Development of Intercultural Competence Through Short-Term Study Abroad Programming

2019-08-02T19:11:05Z (GMT) by Jacie Lynne Grant

Agriculturalists, educators, students, and professionals alike, function in a global industry. In order to work effectively and efficiently to meet industry goals and address challenges, possession of a specific skillset is necessary. This skillset includes the skill of intercultural competence. The objective of Chapter 2 was to assess students’ intercultural competence development following participation in an embedded study abroad program. This program included students studying food security and environmental challenges who were also engaged in intercultural learning activities before, during, and after a 9-day trip through Vietnam. Results showed an average increase in students’ Developmental Orientation (DO) on the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC) of 13.68 points through their participation in the course (p < .05). This positive growth indicates that on average, student participants increased their intercultural competence throughout the semester program.

Chapter 3 describes results of a study conducted using the same group of participants of the embedded study abroad program to Vietnam. The objective of this study was to assess the beliefs, events, and values of student participants at the beginning of the semester and following completion of the semester course using the Beliefs, Events, and Values Inventory (BEVI). Additionally, it was an objective to explore any changes that occurred throughout the duration of the 16-week course. Results from this study revealed little progression on scales related to course outcomes, unintended meaningful changes in scales unrelated to course outcomes, and variations between subgroups (gender and ethnic). These data suggest that the curriculum as delivered requires revision in order to support individual student needs and further development of formative assessment emphasizing emotional and attitudinal dimensions, in addition to discipline content, of student experiences during a study abroad program.

Chapter 4 describes the intercultural competence development of the Cooperative Extension Educators who served as mentors to the undergraduate participants in the embedded study abroad program to Vietnam discussed in Chapters 2 and 3. Results from this study indicated that there was an overall decrease in Extension Educators’ DO of 8.0 points. Though this decrease was evident, only 2 of the 5 Educators decreased meaningfully on the IDC according to IDI instrumentation. Further analysis of quantitative and qualitative data revealed professional development benefits, such as developing new perspectives and connecting with undergraduate students, of the student-mentor relationship for the Educators.

Chapter 5 describes results from a study conducted in a combined learning community/short-term study abroad program restricted to incoming and current first-year students studying food production in Italy. The objective was to assess student intercultural competence development pre- and post-participation in the program that had incorporated intercultural learning activities both during and throughout the course following the study abroad. Results revealed that 42% of students advanced on the IDC and 26% progressed into a new stage on the IDC. Overall group growth was not statistically significant at a gain of 4.1 points on the IDC. This indicates that participating in the program did not significantly increase students’ intercultural competence.

Data in this thesis support that intercultural competence has the potential to be developed in short-term study abroad programs with the implementation of intercultural intervention. However, literature indicates that destination, duration, stage of development, and incoming participant worldviews influence outcomes in the development of intercultural competence. Emphasis on participant stage development on the IDC and preparedness for meeting course learning outcomes should be taken into consideration by study abroad leaders when constructing program design.