level, the phases or stages the project will go through.


Attention to diversity: given that a minimal level of development or knowledge is not needed to start with, but rather it is based on each student’s prior level and is also built upon cooperatively, this method is ideal for working in even highly diverse contexts, combining it with other educational strategies for attention to diversity.


Cognitive conflict: defined by Piaget, and also by psychologists such as Festinger (cognitive dissonance) and Heider (cognitive balance), this consists in the capacity we have to generate mental inconsistencies by providing new information or experiences in relation to something the students already knew (or thought they knew), as we ask questions that challenge the stability of their frameworks, creating the need-motivation to go back and rearrange their frameworks and learning, thus constructing new knowledge.  Homeostasis, or the search for lost equilibrium, thus becomes a powerful catalyst for learning.


Metacognition: this consists in the capacity that all students have to “learn to learn”, in other words, to control their own learning process by finding the best possible route for understanding and the way of doing so. This is what happens to a student when he/she discovers a “trick”, “short-cut” or way of learning something and realises this has happened.


Pedagogical constructivism: project-based learning is based on educational constructivism, because it considers learning is a personal and, at the same time, collective construction, but also a mental construction of networks and mental maps, in order to progressively improve them and make them more intricate.


Contextualisation: the teaching must take place in the context of the students’ real life, in what really affects them and what they are experiencing at that time. The projects must respond to the real needs of the students, their neighbourhood, their families, their historical memory or their city.


Creativity: the learning projects are generated by the creativity of the students themselves, but are also developed creatively when they are given or facilitated by the team of teachers at the institution, or via project-designed text materials. Creativity and innovation are essential tools in problem-solving and successfully implementing projects.


Stimulus-focus of the learning: projects and problems become a stimulus, point of interest or focus for learning, as the starting point and foundation for integrating and building knowledge through several disciplines and formats.


Role of the teacher: the teacher’s role in this kind of learning goes from that of a mere transmitter of the knowledge or information to becoming a facilitator in the students’ construction thereof.


Educational community: project-based learning involves the entire educational community in the construction of learning, so that mothers and fathers, as well as non-teaching staff and other local social agents also participate.


Assessment of the process and results: the assessment of this type of learning is multiple as regards what, who, when and how to assess. However, we can speak of self-assessment, co-assessment and hetero-assessment, as well as assessment of the processes and results and assessment of the competences and understanding of the knowledge.


Problem-based Learning (PBL): this is a specific learning method based on projects, in which the project consists of a problem or challenge that must be solved. The problem is used as a starting point for the acquisition and integration of new knowledge. It came about in the ’60s and ’70s within the setting of medical training in Canada, in response to the increasing demand for professional skills requiring cross-disciplinary approaches and skills for solving complex problems.


Semantic networks: learning is a constructive process that affects the associative structure of the memory and the plasticity of the brain, enriching the semantic fields or knowledge networks of the mind and fitting and integrating new information into the existing networks. Thus, new information, when anchored to the available networks, can be recovered and used more quickly and effectively.


Focus on the understanding: this involves no longer focusing on memory and the banking learning method, to devote mental energy to attempt to understand what one wants to learn. Understanding means being able to create new ideas based on what is learned, to enrich previous ideas or realise when we have mistaken or improperly arranged ideas.


Zone of proximal development: defined by Vigotsky, this consists of the distance between the actual development level (the capacity to learn by oneself) and the potential level of development (the capacity to learn in interaction with others, solving challenges or problems). If we fail to take students out of their zone of proximal development, also known as the “comfort zone”, they do not grow beyond what they could by making very little effort.


In order to create good projects, we would need to choose the ones that in themselves involve other goals for understanding and learning objectives in the GCI matrix and key competences. The title of the project is important, it must be generative, innovative, challenging and in general, meet the 5 rules or keys mentioned above for selecting learning concepts. In addition to the learning objectives related to understanding (what do we want them to understand?) and those related to tasks (what do we want them to practice?), the projects must also contain the activities and tasks that we want to sequence as per Kolb, as we have seen. In other words, a project would be a series of activities sequenced into Kolb’s task-phases (or any other type of sequencing), governed by a plot (which is also part of learning for understanding) that gives it meaning and a global approach. At any rate, there is a large amount of information on the Internet about project-based learning, learning for understanding and PBL.


Personally, I have adapted the project-based learning method in a proposal for working on multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner) for pre-school and primary school level. I did this using 5 characters called The Neurotects of Thought[2], which represent the basic cognitive tools that all children must develop as the basis for their social, prosocial and emotional skills. Thus, The Neurotects become great metaphorical allies for developing and launching projects, perhaps like pets that are going to help us solve mysteries, adventures, problems, etc. In other words, we can indeed adapt the methods and learning in Pre-school and Primary Education, and we can indeed lay down the basis, in our case, for a future Global Cosmopolitan Identity. We just need to sit down and generate ideas and plan with passion and an authentic interest in changing the world.


The following table summarises how projects using The Neurotects of Thought would be focused:



Project tools

How are these tools used

and what are they for?

