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.

Monday, June 29, 2015

IIE Iran Higher Education Initiative

On June 18th, IIE published a very optimistic press release announcing delegation of senior US higher education representatives to Iran.  The delegation met with their peers from thirteen Iranian universities in an attempt to increase academic cooperation between our two countries.  The visit, the first delegation of this size in many years, included visits to several of Iran’s top universities and research institutes, as well as meetings with Iranian government representatives from the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology.  As a result of the visit, IIE has announced a new “IIE Iran Higher Education Initiative” aimed at reopening educational and scientific dialogue between the US and Iran.  The initiative already has several next steps planned: “bi-national conference calls, a white paper on opportunities for developing university partnerships and understanding the regulations that control the establishment of these relationships (to be published in July), workshops for university administrators, and activities aimed at increasing exchanges of students and faculty members.  In the future, the delegation members hope to engage in such activities as double degree programs, exchange programs for faculty and students, joint workshops, and study programs to the US for Iranian PhD students.  The delegation identified the major issue preventing achievement of these goals as a lack of institutional frameworks that match both sides’ priorities, however, they hope that after the June nuclear agreement there will be an opportunity to negotiate new or revive old MOUs between the two countries’ universities and colleges. 

As someone who took three years of Farsi as an undergrad and would have happily studied abroad in Iran had an opportunity been available to me, I am incredibly excited by this news.  This opening of relations could lead to great opportunity for cultural diplomacy, global competence and citizenship education, and assessment of the effects of international education on national security and diplomacy.  With a growing number of issues that affect both of our countries, including ISIS, water management, climate change, fossil fuel dependence, and food safety, it is essential that we repair our relations with Iran.  The cultural diplomacy provided by the new student exchanges the Initiative has suggested could be a great start at mending our relationship.  As IIE points out, according to their 2014 Open Doors report almost 10,200 Iranian students studied at US universities in 2013/14, compared to zero US students studying in Iran.  They then go on to note that while on the delegations visit, they experienced “…enormous good will towards the United States, especially in the education space…”  Could this be a result of Iranian study abroad programs to the US having a positive effect on the students’ sense of global citizenship?  And if so, would creating study abroad programs for US students in Iran have a similar effect on their feeling towards Iranians?  I am admittedly biased, but I am optimistic that the effects of such programs would be positive for our two countries’ relationship, and I think that at the very least is worth studying.  In Nel Noddings’ introduction to Educating Citizens for Global Awareness, she discusses the possibility of using global citizenship education as “Educating for Peace”, which given our countries’ contentious recent history is essential, I believe.  Perhaps students could be prepared for exchanges with curriculum that educates for peace rather than focuses on the US’ and Iran’s conflicting views.  For example, Noddings suggests that “Math teachers can ask students to trace the figures on casualties for 20th-century wars” to help students learn to “value the lives of all people, not just those of our own nation.”  So maybe before studying abroad in Iran, US students can take pre-departure orientation that includes a look at the number of people murdered by SAVAK under the reign of the US-allied Shah, or the number of casualties incurred by the Iranian people under the Iran-Iraq war.  I believe that global citizenship education could be used to great effect in promoting US-Iran relations through the work of IIE’s new Iran Higher Education Initiative, and I am very excited to see what it is capable of accomplishing in the coming months.


Institute of International Education.  (18 June, 2015).  U.S. University Delegation to Iran Paves the Way for Closer Higher Education Cooperation.  Retrieved from: http://www.iie.org/Who-We-Are/News-and-Events/Press-Center/Press-Releases/2015/2015-06-17-Iran-Higher-Education-Delegation

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.

