Provost's Newsletter – August 2018

Teaching & Learning

Across Campus

Purdue growing students' intercultural competency

A growing tide of Purdue undergraduates can list study abroad on their resumes when they walk across the stage at Elliott Hall of Music to pick up their diplomas.

For the 2017-18 academic year, 6,394 students earned a bachelor's degree at the West Lafayette campus. Of those, 28.8 percent had taken an academic class or classes in another country — 60 percent more than the proportion in 2011-12.

The jump is attributed largely to short-term departmental study abroad programs led by Purdue faculty and staff, said Brian Harley, associate dean of international programs and director of Purdue's Office of Study Abroad. Three out of four Purdue students who studied abroad took advantage of these programs, as opposed to those offered through overseas universities and other organizations.

Credit the growth in large part to Purdue Moves, the strategic initiatives put in place when Mitch Daniels became Purdue president in 2013, said Michael Brzezinski, dean of international programs. Purdue Moves provided scholarship funding for students and grant funding for faculty to subsidize study abroad programs for the past five years. Beginning this fall, scholarship funding will be provided by the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, academic deans, and International Programs.

About 120 faculty and staff so far have taken training — 20 hours of workshops — and designed curriculum to integrate intercultural learning into their study abroad programs. Attendees are introduced to the intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) adopted by Purdue’s Core Curriculum Committee: self-awareness, worldview frameworks, verbal and nonverbal communication, empathy, openness and curiosity. Participants choose KSAs most appropriate for their study abroad programs and, under the guidance of facilitators from Purdue's Center of Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research (CILMAR), they decide on a method to assess selected learning outcomes. 

For the 2018-19 school year, each new trainee will earn a $2,000 Intercultural Pedagogy grant to be used at his or her discretion.

Faculty and staff who lead study abroad programs are eligible for Study Abroad Intercultural Learning (SAIL) grants of up to $3,000 to subsidize their programs. In turn, the lower the cost, the more students the program will attract. Matching funds are available from each college or at the departmental level.

"These incentives have encouraged faculty to invest their time to generate not only more study abroad opportunities but also to improve intercultural learning outcomes for our students," Brzezinski said.

For students, the hurdle is often financial, and that's where the scholarships help. Purdue Moves scholarships are need-based and range from $500 to $1,000 for a short-term program and $2,000 for those lasting a semester. But the SAIL Scholarship, from CILMAR, is open to all Purdue students enrolled in semester-long programs abroad and provides $1,500.

Growing intercultural competency

Going abroad is just the beginning.

"It's not enough to expose students to international experiences," Brzezinski said. "Research shows students studying abroad with no mentored intervention achieve little or no gain in intercultural development. That's the reason CILMAR has made a major commitment to mentoring. That is also why CILMAR encourages faculty and staff who lead study abroad programs to be intentional about targeting intercultural learning outcomes, facilitating activities and reflective thinking to achieve outcomes, and assessing them."

Many students who study abroad for a semester take a pre- and post-survey to measure their intercultural competency using a tool called the Intercultural Development Inventory.

"So far, the results for our mentored groups are very encouraging," Brzezinski said "While a seven-point gain is consider very good, many of our students are exceeding that level."

For the 2017 spring semester, 52 students in Purdue’s mentored programs showed an average gain of 11 points, while 31 students in the fall semester showed a growth of 8 points. That compared with 4.5 points for control groups that received no mentoring.

"The results are even more significant when the students were paired with more experienced mentors, showing an average gain of 13 points," Brzezinski said.

This past spring, 203 students were enrolled in two kinds of mentored courses. As in the past, one group provided one-on-one mentoring, while a new one offered small-group mentoring. Data so far are consistent with those in 2017.

Purdue schools and colleges play key role

Strategic and holistic efforts also are strong at the school and college level. Brzezinski says one example is Purdue Polytechnic Institute's multifaceted approach.

"We are using the short-term department-led courses as a springboard to excite our students so they will take semester-long programs next," said Professor Robert Cox, Polytechnic's senior associate dean for globalization. "We also have formed global collaborations with a dozen similar educational institutions in Europe, China, Australia and Latin America." These strategic partners have agreed to:

  • Work toward curriculum mapping so credits transfer easily.
  • Offer study abroad in the English language.
  • Provide good student support, in areas such as counseling and housing.

Faculty members also are a major part of the equation. They are encouraged to participate in the Intercultural Pedagogy grant training — Polytechnic faculty have the highest participation rate — and integrate what they learn into their curriculum so students gain without traveling.

Then, there are the certificates to earn and requirements to meet. Polytechnic offers courses through which students can complete most — if not all components — for a CILMAR intercultural certificate. The college also has identified 20 course offerings in the humanities and social sciences that will make its students eligible not only for the Liberal Arts Cornerstone Certificate but also meet Polytechnic's minimum requirement that students earn at least three global credits.

Student intercultural competency is being tested annually for all beginning students. These confidential assessments provide a baseline measure for the entering student group profile, which will be compared with a post assessment in conjunction with a senior class.

"These pre/post assessments will be used to determine their aggregate overall growth in intercultural competencies as a result of deliberate global, intercultural educational experiences," Cox said. "The questions we use will help us analyze which experiences had the greatest impact so that we can improve our offerings."

Polytechnic will gain its first set of exiting assessments in spring 2020.

Polytechnic also incentivizes faculty, offering $500 if study abroad efforts lead to publication in a journal, which in turn helps toward promotion and tenure.  In a change from previous subsidies, in which faculty received $1,000 from Polytechnic to lead a short-term study abroad course, they will receive $250 for every student in the program, which incentivizes them to lead larger groups. More is available if the program is located at a strategic partner's institution or encourages activity with industry partners while abroad.

Cox's team also is a founding member of the Global Partners European Alliance, chartered in February, pulling together institutions that share the same polytechnic philosophy. Its goal is to create a clearinghouse to help members work together and capitalize on resources that will bring together students and faculty to participate in applied research, professional development programs, and community outreach activities. 

Faculty applications

The call for applications for Study Abroad and Intercultural Learning (SAIL) grants and Intercultural Pedagogy grants was announced earlier this month for faculty and staff planning to lead a study abroad program in the next fiscal year.


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