Marist College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 6213-6220
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.0470
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
According to the Institute of International Education, the number of U.S. college students studying abroad for academic credit reached 304,467 in the 2013-2014 academic year. Academic study-abroad programs should seek to optimize students’ intercultural competence skills during their stay abroad to increase the long term effectiveness of such programs and facilitate skills that promote global awareness. Skills in global competency are largely recognized as important in academia and industry; however, few academic programs strategically foster the development of such capabilities. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages identifies five World Readiness Standards for language learners entering a global workforce: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. This paper empirically examines the construct of communication, which addresses the ability to communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations for multiple purposes.

Twenty-three American college students majoring in Computer Science and Spanish travelled to the Dominican Republic to provide a technology education summer camp for junior-high students at an underprivileged school. Spanish students served the role of team leaders to develop and implement curriculum for the camp. Computer Science students provided technical support for the curriculum technologies, which included an introduction to robotics using Lego Mindstorms, virtual reality using Google cardboard and the Oculus Rift, hardware using the Raspberry Pi, and software applications using the Android XO tablet. Dominican students collaborated on technology-based activities with the support of their college mentors.

Pre and post test data were collected to examine the impact of immersive study-abroad service learning on college students’ perceptions of intercultural communication competencies. Paired sample T-tests revealed statistically significant differences in self-perceptions of interpersonal communication (e.g., how people interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions), interpretive communication (e.g., how people understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed), and presentational communication (e.g., how people present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers) at the end of this two week program. Post-hoc analyses revealed results were especially strong for Computer Science students. Results indicate short-term abroad programs focusing on service learning can have a significant impact on how students interact in foreign environments.
Service learning, intercultural competence, interpersonal communication, international study abroad.