Thoughtful earthworm Matryoshka dolls


This consists of making them see that reality is made up of layers, like matryoshka dolls, and that what is inside is not always what we imagined.
Magical questions This consists of creating a box of key questions to research: What is it called? Who gave it that name? Why? What is it for? One question is made per team or per student and they are taken out of the box randomly.
Creative butterfly Flying ideas


This consists of letting the imagination fly, like butterflies, in different places or with different formats: we hang them on a line with clothes pins.
Coloured ideas Once the ideas have been formulated, we categorise them into white, blue, green, yellow, red and black ideas. Each colour is an idea type or category.
Planner ant The task traffic light


Each task that must be performed is assigned a traffic light code with stickers:

-Red = not started

-Yellow = in progress

-Green = done

Instruction sheet Imitating operating instructions for devices, and the like, we can also make an instructions manual for our project (rules of use, equipment operation, etc.).
Connective spider The tree of knowledge


We draw the project as if it were a tree with roots (foundations, why, what for…), a trunk (arteries, arrangement into branches or teams…) and leaves and fruit (achievements and goals).
The doors of knowledge Each door of knowledge is an important person in our surroundings (mother, father, grandparent, sibling, classmate…) who will enable us to find information and gain access to the knowledge or resources related to the project. Each student will explain which doors they have and how to knock on them and open them.
Empathetic stick insect The first-aid kit for curing the world


A first-aid kit for curing the world will contain curative words and preventive or curative actions for the ailments of the environment, loneliness, sadness, and so on, to give our project a prosocial or ethical dimension.
If I were…I would like Empathy is based to a great extent on our ability to imagine ourselves as others, in other situations and in other things, even:

-If I were the school playground I would like…

-If I were the desk I would like…

-If I were a poor child I would like…

Creating empathy towards the beneficiaries or objects of a project helps the students to become more involved and work better.




Appendix 1. GCI competence descriptors and learning objectives within the framework of the Key Educational Competences under the LOMCE (2013).


GCI Descriptors Competence in linguistic communication
Projected historical sense I am able to narrate and write my history as a person and as a group in diverse human and cultural spaces over time.


I am able to communicate my talent and develop it through language, highlighting its value for others.
Constructive diversity I am able to communicate in contexts of cultural and linguistic diversity, to create something together.
Reflective research I am able to understand reality, question it and name it through the use of appropriate language.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to understand and regulate, through language, the processes of my interaction in diverse ecological contexts.


GCI Descriptors Competence in mathematics, science and technology
Projected historical sense I am able to measure, quantify and put into operation my personal history and relate it to others and the world.


I am able to measure my capacity and my talent, in addition to my efforts and learning, to improve it and implement it.
Constructive diversity I am able to mathematically explain certain human relationships and inter-relations.
Reflective research I am able to understand reality using research and statistical analysis tools.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to understand and rationally foresee the impact of my energy on local and global biosystems.



GCI Descriptors Cultural awareness and expression
Projected historical sense I am able to link my history to the cultural and artistic foundations that have built me, as well as providing new cultural products.


I am able to produce culture by cultivating and improving my talent, through my expression in relation to the world.
Constructive diversity I am able to general diverse hybrid cultural products based on knowing, appreciating and sharing other cultures.
Reflective research I am able to know and identify other cultures, valuing what each one has to offer to the good of humanity.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to appreciate and use cultures of caring for the earth, use of ecology and sustainable energy.





GCI Descriptors Digital competence
Projected historical sense I am able to use digital and information tools to build and explain my historical sense within a global world.


I am able to express and develop my talent in digital formats and using digital tools, as well as sharing it with others.
Constructive diversity I am able to construct diversity even using digital tools without borders on the global network.
Reflective research I am able to use technological tools to better understand and investigate, more effectively and efficiently.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to care for and maintain the biological and human ecosystem, with the aid of digital tools.


GCI Descriptors Social and civic competence
Projected historical sense I am able to construct history in conjunction with others, becoming aware of our interdependence as social stakeholders.


I am able to develop my talents in relation to others by working as a team and sharing in order for everyone to grow.
Constructive diversity I am able to relate and communicate well in diverse settings, fostering inclusiveness and blending.
Reflective research I am able to research human events and explain them in micro- and macro-social contexts.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to assess the actions of human beings in nature and the biosystem, proposing care for and sustainability of it.


GCI Descriptors Initiative and entrepreneurship
Projected historical sense I am able to write and narrate my life in conjunction with others, of making decisions that positively affect my future and that of others.


I am able to develop my talent autonomously using the tools and positive teachings of others.
Constructive diversity I am able to enter spaces of diversity and hybridisation, taking the initiative to build something together.
Reflective research I am able to independently analyse and research using the appropriate methodological tools.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to take the initiative to solve problems related to the environment and sustainability.


GCI Descriptors Competence for learning to learn
Projected historical sense I am able to think in a historical and forecasted manner, to use time and space as keys for my development and my identity.


I am able to learn to improve my talents and my features, aware of my progress and my potential.
Constructive diversity I am able to learn cooperatively, from others and with others, and to help others to learn.
Reflective research I am able to use research as a method for learning and searching for truth locally and globally.
Eco-systemic energy I am able to care for nature and the environment through the decisions I make and how I relate to the world.







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[1]Biosystemics is a new science that studies relations and interactions in a global, inter-dependent and cross-disciplinary manner, as well as processes of all kinds in the plant world and among all forms of macroscopic and microscopic life.

[2] More information at