Orientation models for summer education abroad programs and the development of intercultural competency

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Leadership


Advisor: Carolyn Ridenour


There is an undisputed need for intercultural and world knowledge, skills and abilities, and a growing focus and interest in education abroad as a vehicle for achieving these learning outcomes. In an effort to advance the understanding of international education and explore specific aspects of short-term education abroad programs, a large and growing segment, this study focuses on how students are prepared, and the intercultural learning and engagement outcomes that result from the experience. This study used a mixed methods, pretest-posttest control group design with 3 groups of students - 2 that studied abroad and received different pre-departure orientations and 1 that remained on campus - as well as data from Hammer's (2003) Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), student journals, trip reports and personal interviews. Qualitative data were used to illustrate the quantitative findings and more fully express the results. Much can be drawn from the results of this study. The trend for each of the research questions was in the predicted direction. The analysis of the posttest Developmental Orientation (DO) scores and DO stages for each student group indicate that students who participated in semester-length pre-departure orientations had the highest net intercultural development gains among the three groups. The 2 study abroad groups combined achieved a larger gain than the on-campus group. While the DO gains were not statistically significant, the DO stage gains were significant between the study abroad and control groups, and between the two groups participating in the different predeparture orientations. The qualitative data seem to support the DO stage findings. Certainly, the constraints of the small size of the groups, the limitations of the design, and the only modest interpretation of the DO stages using a non-parametric test imply that the results of this study should be taken in moderation. The implications of this study are interesting and worth further investigation. They demonstrate the need to better understand education abroad, including the complexity of the individual student experience, the role of faculty and staff in fostering learning outcomes, and pre-departure preparation in developing intercultural competency in undergraduates.


Cross-cultural orientation, College student orientation, Foreign study

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Copyright © 2009, author