Knowledge to Action Projects

Educator successfully facilitates student participation in Knowledge to Action projects in which both educator and students are engaged in taking cooperative action to address a global issue.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

The educator facilitates students through the design and implementation of their Knowledge to Action projects. The educator supports students through the experiences of engaging with others and adopting shared responsibility as they translate ideas, concerns, and findings about a global issue into collaborative action to improve conditions, and facilitates a reflective debrief of the experience.

Method Components

What are Knowledge to Action Projects?

Knowledge to Action (K2A) projects are student-designed and student-led social action projects that convert knowledge gained from research of a global issue into a plan that can be implemented locally, or on a larger scale. K2As are the vehicles through which students begin to identify as change-makers.

Components of a Knowledge to Action Project

Students are the lead designers, thinkers, and decision-makers in their K2A projects. With support from teachers, students (usually working in teams) complete the following seven-step design process:

  1. Choose an issue: Students brainstorm issues or problems that they care about and use a decision chart, or similar organizational method (see sample decision chart in the Resources section), to consider pros and cons, as well as the global and local context for each issue, before choosing one. Students then reflect on their personal connections and questions about the issue they have selected.
  2. Build understanding and empathy: Students use a perspectives chart, or similar organizational method (see sample perspectives chart in the Resources section), to consider various individuals and groups who are affected by the issue, each of their different perspectives on the issue, how they might want to solve it, and what the potential results are. (For more on building empathy, see the "Simulations to Help Students Develop Greater Empathy" micro-credential in the Global Competence: Perspectives and Empathy stack.)
  3. Visualize the change: Students envision the change they want to make, describing the impact their project will have, and the support they need in making this change happen. Students also anticipate the challenges they see in creating their desired change and articulate the questions they have about how to successfully create that change.
  4. Brainstorm: Students brainstorm possible solutions and analyze the pluses and minuses of each before identifying the strongest idea from their brainstorming session—the one they would like to build their project around. Students also brainstorm partners, allies, and support that will help their idea to be successful, as well as the resources they need for building their first prototype, and any new questions they have.
  5. Build a prototype: Students create a prototype—a model or example of their proposed solution. They can use any format—drawing, written plan, visual or performing art, digital document, cardboard model, video, etc. Students consider which parts of their prototype will be most challenging to accomplish and revise their list of resources as needed.
  6. Test it: Students reflect on what they are hoping to learn and how they will test their prototype before conducting the test.
  7. Reflect and redesign: Students reflect on what they’ve learned from the test and changes they will back based on the feedback they received. They consider how those changes will improve the project and how they would alter or improve their test process for next time. Students also determine what new resources they need to launch their project.

The design model for the development of K2As is based on a process developed by Stanford University’s (see Resources).

The K2A design process is also built on inquiry-based learning, which means that part of the role of the student is also to ask questions along the way. These questions help guide the students' path, and may or may not be answered. Students may answer their own questions, or get help from teachers and/or individuals who have offered to provide assistance in the project. "Project Allies" via the online Knowledge to Action Collaboratory (see Resources) in answering their questions.

How do Knowledge to Action Projects foster global engagement?

K2A projects promote global engagement by challenging students to investigate an issue that they are interested in and feel passionate about, to understand the issue’s global as well as local impact, and to design a project that addresses the issue in some way: by educating others, becoming an advocate, speaking out, raising awareness, uniting the community, engaging others to participate, performing direct or indirect service, or participating in some other form of social action. The K2A project gives students the opportunity to experience what it means to be a globally engaged citizen and change-maker.

How is global engagement connected to global competence?

As students develop the core concepts, skills, values, attitudes and behaviors of global competence, they gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for how each individual affects and is affected by the problems and issues that face our global society. As a result, students become more concerned, passionate, and motivated to become globally engaged and make a difference. Global engagement, in turn, fosters the development of openness, humility, self-awareness, empathy, adaptability, collaboration, problem-solving, reflection, and so on; in other words, greater global competence. Global engagement is key to the development of global competence because rather than simply preparing students to become global citizens in the distant future, it gives them the opportunity to think and act as global citizens today (See the Resources section for more information).

