Thursday, July 2, 2015

When Internationalization goes wrong

Today’s post looks at the dark side of student mobility.  In her piece from the summer 2013 edition of International Higher Education, The False Halo of Internationalization, Jenny J. Lee looks at how internationalization efforts that bring foreign students to the US can be lacking in quality or even exploitative.  Lee investigates the experiences of international postdoctoral research scientists and student athletes, and finds that while their presence at US universities is often touted as successful internationalization, often times the student does not benefit from the arrangement.  To start, Lee claims that for International postdocs, many faculty supervisors hold stereotypes that scientists from the US and Europe are more skilled at theoretical science, whereas Asian scientists are more skilled at technical science.  Thus, international postdocs from Asia are often forced into a path of being lab supervisors on temporary contracts, becoming, in effect, “postdocs for life.”  She argues that despite the fact that international researchers are being included in US labs, calling this exploitative pattern “internationalization” is counter-effective to successful internationalization. 

Lee then goes on to discuss the exploitative relationship that universities often have with international student athletes.  International students are often recruited to US college sports programs as a way of bringing top-notch athletic prestige to the university.  Additionally, these students can be and often are shown off as a display of the university’s commitment to internationalization.  In reality, while these students do present an opportunity for internationalization by sharing their experiences with the university’s domestic students, the typical result is often the opposite: social isolation or harassment.  In addition, the universities often put international athletes into less academically demanding (and beneficial) majors, so that they can focus on their athletics.

The author concludes that “it is na├»ve and irresponsible to perceive internationalization as being inherently good.  Internationalization is not merely a set of observable activities but also involves social and education responsibility.”  She argues in cases like these, internationalization can’t solely represent the interests of the host institutions, but must represent the interests of the international students as well.  Furthermore, it is not the international students’ responsibility to fix these issues, but that of the institution.  University administrators must impress on their faculty and students the benefits and importance of internationalization.  In this conclusion, Lee reminds me very much of Jane Knight.  In Knight’s 2012 piece Five Truths about Internationalization, she posits that “Internationalization is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.”  In Lee’s scenarios, university administrators are claiming that incorporating international student athletes and postdocs constitutes internationalization.  This is a mindset of internationalization being and end goal, not a means to achieving a goal.  Furthermore, Knight claims that internationalization should “should not overshadow or erode the importance of local context.”  Lee would seem to be arguing a similar, but converse point: if you are going to incorporate foreign students into your university as a form of internationalization, you can’t totally ignore their global context, as is done her scenarios.  As she notes, it is the job of administrators to educate faculty and students on internationalization and its benefits.  Much like Knight, the bottom line of Lee’s piece is that university administrators can’t get so tied up in applying the term “internationalization” to programs that they lose sight of what the programs are supposed to be achieving, and that all parties are benefiting from them.

Knight, Jane. "Five myths about internationalization." International Higher Education 62.1 (2011): 14-15.

Lee, J. (2015). The false halo of internationalization. International Higher Education, (72), 5-7.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Study Abroad for Business School

In last September’s Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, Peter J. Gordon, Tori Patterson, and John Cherry discussed the importance of improving study abroad enrollment for business students in their piece Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students.  Their concern is that while “much has been written about the benefits of overseas study to returning students, little has been published which discusses how to use this outcome information and other strategies to motivate future students to go abroad.”  The students, in this case, are business students, for whom they claim international competence is more important than any other academic discipline thanks to our increasingly globalized world.  The central question in this piece is, “how do we increase the number of US business students studying abroad?”

The authors identify several barriers to business students studying abroad: financial and fear, cultural, and administrative and academic.  These issues that they present align very closely with the barriers to study abroad laid out in IIE’s 2014 green paper, What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad?; cost, culture and curriculum.  The barriers they present resulted from a recent survey conducted by member universities of the Magellan Exchange.  The most common barrier, according to the survey, was a financial one.  Many students can’t, or believe they can’t, afford to participate in study abroad programs.  However, as the authors point out, there are currently ways to get around this issue of cost, including scholarships, loans, or student travel savings plans.  They then discuss the cultural barriers formed by the influence of family, friends, and professors.  According to the survey, 90% of US students saw family as somewhat of a barrier or a large barrier.  This is especially true for first-generation college students.  The authors suggest an information campaign on study abroad directed at parents, to show them that these programs are safe and beneficial for their children.  Likewise, unsupportive friends can create a barrier to studying abroad.  The authors suggest pairing prospective study abroad students with past participants to share their great experiences.  Another step that needs to be taken is to convince faculty (who may be advising prospective study-abroad students) of the worth of international experience- the authors suggest incorporating this in the criteria for achieving tenure.  I like the idea… but I don’t quite see that one flying anytime soon.  The authors present a similarly unrealistic solution to curricular barriers:

There is no business major which covers every piece of knowledge in the discipline. So departments should recognize that the student who learns something different than what might have been identified in the major coursework at home had at least an equally rich academic experience as one who stayed at home and followed the precise curriculum. Prerequisite requirements may need to be waived – for example, does it really matter which comes first – micro or macroeconomics? Basically, every effort needs to be made to ensure a semester of overseas study moves the student a semester closer to graduation.

