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ERIC Number: EJ1062051
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1085-4568
The Rewards of Qualitative Assessment Appropriate to Study Abroad
Engle, Lilli
Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, v22 p111-126 Win 2012-Spr 2013
With the interconnectedness of the peoples and nations of our world every year more patently apparent, the international education community has responded with heightened urgency to the challenge of integrating the discovery and understanding of other countries, cultures, and realities into the university curriculum. Even as all involved still search for the best ways to go about achieving these extended educational goals, numbers boom and study abroad opportunities multiply. Such growth has ushered in another, questionable, trend. On the one hand, the profession embraces lofty intercultural learning goals, advocating the need to take students out of the comfortable, familiar confines of home university environments in order to allow them to experience and understand ways of being and doing sometimes disturbingly different from their own. On the other hand, having based their reputations in large part on extensive student/client services, many institutions of higher learning put implicit (and sometimes explicit) pressure upon their program providers to perpetuate a recognizable version of home university expectations and comforts for their students abroad. The reluctance to challenge students with difference, at the risk of making them unhappy, has generated a culture of incompatible goals and mixed messages--an ideological tug of war. In an attempt to see beyond the numbers and percentages of students studying abroad each year, the profession has progressively engaged in a range of outcomes assessment initiatives. Organized jointly by IIE (Institute of International Education) and Association of International Educators (NAFSA), covering 120 universities (accounting for nearly 50% of U.S. study abroad participants), a 2000 survey of such assessment practices revealed home institutions preoccupied more by a "student comfort" model than by concerns about learning outcomes abroad. Ninety five per cent of these assessments aimed to document student satisfaction with far fewer attempting to document other, more educational, parameters. For the purpose of this article over 50 end-of-program evaluation forms from universities known for their investment in international education were examined. The forms were provided either by study abroad offices or freely accessed via the internet. In this article, the author argues that the questions put to students in these qualitative assessment questionnaires paint a picture of a profession all too ethnocentric in its approach to international education and the "customer satisfaction" slant as pervasive. Outlined here, is a process of placing a more appropriate set of values and questions at the heart of qualitative assessment questionnaires. Questions formulated in support of the challenging complexity of the learning experience abroad speak to a humbler, more respectful acceptance of the world's cultural diversity, which is after all the fundamental resource of study abroad itself.
Frontiers Journal. Dickinson College P.O. Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013. Tel: 717-254-8858; Fax: 717-245-1677; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A