Title

Stakeholder perceptions of the use of outcomes assessment in study abroad

Publication Date

1-1-2004

Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Linda Gobbo

Abstract

Experiential study abroad programs face continued pressure to provide evidence of what exactly students gain as the result of such programs. Recently, many in the study abroad arena have touted “outcomes assessment” as a possible means to explain the effects or impacts of study abroad. This paper provides a brief explanation of the history and conceptual tenets of outcomes assessment as a movement within higher education and explores how these may relate to experiential study abroad. The goal of the research presented here was to discover what stakeholders believe can and should be measured when conducting outcomes assessment studies of experiential study abroad programs. SIT Study Abroad served as a case study for the research. Data was collected through a survey which was distributed to three groups of stakeholders: SIT Study Abroad Academic Directors who work at program sites; Brattleboro based SIT Study Abroad staff involved in various levels of management; and SIT Study Abroad Partnership Council members who represent the colleges and universities that send students on SIT Study Abroad programs. The research found varying levels of skepticism amongst stakeholders about the possibility and necessity of quantifying and measuring the outcomes of experiential study abroad. There was some agreement amongst stakeholders regarding the goals and subsequent outcomes of SIT programs. Many stakeholders see value in conducting outcomes assessment studies to better understand how programs affect these outcomes. Stakeholders indicated a preference for longitudinal studies and comparative studies as a method for conducting outcomes assessment. This study seeks to add a new group of voices to the ongoing dialog about the use of outcomes assessment in study abroad. This report will be of interest to anyone who seeks to understand how outcomes assessment and study abroad intersect.

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