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Students Abroad: What They’re Learning, What They’re Not, and What We Can Do About It University of Virginia January 19, 2010 Mick Vande Berg, PhD Vice.

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Presentation on theme: "Students Abroad: What They’re Learning, What They’re Not, and What We Can Do About It University of Virginia January 19, 2010 Mick Vande Berg, PhD Vice."— Presentation transcript:

1 Students Abroad: What They’re Learning, What They’re Not, and What We Can Do About It University of Virginia January 19, 2010 Mick Vande Berg, PhD Vice President for Academic Affairs Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)

2 The Traditional Teaching-Centered Study Abroad Paradigm  48,000 participants in 1985-86 Assumptions: Students learn well abroad when left to their own devices Students learn abroad through experience— through exposure to the new and different Institutional success in study abroad measured by increases in enrollments abroad

3 Traditional study abroad goal: “Immerse Students”

4 Traditional belief about “Immersion”: students swim happily about

5 The Emerging Learner-Centered Study Abroad Paradigm  241,791 participants: 400%+ increase Assumptions: Students learn through experience, reflection, and testing of new hypotheses For most U.S. students to learn effectively abroad, educators need to intervene Institutional success: whether students learn & develop effectively abroad.

6 Why is the Learner-Centered Paradigm Emerging? Historical Developments: Soaring U.S. study abroad enrollments: +400% increase in 21 years Assessment movement in U.S. higher education Growth of research on student learning abroad Decades of research & scholarship on teaching & learning

7 Study Abroad Research Growth* DecadeStudiesGrowth 1950s34+127% 1960s117+244% 1970s189+62% 1980s377+99% 1990s675+79% 2000-05c. 500N/A (* Bolen, M. (2007). A Guide to Outcomes Assessment in Education Abroad. Carlisle: Forum on Education Abroad, p. 99.)

8 Some Study Abroad Research Milestones Frontiers: the Interdisciplinary Journal of SA (1995) Journal of Studies in International Education (1996) Freed, B. (Ed.) (1995). Second Language Learning in a Study Abroad Context. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Vande Berg, M. (Guest Ed.) (2004). Assessing Student Learning Abroad. Frontiers: Vol. X. Bolen, M. (Ed.) (2007). A Guide to Outcomes Assessment in Education Abroad. Carlisle, PA: Forum on Education Abroad. Savicki, V. (2008). (Ed.) Developing Intercultural Competence and Transformation. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Deardorff, D. (2009). (Ed.) The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

9 Why is the Study Abroad Paradigm Changing?

10 Why is the SA Paradigm Changing? Findings from many academic disciplines are leading to new understandings about learning: The scholarship of teaching and learning Anthropology Communications Neuroscience Training Psychology Learning and Developmental Theory

11 Faculty & Advisors are Asking Pointed Questions about Learning Abroad What are those students actually learning over there? How do we know they’re learning? What sorts of program elements support student learning? How can home and resident faculty and staff intervene to promote student learning?

12 U.S. student learning abroad: research findings The Georgetown Consortium Project* researched the learning of 1,300 students in 61 programs abroad.  190 home institutions, several providers  $550,000 Title VI funding  Two Learning Domains:  Oral Proficiency (seven foreign languages)  Gains in Intercultural Development *Vande Berg, M.; Connor-Linton, J., & Paige, R. M. (2009). The Georgetown Consortium project: Intervening in student learning abroad. Frontiers. Vol. XVIII, 1-75.

13 Hypothesis I There is a significant relationship between student learning abroad and a wide variety of learner characteristics and program elements. Put differently: Students learn most effectively when we strategically intervene in their learning before and during study abroad.

14 Interventions in Student Learning: Two Types Design interventions: Program structure: duration, housing, course type, etc. Home campus study abroad policies Home campus curricular policies Active Facilitation (“Design +”) interventions: Pre-departure & on-site orientation Cultural mentoring of students abroad during program Re-entry orientation NB: Study focuses on the impact on learning of a large number of Design and Active Facilitation interventions

15 Study’s Principal Independent Variables* ( Each points to a potential intervention in student learning) Duration of Program Amount of pre-departure target language study Language of coursework on site ( a. content courses in target language; b. target language courses) Context of academic work (a. location of courses; b. students-in-course composition) Type(s) of housing at program Experiential learning activities Mentoring, or guided cultural reflection * Engle, L. and J. Engle (2003). Study abroad levels: Toward a classification of study abroad types. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad IX: 1-20.

