By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA
Manager of University Relations
Athena Study Abroad
“Fostering Global Competence through Short-Term Study Abroad,” by Theresa Schenker, was published in the Fall 2019 issue of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad.
Schenker, of Yale University, collected data from three annual cohorts of university students (42 total) who completed an eight-week summer program in second-year German language. Students spent the first four weeks learning German in the United States, and then the second four weeks continuing to learn German in Germany, along with visits to various German cultural and historical sites. The study’s purpose was to add to the scholarly literature about the potential benefits of short-term study abroad programs. The article includes extensive ideas about how to increase gains in global competence during short-term study abroad programs, including students who are already relatively high in global competence.
Schenker discusses that many scales have been developed to measure global competence, but she chose the Global Competence Aptitude Model (GCAM) developed by Global Competence Associates in 2009. It has eight dimensions divided into “external readiness” and “internal readiness.” As Schenker summarizes it, “External readiness refers to ‘a person’s acquired knowledge through education or life experience’ and includes the dimensions of intercultural capability, collaboration across cultures, global awareness, and historical perspective. Internal readiness refers to ‘self-perspective and attitudinal drivers of Global Competence’ and includes the four dimensions of risk-taking, open-mindedness, attentiveness to diversity, and at the core of the model, self-awareness” (citations omitted).
She explains that she chose it because subjects answer “specific historical, geographical, and situational/hypothetical questions,” the “assessment is more accurate because it does not rely on self-reporting,” and interpretation of results uses a “triangulated evaluation approach.”
Participating students were somewhat unusual for study abroad groups: the majority were male (23 vs. 19 females), one was a graduate student, none were older than 22, 10 students had first languages (8 different ones) other than English, five others who were already bilingual (not counting German), and “students at this university typically have spent time traveling, studying or living in other countries.” The study does not whether participating students were from Yale.
In comparing pre-test and post-test results, students had statistically significant increases in internal readiness overall, including open-mindedness and attentiveness to diversity. Students did not show statistically significant increases in external readiness, although they did on historical perspective; on the other hand, students showed a statistically significant decrease in global awareness!
Although not designed as such, this study is a good example of studying students who either are, or might be assumed to be, already relatively high in global competence compared to the typical US undergraduate. Increases (and the decrease) in Global Competence scores were, overall, not dramatic even when statistically significant. (With such a small sample size of 42, achieving statistical significance is difficult. Perhaps a larger sample would have produced more statistically significant results.)
Schenker does offer any explanation about why students declined in global awareness and, indeed, a convincing explanation may be elusive. Assuming that the global awareness part of the GCAM is generally valid and reliable, these students learning second-year German may have been in some way(s) unusual (and at least demographically, they were). Another possibility is that, although the result was statistically significant, the results on global awareness are just statistical “noise” related to such a small sample. Other explanations would question the GCAM itself. (Indeed, although Schenker says the GCAM “does not rely on self-reporting,” note that anytime anyone is answering questions about themselves—whether facts, opinions, or feelings—they are self-reporting.)