This study examines the impact of short-term (4 week to 1 semester), curriculum-based study abroad. Working with students who have returned to the United States after studying abroad on FIPSE-supported projects in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Europe, the project seeks to articulate the short and long-term impact that these programs have had on students’ academic and professional development.
Outcomes assessment has been a subject of increasing importance to study abroad program designers and managers over the past decade. In the early 1990s, studies focused on the effectiveness of the overseas experience in increasing language competency. A second wave of research examined personal growth and intercultural competence related to the study abroad experience. (Please see related publications by project personnel below.) This project contributes a unique perspective to the discussion by focusing on the outcomes of short-term, curriculum-based study abroad programs, programs that have received less attention.
Specifically, we are studying participants from the FIPSE-sponsored EU-U.S. Cooperation Program, the U.S.-Brazil Higher Education Consortium Program, and the Program for North American Mobility in Higher Education. We selected these three international programs because the U.S. Department of Education is the main funding agency for short-term curriculum-based study abroad, and its programs have the most diverse group of host partners.
We are exploring which aspects of the participants’ subsequent academic and professional careers were impacted the most by the study abroad experience. We are looking at how study abroad differently impacts students with different demographic profiles, different majors, and different types of home institutions (small liberal arts college vs. large research university; rural vs. urban setting; large vs. small class size, etc.). We are also seeking to determine whether the impact of short-term, curriculum-based study abroad is greater or different in some fields in comparison to others (engineering vs. nursing vs. culinary arts vs. marine ecology, etc.). Most of the students participated in an internship of some sort and we have a section devoted to exploring what the internship component contributed to the overall learning experience.
For the sub-population of students that had language training, we are examining factors that influence success in obtaining professional competency in a foreign language as well as the manner in which increased foreign language skill influences career choice and success on the job market. For those whose study abroad experience did not include foreign language training or exposure, lessons learned about the host culture and their impact on career are being examined. In designing our survey, we have consulted published research in an attempt to reproduce others findings or explore issues of great interest to the field.
We are currently in the process of administering the survey to students. In the spring of 2007 we intend to begin sharing the results of this study at professional conferences and in publications. Eventually we intend to make the anonymous data available to participating schools in the hope that the findings will inform the design and management of study abroad programs.
Project Director: Ann Domorad, Director, Office of Program Management, American Councils for International Education.
FIPSE Grant Officer: Dr. Frank Frankfort, EU-U.S. Atlantis Program,
Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.
Outside Evaluator: Dr. Norah Shultz, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education, Arcadia University.
Project Advisory Board Members
Dr. Corrie Brown, Professor and Coordinator of International Activities, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia.
Dr. Dan E. Davidson, President, American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS and Professor of Russian, Bryn Mawr College.
Dr. James R. Kahn, Director, Environmental Studies Program and John F. Hendon Professor of Economics, Washington and Lee University.
Dr. Michael Nugent, Director of the National Flagship Language Program, National Security Education Program.
Dr. Ishwar K. Puri, Professor and Head of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Dept. of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech.
Dr. Gale Wagner, Professor, Dept. of Vet. Pathobiology and Coordinator, College International Programs, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University.
Related Publications by Project Personnel
Davidson, Dan, Richard Brecht, and Ralph Ginzburg. 1993. “The Empirical Study of Proficiency Gain in Study Abroad Environments: Basic Research Needs and a Preliminary Analysis of Data.” Pp. 1-42 in Kaleva, ed. Theoretical Issues in the Study of Modern Foreign Languages: Visions of the Future. Moscow.
Davidson, Dan, Richard Brecht, and Ralph Ginzburg. 1995. “Predictors of Foreign Language Gain During Study Abroad.” Pp. 37-66 in B.F. Freed, Ed. Second Language Acquisition in Study Abroad Context, Vol. 9.
Davidson, Dan E. 2002. “From the Margin to the Mainstream: Innovative Approaches to Internationalizing Education for a New Century,” Change Magazine, Vol. 34, No. 5, September/October 2002, pp. 50-58.
Davidson, Dan E. 2004. Capabilities & Outputs of the U.S. Educational System: Proficiency Outputs, The National Language Conference. Online publication: http://www.nlconference.org/docs/NLC_Commentary_Davidson.doc.
Davidson, Dan E. and Susan G. Lehmann, 2006. “A Longitudinal Survey of the Language Learning Careers of ACTR Advanced Students of Russian: 1976-2000” in Russian Language Journal, Vol. 55, 2001-2005, pp. 193-221.
Peters-Davis, Norah D. and Susan G. Lehmann, 2002. Research Methods in Cyberspace: Internet Exercises for Social Science Research Courses. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association. Revised edition to be published in 2007.
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