22 SES 08 C, Paper Session
The most current numbers released by the IIE in their Open Doors Report (2020) show that the enthusiasm to venture out and seek education beyond U.S. borders is unbroken. According to the latest data there were 347,099 U.S. students enrolled at study abroad programs around the globe (IIE, 2020). Contrary to common belief, the US is not only a popular destination for international students, it also has a rich history of sending its students and scholars abroad to obtain advanced higher education.
Study abroad is a unique opportunity for students to gain “the stimulation, challenges, and opportunities required for substantive interpersonal and intercultural learning to occur” (Strange & Gibson, 2017, p. 85). Study abroad promotes outcomes such as increased intercultural competencies, higher graduation rates, and postgraduation career prospects (Whately, 2017). Since receiving education abroad promotes an increased understanding and sensitivity to cultural complexities and inter-cultural competence (Twombly et al., 2012), students that have lived and studied abroad are more apt to be successful in a diverse society like the US and work with people with various social, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds (Zhang, 2011). Study abroad consists of more than just going to another country. It is a pedagogical event that requires learning outcomes. Previous research has examined program outcomes, satisfactions, and motivation. However, little research exists on how to improve study abroad experiences to promote a more beneficial outcome. Additionally, few studies examine how short-term study abroad programs in the context of promoting a more beneficial outcome when compared to traditional semester or yearlong study abroad programs (Strange & Gibson, 2017).
Since 2015, there has been a decrease in the number of students enrolling in long-term or traditional study abroad programs in lui of short-term study abroad programs (Strange & Gibson, 2017). An argument raised against short-term study abroad programs is the misconception that they are simply a vacation for students to take in another country rather than a condensed learning opportunity (Strange & Gibson).
Students in the United States often have not traveled abroad prior to completing a study abroad when compared to European students (Whately, 2017). The cost of international travel is often a significant barrier. Additionally, the financial cost of traditional study abroad programs is often cited as factor for why students do not engage in study abroad (Whately, 2017). As such, providing students with the opportunity to complete a short term study abroad would decrease the financial obligation, opening the opportunity up to students who may not have been able to afford longer duration study abroad programs.
It is necessary to examine short-term study abroad programs in their ability to meet similar pedagogical goals and learning outcomes as traditional longer-term study abroad programs.
This study was guided by the transformative learning theory (TLT). Tarrant (2010) explained that the use of TLT allows for the examination of study abroad programs in an effort to assess the appropriateness of the program. Mezirow (1991) stated that in order to fully understand the world and ourselves, we must engage in reflection, active learning, and place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. As such transformative learning can be achieved through the changing of our frame of reference (Mezirow, 1997; 2003).
Utilizing narrative qualitative inquiry, interviews were conducted with study abroad participants to examine the motivation behind participants decision to complete a short-term study abroad and the ability of the short-term study abroad program to meet similar pedagogical goals and learning outcomes as traditional longer-term study abroad programs. Interviews were conducted prior to, during, and after the study abroad. An interview protocol was developed, aligning with the research question and the theoretical perspective guiding the study. Data collection consisted of a demographics survey, field notes, and individual interviews. Researchers personally transcribed the interviews and deidentified the transcripts to protect the identity of the participants. All interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. A second member of the research team then reviewed the transcripts for accuracy. member checking was conducted by sending a copy of the full transcript to each participant and asking them to review the transcript for accuracy. The data analysis phase consisted of a three-step approach to coding the qualitative data. The a priori codes determined at the start of the study may be revised, modified, deleted, or expanded to include new codes, once the data are collected, coded, and analyzed (Saldaña, 2016). First, one researcher coded the transcripts using the provisional coding method outlines by Saldaña (2016). Upon completion of the initial coding, the researcher met with the peer debriefers to discuss the data as it related to the a priori codes. Next, the researcher re-coded the data, based on the discussions with peer debriefers. Then researchers and peer debriefers deliberated on the coding material to determine if noted quotes accurately portrayed the definition of each code. The accuracy of evidence for each theme was determined by a consensus among the research and peer debriefers. Following the deliberation, the researcher conducted on final analysis of the data using the a priori codes.
This narrative qualitative inquiry conducted interviews were conducted with study abroad participants prior to, during, and after their short-term study abroad program. The primary reason for selecting a short-term study abroad program over a long-term traditional study abroad option was the financial and time commitment required of traditional study abroad programs. Students we unable to take more than two week off from their jobs in order to complete the program. Additionally, the financial commitment was lower, allowing students to pay for the trip without needing to receive financial support. With a short-term study abroad option, students are able to complete the program during their university intersession, allowing them to enroll in and complete courses at the university during the traditional semester. This means that students were able to continue receiving financial aid for their courses and would not fall behind in their degree program. With short-term study abroad programs being more condensed, participants are required to engage with the materials and culture in a more intense and expedited manner. Participants often encounter multiple lesson topics and experience two or three sites a day compared to focusing on one at a time. As such, this may lead to an increase in stress and decrease in comprehension. However, at the end of the study abroad program, participants expressed overall satisfaction with the program and had a desire to complete future short-term study abroad trips. While conducted in a more expedited manner, the learning outcomes were fulfilled and students were able to demonstrate transformative learning through reflection and active learning during the program.
Institute of International Education (IIE). (2020. November). Open Doors data U.S. Study Abroad. https://opendoorsdata.org/data/us-study-abroad/all-destinations/ Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 74, 5-12. Mezirow, J. (2003). Transformative learning as discourse. Journal of Transformative Education, 1(1), 58-63. Strange, H., & Gibson, H. J. (2017). An investigation of experiential and transformative learning in study abroad programs. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, XXIX(1), 85-100. Tarrant, M. (2010). A conceptual framework for exploring the role of studies abroad in nurturing global citizenship. Journal of Studies in international Education, 14(5), 433-451. Twombly, S. B., Salisbury, M. H., Tumanut, S. D., & Klute, P. (2012). Study Abroad in a New Global Century--Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose. ASHE higher education report, 38(4), 1-152. Whatley, M. (2017). Financing study abroad: An exploration of the influence of financial factors on student study abroad patterns. Journal of Studies in international Education, 21(5), 431-449. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315317697798 Zhang, Y. (2011). CSCC review series essay: Education abroad in the US community colleges. Community College Review, 39(2), 181-200.
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