Influence of an Education Abroad Program on the Intercultural Sensitivity of STEM Undergraduates: A Mixed Methods Study

BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT

Education abroad programs are becoming more common as a mechanism for developing the global competencies of engineering graduates. An increasing body of research shows that intercultural learning does not occur de facto in such programs. This study used quantitative and qualitative methods to explore changes in students’ intercultural sensitivity over the course of a project-based education abroad experience in Thailand that was designed with proactive interventions to foster intercultural learning. In addition, we aimed to compare the intercultural development of students in U.S.-only project teams with those who were in cross-national teams with students from a partner university. Although the study group as a whole did not show a statistically significant gain in a quantitative measure of intercultural sensitivity, greater gains were seen from students in cross-national teams. A few qualitative results suggest learning that was not evident from quantitative measures. Overall, this study reinforces the challenges of facilitating and assessing intercultural learning during education abroad.

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Chrysanthe Demetry

Chrysanthe Demetry

Richard F. Vaz

Richard F. Vaz

 

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