Unraveling the Tapestry of the Study Abroad Experience: An Investigation of the Role of Self-Identified Goals and Motivations in University Students
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The purpose of this study was to produce five in-depth case studies of University of Georgia, USA, students who studied abroad for one semester in Spring of 2006. These case studies describe and analyze the students’ self-identified goals and motivations for participating in this study abroad experience. Utilization of Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) naturalistic inquiry method was used to explore the student experiences. In addition to qualitatively analyzing the goals and motivations of these specific cases, descriptive statistics of the student Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) pre- and post-test questions and answers (Intercultural Communication Institute, 2003), taken in Spring 2006 and two years later in Spring 2008, were compared for the purpose of measuring changes in worldview orientations over time. This provided the establishment of convergence or triangulation of quantitative and qualitative data. Further exploration of preferred student learning styles by use of the Kolb Learning Style Inventory, v. 3.1 (Kolb, 1999) was initiated in order to analyze whether the study abroad program design matched the students’ learning style. A study abroad preparatory model, Adapt, Adopt, Adept: A Preparatory Model for Study Abroad, is proposed that increases student active engagement abroad, thereby increasing the potential for accomplishing the stated goal of the University of Georgia (UGA) study abroad program, namely to develop “global citizens.” Inquiry into these areas and the results obtained are directly relevant to study abroad program specialists, interested faculty, upper administrators in university policy making, and future students who might desire to participate in an international learning experience. This particular study, in contrast to those discussed in the literature review, indicates a unique approach by focusing on the following: • one specific, experiential study abroad program; • using naturalistic inquiry as the method of obtaining such data; • using IDI scores to triangulate results of qualitative data; • incorporating information measured by the KLSI. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. Qualitative data were obtained via Blackboard, email, chat interviews via the internet, face to face interviews, and by means of journal entries. By using naturalistic inquiry, the specific form of data provided and its content was left largely to the students to choose via the options listed above in order to best represent their voices. Scores on the IDI provide the quantitative data used to assess qualitative findings. The intention was that this study would provide an in-depth investigation of the students’ experiences in order to be used by individuals who find the information to be practical, functional, and helpful in improving the learning and cultural environment of study abroad students.