Research Explores the Study Abroad Immersion Preference

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

“Support for a Multidimensional Model of Study Abroad Immersion Preference,” by Susan B. Goldstein (University of Redlands), was published in the Spring 2019 Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, posted April 24, 2019. More than 250 undergraduates, excluding students who already had studied abroad, completed an anonymous online survey at one institution where 50% of students study abroad. About 70% of students were female, about 76% were first year, and about 50% were white. About 30% spoke a language other than English at home and 75% had traveled outside the USA. Respondents were enrolled in a large introductory psychology course with a wide variety of majors (or intended majors); most students majored or planned to major in social and natural sciences (including math). Students answered questions about demographics, campus involvement, “study abroad exposure,” adventurousness, language interest, cultural intelligence, and study abroad preferences using questions and scales previously found valid and reliable.Results showed, “those who preferred programs of longer duration were less likely to be first generation students or to be engaged in paid work that assists with family expenses and were likely to have greater exposure to study abroad, a family who views study abroad favorably, and a high adventurousness score…

[T]hose who preferred programs with a target language requirement were more likely to speak a language other than English at home, were more involved in campus organizations, had higher scores on the measure of language interest (IFLS score), and had lower scores on CQ-Metacognitive…As compared with students who preferred coursework in English only, those who indicated a preference for a language of instruction that was partly or fully non-English scored lower on CQ-Metacognitive and higher on the language interest and CQ-Cognitive measures…. [S]tudents who were involved in more campus organizations were most likely to prefer an internship while abroad, whereas preference for volunteer work was best predicted by being female, a Student of Color, and having previous travel experience.”Strengths of the study include use of various previously validated measures, sophisticated statistical analysis, and collection of extensive data on numerous measures. Reported weaknesses included stated student preferences rather than choices, data from only one university, and not enough data from minority ethnic/racial groups for analysis. Goldstein also reported that students may not have interpreted one scale as intended, which is a validity and/or reliability problem. Additional weaknesses included a small, self-selected, nonrandom, and non-representative sample; a larger sample might have yielded more easily explainable results on a few points as well as strengthened results regarding statistical significance.

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