I applaud the authors’ enthusiasm, but I can’t imagine departments giving up control of their academic requirements that easily.

While I don’t think that they present the most realistic solutions, I do agree with the authors’ conclusions: “Increasing student participation in study abroad programs should be a key goal of all business schools,” “Institutional support for study abroad must be a priority,” and that there must be a holistic approach to reducing the barriers to study abroad.  The Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 report Education for Global Leadership claims that “To compete successfully in the global marketplace, U.S.-based multinationals as well as small businesses must market products to customers around the globe and work effectively with foreign employees and business partners.”  Clearly, the authors of Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students would agree, and would argue that to achieve this, we must do more to encourage business school students to study abroad. 

Gordon, P. J., Patterson, T., & Cherry, J. (2014). Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 18(3), 77.

Heintz, S., & Isaacson, W. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for US economic and national security.  

Institute of International Education. (2014). What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad?. Retrieved from:

Trends in Graduate Student Study Abroad

In their piece Graduate Student Learning Abroad: Emerging Trend? from the fall 2014 volume of International Higher Education, John M. Dirkx, Kristin Janka Millar, Brett Berquist, and Gina Vizvary survey the current landscape of study abroad at the graduate level.  They begin by pointing out that study abroad at the graduate level should be, and is, fundamentally different than at the undergraduate level.  They then go on to discuss the work of a new project at Michigan State University, the Graduate Learning Experiences and Outcomes study, which was formed to investigate “the landscape of international learning opportunities offered at the graduate level.”  From a recent survey of 15 US research universities that the study ran, it was discovered that most of the graduate-level study abroad programs were short-term (four weeks or less), faculty-led, and made up of 6-20 students.  Program costs are almost always covered by the students.  The universities surveyed offered programs to 59 different countries, with China being the most frequent destination.  The programs do not typically feature homestays; the students usually stay in tourist accommodations.  The programs themselves usually consist of a mix of lectures and experiential activities, such as field trips, research, and volunteer service.  The faculty leaders who were surveyed expressed their goals for the program to include international collaboration, preparing students for international careers, creating a global presence for their university, and challenging students’ perceptions of the world.  They use these trends to frame a call to action for greater research into how to administer graduate-level study abroad.  They conclude that “Graduate study-abroad experiences should complement and deepen the learning that occurs within a student’s graduate program,” but go on to pose several questions that must be explored further by the international education community.  Most importantly, what are the indicators of a successful study abroad experience at the graduate level, and how can we know that these programs are achieving the outcomes that we desire?

This piece poses some important and thought-provoking questions.  The Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 report, Education for Global Leadership, claims that “It is becoming increasingly important for U.S. companies of all sizes to succeed in overseas markets,” and as a result, warns that US students will need improved cross-cultural skills and foreign language competencies to compete in the global marketplace.  As the Michigan State survey showed, one of the main reasons that faculty lead graduate-level study abroad courses is to help students prepare for international careers.  This outcome plays right into the CED report’s call for global competence education.  In order to ensure that we effectively instill these competencies, we must heed the call of the Dirkx et. al piece and continue to question whether these programs are truly achieving our desired outcomes, and how these programs can be used to address future challenges and priorities.  Furthermore, we must continue to monitor the programs to make sure they are most beneficial to graduate students, and not just undergraduate programs that happen to be attended by graduate students.  If properly researched and monitored, graduate-level study abroad programs can lead to a new generation of advancements in global competence education, and therefore continued US economic security.

Dirkx, J. M., Millar, K. J., Berquist, B., & Vizvary, G. (2014). Graduate Student Learning Abroad: Emerging Trend?. International Higher Education, (77), 14-15.

Heintz, S., & Isaacson, W. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for US economic and national security.   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Effects of Study Abroad on Learning Outcomes in Global Citizenship

If we are to justify funding and curricular inclusion of study abroad programs, we must be able to do this.  In their study The Added Value of Study Abroad: Fostering a Global Citizenry, Michael Tarrant, Donald Rubin, and Lee Stoner attempt to make this justification by studying the effect on global citizenship learning outcomes of study abroad versus domestically and by subject matter (sustainability versus non-sustainability).  As the authors point out, there have been very few previous studies that investigate the value addition of study abroad programs.  In particular, they wanted to see the effect on learning outcomes of global citizenship education, given the increasing globalization we see in today’s world.  In this study they looked at global citizenship through the lens of global environmental responsibility, comparing the learning outcomes between students enrolled in sustainability classes to those in classes with no sustainability component, both abroad and domestically.  Pre- and post-program surveys concerning global environmental citizenship were administered to all students.  The survey results showed that studying abroad in itself is not the strongest factor for nurturing global citizenship, rather, the combination of studying abroad on a program with an academic focus on sustainability has the greatest effect.  They concluded that studying abroad doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a student will gain intercultural competence, but that “…international education objectives are likely optimized when students receive deliberate instruction in those objectives in the context of field-based, experiential study abroad.”  So, it’s not enough just to send our students abroad, for them to gain global competence or a sense of global citizenship, they must also be provided the proper curriculum.  However, given the proper curriculum, studying abroad does positively affect the learning outcomes, as compared to studying the curriculum domestically.

