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NSSE Data again Show Correlations between Study Abroad and Other High-Impact and Co-curricular Activities

By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA
Manager of University Relations
Athena Study Abroad

“An Analysis of the Connections Between Involvement in Study Abroad, Other High-Impact Educational Practices, and Co-Curricular Activities,” by Lily M. Di Maggio, was published in the Spring 2019 issue of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. Di Maggio, of Seton Hall University, analyzed a sample of National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data from 31,628 seniors (5,238 of whom had studied abroad). NSSE collects data on academic challenge, learning with peers, experiences with faculty, and campus environment, including about high-impact practices (HIPs). HIPs are measured using Kuh’s definition: learning communities and specific common educational experiences, service-learning or community service activities, research with faculty outside of classroom requirements, internships, study abroad, and culminating senior experiences. 

Di Maggio’s data showed, “Overwhelmingly, students who study abroad chose to engage in multiple-participation in other voluntary HIPs, in co-curricular programming, and in interactions with faculty for extracurricular purposes, and there is a differentiation between the participation pathways of different groups of students when controlling for race/ethnicity, gender, and major.” However, as she put it, the “majority of these results can be described as weak associations.” Overall, Di Maggio concluded, “Students who study abroad are often very involved students, who get involved in many other activities in addition to study abroad, who are committed to developing social capital, and who participate in study abroad (if they are from an underrepresented study abroad background) if others who are like them choose to enroll in higher numbers at their university or if their friends study abroad with them.”

Di Maggio noted in her well-done study that she could not control for parents’ education levels and, most importantly, that correlations do not establish causation.

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