16 Additional Independent Variables Pre-departure and on-site orientations with cultural component Gender Academic Major Prior study abroad experience Prior experience living abroad Amount of Interaction with host country nationals Student perception that the new culture is similar/dissimilar to home culture

17 Hypothesis II: Sanford’s Challenge/Support Hypothesis* A. Without sufficient challenge, learners abroad are bored and don’t learn. B. When there’s too much challenge, learners abroad are overwhelmed and don’t learn. C. Learners abroad learn most effectively when they benefit from intervention that facilitates an appropriate amount of challenge. *Nevitt Sanford (1966). Self and society: Social change and individual development. New York: Atherton Press.

18 Testing of Learning Domain I: Second Language Acquisition Instrument: Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI)* Pre- and post-testing of 968 students Testing of 7 foreign languages Significant amounts of data for student learning in French, German, and Spanish *

19 Study Abroad Language Research Finding 1: Different Types of Students Learn Differently: On average, Female Student scores improved one ACTFL sublevel, about twice as much as female control students at home campuses. However, Male students, on average, improved only about half an ACTFL sublevel, barely more than male control students at home campuses.

20 Language Research Finding 2: Type of Housing Alone Doesn’t Predict Learning Students housed either with a) host families or b) other international students made equal oral proficiency gains Students housed with c) other U.S. students or d) host country students gained less than those who lived with host families or with other international students

21 Language Research Finding 3: Engagement with Linguistically Different Others Predicts Learning There is a significant relationship between second language gains and the percentage of time students spent with a host family (the more time spent with a family member, the higher the gains)

22 Which begs two questions:  What could be done to get students to want to spend more time with members of their host families?  What could be done to enlist host families to help improve student oral proficiency?

23 Testing of Learning Domain II: Intercultural Learning Data generated through Pre- and Post- testing, using the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)* 1,297 students at 61 programs abroad completed pre- and post-IDIs *See for information about the IDI.

24 Copyright, 2007, Mitchell R. Hammer, Ph.D. Intercultural Development Continuum Denia l Polarization Defense/Reversal Minimization Acceptance Adaptation Modified from the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS), M. Bennett, 1986 Monocultural Mindset Intercultural Mindset

25 World View: Denial. I don’t know about that cultural stuff, and I don’t really need to know. I don’t really get culture shock – I’m all set as long as I can get around, order in restaurants, etc.. Difference Similarity

26 World View: Polarization. I don’t care if it’s their culture, that’s just wrong. Why are people so rude here? Now THIS is the way people should live! I’m moving here! (Reversal) DifferenceSimilarity

27 World View: Minimization. We’re all just human, after all. At the end of the day, we all want the same things. Just be yourself and you’ll get along! Do unto others as you’d have done to you. DifferenceSimilarity Similarity

28 World View: Acceptance. I know I shouldn’t behave in my usual way, but I don’t really know how to act. I think I’m starting to figure things out, but I still have a lot to learn. I can’t decide what is right and what is wrong! DifferenceSimilarity Similarity

29 World View: Adaptation. That’s not working – ok, let me try a different way of talking/behaving. I feel really comfortable here; it feels like a second home. Well, I don’t agree but I can see what they’re saying. DifferenceSimilarity Similarity

30 Intercultural research Finding 1: Different Types of Students Learn Differently Abroad Female Students showed statistically significant—though not large—increases in their intercultural development. Male students’ intercultural scores, however, actually decreased—their scores were lower, on average, than the scores of control students on home campuses.