In Educating Citizens for Global Awareness, Nel Noddings also stresses the importance of curriculum in teaching global citizenship.  She even spends part of her introduction concentrating on the idea of “protecting the earth” as a form of global citizenship, much as how the course used in this study was on sustainability.  Noddings suggests that to properly teach this form of global citizenship, “Secondary school teachers of the social studies and related subjects should survey available texts with a critical eye” in order to make sure they contain the necessary knowledge to cultivate global citizens.  She also supports “Place-Based Education” for this topic, I think that this study would have provided her some appreciated support, in that it shows that the combination of study abroad and appropriate curriculum is the most effective for teaching global citizenship.  For a topic like global citizenship that seems so abstract to most Americans, studies like this one are essential to help explain it and how best it can be taught.

Noddings, Nel.  2005.  Global Citizenship: Promises and Problems.  In N. Noddings (Ed.), Educating Citizens for Global Awareness (pp. 1-21).  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Tarrant, M. A., Rubin, D. L., & Stoner, L. (2014). The Added Value of Study Abroad Fostering a Global Citizenry. Journal of studies in international education, 18(2), 141-161.

Short-term Study Abroad for Secondary Language Acquisition

In their study The Role of Individual Differences in the Study Abroad Context: Cognitive Capacity and Language Development During Short-Term Intensive Language Exposure, Sarah Grey, Ellen Serafini, Jessica Cox, and Cristina Sanz investigate the effects of short term study abroad on second language acquisition, and what role student cognitive capacity plays in these effects.  The authors tested advanced-level students on their lexical and grammatical second language (L2) capability in Spanish before and after a five-week study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain.  By doing this, they hoped to answer “Does a 5-week L2 intensive language experience abroad lead to improved L2 grammatical and/or lexical development in advanced learners, as measured by accuracy and latency?” and “Are working memory and/or phonological working memory related to the degree of L2 grammatical and lexical development over a 5-week intensive language experience program?”  Based on the accuracy and reaction time results of the students in the pre-and post-program grammatical and lexical judgment tests, the authors determined that “…advanced proficiency learners can and do improve their L2 abilities during a 5-week intensive experience abroad.”  In addition, they determined that “…advanced-level participants improved in their L2 morphosyntactic and lexical judgment accuracy over the 5 weeks abroad, regardless of potential variation in their cognitive capacity.”  They conclude “that intensive study abroad, even for only 5 weeks, is useful for making significant progress in the L2 at an advanced proficiency level” and that this progress was “not constrained by variation in learners’ cognitive resources.”

The results of this study have strong implications for study abroad and language education.  As pointed out in reports such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ 2012 US Education Reform and National Security and the Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 Education for Global Leadership, internationalization of US education is essential for US economic and national security.  An important component for both of these priorities is foreign language skills, in fact, the CED report even has a subsection titled “Knowledge of Foreign Languages and Cultures is an Economic Necessity”, where they argue that due to the increasingly globalized marketplace, US businesses now need employees with foreign language skills in order to communicate with foreign customers.  As far as national security goes, the CFR report warns that “Americans’ failure to learn strategic languages, coupled with a lack of formal instruction about the history and cultures of the rest of the world, limits U.S. citizens’ global awareness, cross-cultural competence, and ability to assess situations and respond appropriately in an increasingly interconnected world.”  Clearly foreign language skills are essential to the future of the US economy and national security, but how best to go about acquiring those skills?  What if students can’t afford a full semester or year of study abroad, or can’t fit it in their curriculum?  These are the two most common barriers, but both can be circumvented by cheaper and less time-demanding short-term abroad programs, which this study shows that “even for only 5 weeks, is useful for making significant progress in the L2 at an advanced proficiency level,” regardless of cognitive capability.  By foreign language results in that short of a time frame, businesses may even be able to send their employees abroad for language training if necessary.  This study should aid US economic and national security through the promotion of accessible short-term study abroad programs for intensive language study.

Grey, S., Cox, J. G., Serafini, E. J., & Sanz, C. (2015). The Role of Individual Differences in the Study Abroad Context: Cognitive Capacity and Language Development During Short‐Term Intensive Language Exposure. The Modern Language Journal, 99(1), 137-157.    

Heintz, S., & Isaacson, W. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for US economic and national security. 

Klein, J. I., & Rice, C. (2014). US education reform and national security (No. 68). Council on Foreign Relations.