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Gauging the Study Abroad Experience: Student Self-Evaluations

I think we can enhance the study-abroad experience, in terms of student learning, through the addition to all syllabi of simple, mandatory "thought papers," written before and after each class.
The initial paper would task students with a short (300-500 word) meditation on their expectations for the study-abroad class.  They would write about how they expect to benefit from the class and what they expect of the host country: what they think they will like about it and what they think they will find challenging or off-putting.  The paper would be submitted before travel to the region.
The second paper (again 300-500 words) would be written upon return to the USA.  Students would reflect upon their time abroad, discussing what they learned about the host country (how it conformed to/differed from expectations), what they learned about themselves, and the extent to which being in-country benefitted their educational experience.

I expect that the addition of these short exercises could achieve the following:
(i) encourage students to view study abroad less as "study while abroad" and more as "study informed by and integrated with being abroad";
(ii) encourage students to reflect more deeply upon their views of foreign cultures and how interaction with those cultures can be enlightening;
(iii) provide professors with a more in-depth gauge than that provided by typical evaluation forms of the strengths and weaknesses of their classes;
(iv) provide the college with written feedback that can be used for the promotion of future classes and also for recruitment.

Contact person:  Andrew Paxman

For a PDF of the proposal, click here.

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