Book review: The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning (2020)

Bourn, D. (Ed.). (2020). The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Research on global (citizenship) education is growing. This is clearly demonstrated in the nearly 500 pages of The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning, published in 2020.

Douglas Bourn, the editor of this landmark book is a Professor of Development Education, Director of Development Education Research Centre at the University College London, and the Chair of the Advisory Board for Academic Network of Global Education Researchers (ANGEL).

In this blog post, I want to highlight some chapters of the book that could interest particularly researchers and practitioners based in Finland. I have divided them under three good reasons to read the handbook: 1) Getting to know the diversity of global education; 2) Acquainting yourself with the latest research; and 3) Positioning yourself in the field of global education.

1.      Get to know the diversity of global education

The Handbook represents the diversity of global education both thematically and geographically. Through Bourn’s introduction and conclusions, the reader gains a wide overview of the diversity and historical background of GE approaches. Bourn describes how the values of social justice, equity and human rights are central, but also Freirean critical pedagogy, dialogue and social action together with post-colonial and post-structural thinking continue to influence the current GE research.

The book is divided into six themes: 1) Challenges for Today and Tomorrow; 2) Theoretical Perspectives; 3) Impact of Policies and Programmes; 4) Global Perspectives in Higher Education; 5) Global Education and Learning within Schools; and 6) Learning and Experience and Being Global Citizens.

The 33 chapters of the handbook cover research from all over the world: Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Tobago, Taiwan, South Africa, United States, UK, and Zanzibar.

For Finnish researchers, an interesting chapter to start could be the review “Global Education Research in Finland” by Elina Lehtomäki and Antti Rajala. Using the five dimensions of GE from the Maastricht Declaration as the basis, they note how GE research in Finland has focused on intercultural education and education for sustainable development and much less on development education, human rights education or education for peace and conflict prevention.

Another chapter focuses on higher education students in Finland: Hanna Posti-Ahokas, Josephine Moate and Elina Lehtomäki write about the need to challenge students’ understanding of development and global responsibility in “How Do Higher Education Students Negotiate Global Responsibility in Education?”.

A screenshot from Elina Lehtomäki’s presentation on the book chapter on GE research in Finland at the EERA Conference symposium on global education in September 2021.

2.      Acquaint yourself with the latest research

The Handbook includes chapters both by well-known, established global education researchers (e.g. Bourn, Andreotti, Scheunpflug) as well as emerging PhD researchers sharing their latest results.

Those working on teacher training may find Claire Bennett’s chapter “Continuing Professional Development of Teachers in Global Learning: What Works?” valuable. Bennett argues for time and ongoing support for teachers instead of one-off training events. Teachers value collaboration within or between schools with peers, thus creating the feeling of being “in it together”. Teachers also appreciate regaining a sense of purpose and developing their knowledge and pedagogy as a result of CPD, and call for follow-up sessions to reflect on the practical implementation of their learning.  

Organisations dealing with international volunteering, internships or study exchanges may gain insights from Mags Liddy’s chapter “Apprenticeship of Reflexivity: Immersive Learning from International Volunteering as Teacher Professional Development”. Liddy focuses on Irish teachers volunteering for short periods in Indian schools. She highlights that thorough preparation and questioning one’s own practice reflexively are needed for the international experience to become transformational. According to Liddy, affective moments of learning, having to deal with uncomfortability and reassessing Western privileges are key for global learning to take place.

3.      Position yourself in the field of global education

The range of GE can be overwhelming: Where do you locate yourself in this vast field? The diversity of different disciplines, levels of education and geographical locations is well represented in the Handbook.

For example Madeleine Le Bourdon’s chapter “The Role of Informal Spaces in Global Citizenship Education” explores non-formal educational summer camps and how informal spaces can provide “the time and space lacking in structured learning environment, as well as the opportunity for peer and independent learning” (Le Bourdon, 2020).

This case of informal learning reminds me of a task given to university students on the course “Education and Global Justice”. One group chose Extinction Rebellion Finland from the list of possible organisations and interviewed some of its members. The XR volunteers were extremely surprised to be even considered as “global educators”, although they had been conducting informal school visits, and were engaged in a global, democratic climate justice movement at the community level. Critical, advocacy-oriented GE can materialize in this kind of more self-educative form of ‘Bildung’ among adults. GE in a kindergarten would look very different: there is no one right way of doing global education, and this is well conveyed throughout the Handbook.  

How to read the Handbook?

After reading around a dozen of the chapters, I can see many potential usages for this Handbook. We have included some chapters as course literature in the “Education and Global Justice” course organized for the Changing Education Master’s students at the University of Helsinki.

The book can also be used for self or group study, focusing on the themes of your particular interest. For instance, people working on GE projects may find chapters on impact, or on teachers’ CPD beneficial when designing new initiatives around GE.

It could be fruitful to pick a chapter to read with colleagues or peers from workplaces or networks, and discuss the text in a reading circle. Bringing diverse thoughts together might even create new ideas for future research or practice of global education!


Riikka Suhonen
Doctoral researcher in the Doctoral Programme on School, Education, Culture and Society (SEDUCE)
University of Helsinki
riikka.suhonen (at)

Twitter: @Af_riikka