Effects of scaling a study abroad pre-departure cultural training course from 40, to 20, to 8 lessons

Authors: Kelly Lemmons*, US Air Force Academy
Topics: Geography Education, Cultural Geography, Military Geography
Keywords: Geography Education, Study Abroad, Cultural Geography, Cultural Competence
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 28
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

US study abroad programs continue to grow with more students sojourning abroad in 2019 than ever before. However, the majority of the growth has been in short-term study abroad programs that last between one and four weeks. Research has shown that these shortened trips are culturally “superficial”, limiting students’ ability to learn and interact in culturally appropriate and immersive ways. Recent studies suggest that a semester long (40 lessons) pre-departure cultural training course helps overcome the shortcomings of short-term study abroad, by preparing students to culturally “hit the ground running” through the process of increasing their cultural competence. However, it is impractical to consider having every student take a semester long course prior to studying abroad. Therefore, this paper investigates whether a 40 lesson course can be condensed and scaled down, by comparing the 40 lesson course results to a 20 lesson course and an 8 lesson course. The three courses (40, 20, and 8) were taught in the spring 2019 semester to prepare students for their subsequent travel abroad programs over the summer and fall semesters. Student’s intercultural competence was measured using the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Students were assessed at the beginning of their respective course, at the end, and at the completion of their study abroad program. Results show a significant increase in students’ intercultural competence scores in all three courses, with the 40 lesson having the highest increase, the 20 lesson the next, and the 8 lesson the least, yet still showing a significant increase.

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