Suggested Implementation Strategies

  1. Support students and monitor their progress as they move through the seven-step design process described above. (Please see graphic on the downloadable Requirements PDF below.)
  2. Guide students to consider many possibilities when brainstorming. Help them to know that action can take many forms: educating others, becoming an advocate, speaking out, raising awareness, uniting the community, engaging others to participate, performing direct or indirect service, and so on.
  3. Provide ongoing feedback and answer students’ questions as they design their K2As. This can be done directly in the classroom and using the discussions and resources offered in the online Collaboratory (see Resources), where students share their work, collaborate virtually with peers, and receive feedback from teachers and Project Allies.
  4. Provide resources for teams and students to help them with their projects.
  5. Connect teams with Project Allies who can answer questions and provide resources based on their expertise in the issues or in change-making in general, and manage Project Ally input.
  6. Approve teams to move on to the final steps of their project.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Knowledge to Action projects employ many best-practice pedagogies. They are experiential, authentic, challenging, constructivist, reflective, and collaborative (Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde, 2005). K2As involve cooperative, project-based, and inquiry-based learning—all of which have been demonstrated to promote student understanding in the classroom (Hattie, 2009).

Research studies have shown widespread benefits of cooperative learning. Research also demonstrates that students gain as much or greater factual knowledge from project-based learning experiences compared with more traditional forms of instruction. In addition, students who engage in project-based learning gain increased confidence and motivation, as well as critical-thinking skills and the ability to flexibly use and transfer their learning to new situations (Thomas, 2000).

Inquiry-based practices have been shown to have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable (Newmann, 1995). And studies show that students learn more deeply when they apply newly learned knowledge to real-world problems. Learning through complex, meaningful projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration helps students develop critical- and creative-thinking skills, as well as effective writing and speaking skills (Barron and Darling-Hammond, 2008).

K2As also involve design-based instruction and service learning, both of which have been shown to foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills and lead to deeper understanding of complex concepts (Thomas, 2000; Corporation for National and Community Service, 2007). Research has shown that these kinds of learning experiences are most successful when students regularly reflect on their process and progress along the way (Gertzman and Kolodner, 1996).

  • Hattie, John. “Teaching Effects: Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student Achievement.” Visible Learning, 2009.
  • Newmann, Fred M., Helen M. Marks, and Adam Gamoran. “Authentic Pedagogy: Standards That Boost Student Performance.” Issues in Restructuring Schools. Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools, 1995.


Global competence refers to the knowledge, skills, and dispositions individuals need to be successful in today's interconnected world and to be fully engaged in and act on issues of global significance. The Global Competence Task Force defined globally competent individuals as "those who use their knowledge and skills to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize their own and others' perspectives, communicate their ideas effectively with diverse audiences, and translate their ideas into appropriate actions" (see link below).

Example Global Competence Frameworks

  • The Global competence matrix was created through a collaboration between World Savvy, Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Asia Society. The matrix identifies components of global competence, which assists educators as they foster global competence in themselves and develop it in their students.
  • Global Competencies: 21st Century Skills Applied to the World was developed by the Global Competence Task Force, formed and led by the Council of Chief State School Officers' EdSteps Initiative and the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning

Example Global Issues

K2A Online Spaces Resource

Design Thinking Resources

  • The Institute of Design at Stanford University, also known as, provides methods, tools, and other resources for guiding groups through their design thinking process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test.

Service Learning Resources

  • The National Youth Leadership Council website offers professional development opportunities and resources for educators interested in service learning.
  • And the K-12 Service Learning Standards for Quality Practice outlines clear guidelines for designing and assessing meaningful service-learning experiences.

Example Global Action Projects

  • OpenIDEO is a global community working together to design solutions for the world’s biggest challenges.

Additional Service Learning Curriculum and Example Action Projects

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

The items in this following section detail what must be submitted for evaluation. To earn this micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 and a “Yes” for both artifacts submitted for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(500-word limit total):

  • What were your goals and expectations for engaging students in K2A projects?
  • K2A projects emphasize collaboration, inquiry, and project design experiences with students. How did you prepare to facilitate this?
  • What did you observe during the process? Please describe what you observed about your students’ participation in the K2A project as well as notes about your own actions to support the students’ learning and progress.

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Please submit the students' decision and perspectives charts for the K2A project (maximum: three chart sets). Include any brainstorming notes from the creation of the chart.

Please also submit a video or audio recording of students participating in the reflective debrief at the end of the K2A project (maximum length: three minutes) OR written reflections from three to five different students that demonstrate how the K2A project helped them engage globally (maximum length: three pages).

Part 3. Reflection

(750-word limit total):

  • What did you learn from your experience planning and facilitating the K2A projects? How did you engage students globally through the use of this method?
  • What did you learn from your own observations as well as the insights students shared in the reflective debrief and in their individual written reflections?
  • Given what you’ve learned, what will you do the next time you implement K2A projects to help students engage globally? Please include things you will do the same and differently in the future.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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