31 Gender and IDI Gain (SAPs & Controls ; N = 1290) NMean IDI-1SDIDI-2SDChange score SAPsMale38494.3114.6893.8117.22-.4919 Female77297.1913.97100.9415.293.745 Total115696.2314.2798.5616.302.33 ControlsMale3695.1212.7895.4213.72.3 Female9893.6213.4293.4113.16-.21 Total13494.0213.2293.9513.29-.07 Total129096.0014.1798.0916.072.09

32 Which Begs the Question:  What could we do to improve the intercultural learning of male students abroad?

33 Intercultural Research Finding 2: Different Structured Learning Environments Influence Student Learning Differently Students directly enrolling in host university courses developed less, interculturally, than students in other learning environments (Consider the Challenge/Support hypothesis)

34 Intercultural Learning: Four Different Learning Environments Abroad N IDI-1SDIDI-2SD Change score Study mainly alongside other US students 63096.5714.6799.7516.643.182 Study alongside US, International, and host country students 17395.2414.3397.8415.782.596 Study mainly alongside international students 1190.8315.3595.7615.634.992 Study mainly alongside host country students 34996.1213.4696.8315.80.7080

35 Intercultural Finding 3: Cultural Mentoring in Groups Predicts Learning Students abroad who received cultural mentoring in groups “often” to “very often” showed the greatest increase in intercultural learning.


37 Research Finding 4 Perceived Cultural Similarity/Dissimilarity and IDI Gain SAPs whose IDI scores changed significantly were those who felt the host culture was “somewhat dissimilar” to “dissimilar” from the host culture. In other words, the perception of dissimilarity is associated with greater IDI change, except for the highest rating of “very dissimilar.” (Think of the “Challenge/Support” Hypothesis.)


39 Intercultural Research Finding 5A: Housing Type and Intercultural Learning Students who lived with U.S. students, or with host country students, made significant intercultural learning gains. Students who lived with a host family or with (non- U.S.) international students did not make significant intercultural gains. (Consider the “Challenge/Support” Hypothesis.)

40 Finding 5B: intercultural learning & Engagement with Host Family The higher the amount of time spent with the host family, the larger the change in students’ intercultural learning (The critical importance of cultural engagement: the same variable associated with oral proficiency learning in home stays).

41 Research Finding 6: intercultural learning: Engagement with Host People Students who spent 26-50% of their time with host country people showed significantly greater gains in their IDI scores than those who spent 1-25% of their time with host nationals. However, students who spent more than 50% of their time with host nationals actually scored lower on their post-test than on their pre-test. (Consider the Challenge/Support Hypothesis)


43 Structured Interventions & Intercultural Development Programs without intervention at site: IDI Gains GU Study (60 programs) +1.28 GU Study (61 programs, including AUCP)+2.33 Programs with intervention throughout prog:IDI Gains AUCP learner-centered program+12.47 Bellarmine/Willamette U Interc. course:+8.19 CIEE Intercultural Course pilot (4 progs., fall 09) +8.91

44 The Traditional (Teaching-Centered) Study Abroad Master Narrative Basic metric of success is # of students abroad Learning is “transformational” (light switch) Academic learning abroad is primary Learning about another culture is useful Learning occurs through exposure “Immersion” is the goal (swimming pool metaphor = duration, direct enroll, home stays) Good students at home = good students abroad If students abroad don’t learn when immersed, they have no one but themselves to blame

45 The Newer (Learner-Centered) Master Narrative : Academic learning is important; intercultural learning is fundamental (surface vs. deep learning) Goal is not only to learn about, but to have an experience of, another culture Learning is developmental, not transformational (the rheostat as emblem) Exposure is a necessary but not sufficient condition for learning: concrete engagement, reflection, forming & testing hypotheses are necessary* *Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning:. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. *Zull, J. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

46 The Learner-Centered Narrative (cont.) Learning “well” at home is not a predictor of learning or development abroad Educators need to intervene in student learning When students don’t meet learning goals, “the problem” may be in the program

47 A Learner-Centered Approach to Training Students Abroad: Three Objectives Students reflect on and become aware of themselves as learners and cultural beings. Students become aware that others can and do experience the world differently—that they often have different assumptions, beliefs and values. Students learn concepts and skills that allow them to bridge this cultural gap.

48 Thank you! The Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication: July 19-23 Mick Vande Berg

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