«Title: STUDY ABROAD AS A PASSPORT TO STUDENT LEARNING: DOES THE DURATION OF THE STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM MATTER? Jill M. Neppel, Master of Arts, 2005 ...»
First, this study was a non-experimental, comparison study and not a study of causality. A follow-up study could add a control group to the research design, comprised of a comparable sample of students who remain at the home institution, to determine the extent to which they assign growth in the measured learning outcomes to experiences and activities associated with the collegiate experience other than study abroad. The control group could then be compared to the long-term and short-term study abroad groups to see which group manifests the greatest amount of perceived growth. Alternatively, the current study could be replicated using a pre-test, post-test design in order to procure a better estimate of the perceived growth in learning outcomes. This more precise measurement could then be used in the comparison of the short-term and long-term study abroad groups.
As was noted in the literature review section, there has been limited research conducted that has looked specifically at length of time abroad as a variable of interest.
Data analysis conducted as a part of this research study revealed this factor to be statistically significant. As such, more research should be conducted in general which focuses on the duration of study abroad programs for the purpose of replicating and further supporting the advances made by this study. Moreover, because it was necessary to collapse the data for this study, statistical analyses could only be conducted on two distinct levels of the independent variable (i.e., short-term programs vs. long-term programs), instead of the four levels that were originally hoped for (academic year, semester, winter-term and summer). Therefore, it would be useful if further studies were conducted which looked in greater detail at the variety of study abroad program lengths and their corresponding effects.
It has been noted as a limitation of this study that only duration of the study abroad program was analyzed as an independent variable, despite the fact that there are a multitude of programmatic factors that distinguish study abroad programs from one another. This focuses attention on the need for further studies to investigate each of these individual programmatic factors, both in isolation and in relation to one another.
This study used cross-tabulations to gain some insight into the demographic and background characteristics of individuals who chose to study abroad on both short-term and long-term study abroad programs. However, further attempts should also be made to determine the extent to which certain factors (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, SES, academic major, institutional culture, parental involvement, advisors’ input, etc.) contribute to students’ decisions to participate in study abroad programs of varying lengths. Such studies could utilize the statistical procedure of multiple regression to determine the respective weights of such factors.
Along these lines, more attention should be devoted in the research to the motivations and expectations that students have for short-term study abroad, as well as the resulting outcomes. It has been conjectured that one potential benefit of the proliferation of short-term study abroad opportunities is that an increasing number of students, who for various reasons would not have considered studying abroad before they were presented with short-term options, are enrolling in short-term study abroad programs in increasing numbers (Hovde, 2002b). It is further hypothesized that this initial international experience may entice these same students to subsequently become more open to longer-term study abroad, international travel, and/or international issues and global awareness. A viable research study would be to follow those first-time, short-term study abroad participants after they have returned from their education abroad programs, to determine the extent to which their experiences cause them to actively pursue subsequent international travel and study abroad experiences, especially in comparison to those students who are unable to participate in short-term study abroad programs during college.
The current perception in the study abroad field is that short-term study abroad is more conducive to the needs of non-traditional students and those students for whom cost is a major deterrent (Hovde, 2002b). This sentiment must be further explored, however, because the results of this study actually found short-term and long-term study abroad participants to be of similar socioeconomic backgrounds; a sizeable proportion of both short-term and long-term participants actually came from relatively high socioeconomic backgrounds. In spite of this, respondents overwhelmingly identified cost as a major impediment to studying abroad. For this reason, more attention needs to be focused on the issue of whether short-term study abroad opportunities are meeting the needs of those less privileged, in order to substantiate this sentiment as fact or repudiate it as myth.
Finally, it would be interesting to further investigate the proposition of Tuma (2002b), who wrote, “Increasing the international experience of your students and your faculty leads to an enhanced internationalization of your campus and your curriculum” (p. 66). It would be a viable research study to examine the extent to which a campus becomes increasingly internationalized based on the number and proportion of students who study abroad for varying amounts of time.
This chapter has discussed the findings of this study, as well as its limitations and generalizability. Suggestions for future research were provided, in addition to implications for practice. The research study, which was designed to compare perceived differences in growth in learning outcomes among participants of study abroad programs of varying lengths, attempted to add insight and quantifiable information to this topic.
The findings of the study should be used to inform practice and to prompt professionals to pay closer attention to the trends in the field and their potential repercussions.
Appendix A (p. 118-128) Appendix B (p. 129-139) Appendix C (p. 140-141)
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