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Exploring Student Learning on a Short-term, Faculty-led Study Abroad Course Through a Student Development Lens

Description: Embarking on a study abroad experience is thought to be a transformational experience for students, and previous researchers have tended to find that the potential benefits of study abroad experiences, including greater conceptual and behavioral intercultural competence, are greater with longer periods abroad. The purpose of this study was to create an intentional learning experience for students who embarked on a short-term study abroad in rural areas of China and to apply faculty intervention of a student development approach to student learning to create a high-impact learning environment for students centered on a service-learning project. This qualitative study gathered primary data from students and instructors during the course through a collection of observation and field notes, student journals, pre- and post-construct tests, and final presentation. Follow-up interviews were conducted 10 months after course completion. Six students participated in this course and study who were from a variety of disciplines and classifications. Five students were female; one was male. Four students were undergraduates; two were graduate students. Student ethnicities included three Caucasians and African American, along with two international students from Mexico and Iran. Key outcomes of this study were that when short-term study abroad faculty members applied creative interventions, students were transformed with regard to their beliefs, perspectives, and behaviors and that when they guided students through a process of reflection and analysis, students exhibited exponential personal development. In addition, the ability to challenge or support students in reaching higher levels of personal development is a privilege that faculty must earn over time and through an authentic demonstration of care for students’ wellbeing. Short-term study abroad faculty members can use the results of this study to maximize the developmental impact of such programs on student participants.
Date: December 2015
Creator: Garcia, Hope F.
Partner: UNT Libraries