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Intentionality and Effectiveness within Short-term Study Abroad Programs. Raymond V. Plaza, Coordinator, Student Success Programs Virginia Tech Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy February 8, 2012. Introduction/Overview. Objectives of session

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intentionality and effectiveness within short term study abroad programs

Intentionality and Effectiveness within Short-term Study Abroad Programs

Raymond V. Plaza,

Coordinator, Student Success Programs

Virginia Tech

Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy

February 8, 2012

introduction overview
  • Objectives of session
    • Highlight the ways that a short-term study abroad can be as effective as a longer-term opportunity
    • Using a current program at VT, look at how those components have shaped experiences
    • Further expand the willingness of faculty and others to explore and develop short-term opportunities
my background
My Background
  • Interest in history & international issues
  • Summer 1991 - my study abroad at the University of Cambridge through the University of Florida
  • 1997 Thanksgiving Trip
  • Thanksgiving Travel (2004 - 2009)
  • Study Abroad:
    • Study abroad programs are all educational programs that take place outside the geographical boundaries of the United States. This includes both credit and noncredit programs.
  • Short-term: Less than 8 weeks
  • Medium Term: Semester/quarter
  • Long term: Year-long experience
inside study abroad
Inside Study Abroad
  • The movement:
    • 1920’s – University of Delaware
  • Current national numbers from the 2009/2010: 270,604 U.S. Students

(From the 2011 Open Doors Reports, IIE)

  • Short term programs account for 56.6%
  • Virginia Tech numbers – on average from 2009 – 2011, around 1,100 students per year; 60% in a short term program
impact of study abroad
Impact of Study Abroad
  • Numerous studies have shown that Study Abroad has an impact on students through
    • Personal growth – intercultural competence
    • Self-confidence
    • Intellectual Development
    • Awareness – global perspective
the issue of time length
The Issue of Time-length
  • The issue has been with the depth of the impact.
  • Traditionalists argue that longer term experiences provide more of an impact than short-term experiences
  • Initial history was long-term programs
  • Challenge is that most programs today are short-term opportunities
our role with impact
Our role with impact
  • What can we do to impact the study abroad experience?
    • Structure of Program
    • Type of experiences
    • Role of the Program leader
    • Role of the Instructor
  • Intentionality - what does this mean?
  • Directed and undirected
  • Guided and Unguided
a closer look at the learning about diversity and social justice the european perspective
A Closer look at “The Learning About Diversity and Social Justice: The European Perspective”
  • Origins
  • Summer Session Grant
    • Awarded in late Fall 2007
  • Started in Summer 2008
  • Summer 2012 - 5th anniversary
  • Total number of participants (35)
closer look
Closer Look
  • Small program due to nature of the travel & goal of experience
  • Home-Base: London, UK
  • Trips to France, Spain, Italy, Germany & Czech Republic
  • Six credits; Six week duration
  • Academic Home: Sociology/Africana Studies
our classroom
Our Classroom
  • Experiential approach – Europe as a canvas
  • Hands-on experience/approach
  • Lectures/Discussion
  • Readings
  • Pre-departure preparation
  • Photo Journal
  • Weekly Reflection
  • Current Events Discussion
  • Major/Discipline Lens
  • Final Paper
photo journal
Photo Journal
  • Concept from Born Into Brothels
  • Focused on particular topic
  • Guided question but open to the student’s interpretation
  • Importance of viewpoints
  • Rare to see multiples of images among the students
photo journal topic
Photo Journal Topic
  • Example:

For this photo assignment, I want you to capture images that deal with issues of socio-economic status, and explain why you chose that image. At least three of the photos have to be taken in Madrid, and the rest could be taken elsewhere in Europe.

(Each journal needs Five total photos)

weekly reflection
Weekly Reflection
  • Desire for a focused & formal reflection
  • Guided question but open to the response of the student
  • Really no right or wrong answer but a desire to hear the student’s voice & perspective
weekly reflection example
Weekly Reflection Example
  • Example:
  • This week brings you to Rome and to a place that has been at the forefront of significant historical events. One of the more challenging areas of diversity is religion and religious beliefs/freedom. In the United States for example, we have the freedom of religion (the right to chose how and when/who we worship.) How have you seen religion manifested during these past five weeks in Europe? What has or has not surprised you? Is religious diversity important? Please provide examples and explain. You can compare and contrast between cities, countries, etc.
current events discussion
Current Events Discussion
  • Part of the focus is an understanding of the world around them
  • Opportunity to look back at what is happening in the U.S.
  • Accessibility of the news - become connected
  • Example: If we were in London right now, what are the headlines?
major discipline lens
Major/Discipline Lens
  • Part of the reflection process, students discuss through the lens of their major/discipline
  • Opportunity for the group to learn from each other
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • More effective that me trying to review what we did
final paper
Final Paper
  • The final exam builds upon the reflective foundation with a series of questions (i.e. the prior components provide the basis)
  • Final photo component of exam
  • This is coupled with an Exit Interview
why important
Why important?
  • The components become an integral part of the experience
  • Help to move the students on an accelerated pace (dealing with culture shock, adjustment)
  • Not just the experience but the reflection
  • Learning together – both shared and individual learning
impact on short term experience
Impact on Short-term Experience
  • The components help to hasten the impact of the short-term experience
  • The role of the intentionality of the process
  • Still provides students with options
  • Still up to the student to be open to the experience/opportunity
challenges for faculty
Challenges for Faculty
  • Understanding the facets of program development
  • Support for such an effort
    • Monetary, recognition by peers, time
  • Creating buy-in from the students – the selling of opportunities
  • Issue of academic legitimacy
next steps future
Next steps/future
  • The incorporation of other components
    • Blogs, volunteer service opportunities, others
  • Opportunity to look at the pedagogy of how student’s learn– this experiential approach is critical
  • Expansion of framework to other areas
  • Capacity to expand growth of faculty-led programs and other short-term approaches
questions feedback


Raymond V. Plaza

Coordinator, Student Success Programs

110 Femoyer Hall (0276)

Blacksburg, VA 24061

(540) 231-2936

To learn more about the “Learning About Diversity and Social Justice: The European Perspective”