Benefits of homestay-based study abroad

Sonia Shiri’s study, The Homestay in Intensive Language Study Abroad: Social Networks, Language Socialization, and Developing Intercultural Competence, provides a new look at the benefits of homestay-based study abroad programs.  When you hear people talk about homestays, its typically in the form of former participants gushing about how great it is, and how much it helped them in their language studies.  However, the few previous studies that exist paint a somewhat more clouded picture, with some claiming that homestays only offer students the opportunity to practice banal conversation and not being conducive to deeper cultural immersion.  Shiri’s study takes a closer look at homestays in Tunisia, to see what benefits they offer participating students.  The goal of the study was to address the topics of the composition of, and interaction with, the social network of the host family, student reflections on the homestay experience, and the perceived and actual linguistic gains from the homestay.  To this end, students took a post-program online survey, as well as pre-and post-program Oral Proficiency Interviews.  The results of the survey and OPIs appear to show that homestays positively effect a student’s study abroad experience, including providing them a deeper cultural immersion, and increasing their language competence.  The data showed that the homestay experience provided students “access to a broader social network,” with 61% of the participants paying several visits to peers’ host families.  77% of the students responded that “Having a homestay made me feel more connected to the local community.”  Contradicting the previous concerns, 74% of the students thought that their conversations with their host family grew in both complexity and length over time, while only 26% reported that their conversations became repetitive.  Perhaps most telling, students in this homestay program gained an average of 2.6 sublevels on their OPIs whereas students in comparable programs that didn’t incorporate the homestay component only gained 1.5 sublevels on average.   Shiri concludes that:

Overall, the homestay was a positive experience that al- lowed rich and frequent opportunities for learning and practicing primarily the local dialect, gaining a better understanding of diglossic language use, and language socialization into Tunisian society, all of which were facilitated by having opportunities to perform day-to-day activities; engage in more abstract discussions; and witness and participate in family chores, daily routines, leisure activities, social functions, and traditions

Shiri’s findings present important evidence in making the case for study abroad, and in particular, homestays.  Evidence like this helps to legitimize the field by providing hard data to support claims on the benefits of these programs, rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.  One thing that isn’t touched on as much, but I think would be very interested to see, is homestays’ effect on global citizenship.  Shiri points out the benefits of these programs on global competence, but doesn’t get into global citizenship.  Nel Noddings points out that “We really cannot care for people at a great distance without some means of direct contact.”  Shiri’s study showed that 91% of the students in the homestay program responded that they intend to keep in touch with their host family.  It would seem to me that this continued contact born of the homestay experience would increase the participating students’ caring for their host family and community, and an increased sense of global citizenship.  I think it is important to investigate this further.

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.

Shiri, S. (2015). The Homestay in Intensive Language Study Abroad: Social Networks, Language Socialization, and Developing Intercultural Competence. Foreign Language Annals, 48(1), 5-25.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Effect of Study Abroad on Employability

Giorgio Di Pietro’s recent study, “Do Study Abroad Programs Enhance the Employability of Graduates?” investigates an important facet of international exchange.  One of the most oft-cited rationales for internationalization in general is the economic benefit.  As the Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 report, “Education for Global Leadership” claims, “…American multinationals’ success in expanding their sales in overseas markets depends on their understanding of the culture, language, and customs of local markets.”  To achieve this success, they need employees who are culturally and linguistically competent.  Di Pietro’s study seeks to determine whether companies have started taking this into account in their hiring processes.

Di Pietro’s study examines the employment likelihood of graduates who studied abroad versus those who did not.  His data source was a 2007 survey from the Italian National Statistical Institute; he concentrates on the observation of whether the graduate has participated in a study abroad program.  After removing the effects of other observable and unobservable student characteristics from his equation, he determines that studying abroad does indeed have a positive effect on employability.  In fact, according to his data, “The magnitude of the employment-enhancing effect of studying abroad is found to be slightly greater than that related to having continuously worked during university (relative to not having worked).”  He concludes that graduates who studied abroad are approximately 22.9% more likely to be employed three years after graduation than their peers who did not study abroad. 

This study could serve as an important recruiting tool for study abroad programs.  Being able to tell prospective study abroad participants that if they do study abroad, they’ll be 22.9% more likely to land a job, is a very nice selling point.  I would be interested to see this study replicated in the US, to see how the results compare.  I fear that companies in the US, a country historically noted for its “rugged individualism”, may not place the same value on global competence than companies located in the more metropolitan European community.

Committee for Economic Development (CED). (2006).Education for Global Leadership: The Importance of International Studies and Foreign Language Education for US Economic and National Security, A statement by the Research and Policy Committee of the Committee for Economic Development.  Retrieved from: http://www.ced.org/images/library/reports/education/report_foreignlanguages.pdf

Di Pietro, G. (2015). Do study abroad programs enhance the employability of graduates?. Education Finance and Policy.