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.

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