E. Infante Mora

Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA) (SPAIN)
The presentation reports the steps taken to deepen cultural immersion and intercultural learning in all the dimensions of the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA)-Sevilla program, narrates the initial evaluation results, and outlines additional themes under development. It also explains the “action research” approach Cornell Abroad, Penn Abroad, and the CASA-Sevilla staff and faculty took to redesign collaboratively the program and implement the changes.

Social media enable students to travel without leaving home, spending large parts of their time abroad still in a cultural bubble. In 2014, CASA-Sevilla staff and faculty determined that study abroad immersion structures that had seemed to lead to satisfactory cultural learning in the past were no longer adequate.

After a rigorous process of pedagogical reform, staff and faculty moved to an active learning approach that engages students in more context-appropriate language use and socio-cultural behavior for increased intercultural learning.

Our program restructuring focused on breaking a cycle of passivity through a variety of active pedagogy strategies:
• teaching of research skills for ongoing intercultural learning such as ethnographic techniques and critical reflection
• adaptation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to assess student language support needs and design individualized programs to improve their skills in needed areas
• use of learning contracts
• experiential learning opportunities in community organizations, where students do supervised work and reflect on their experiences,
• assignments to discuss with host family members issues of local culture, community life, and politics
• restructuring program sponsored cultural activities to distinguish cultural learning from tourism and requiring students’ active participation
• a semester-long research project on the topic of personal interest
• a final web-based portfolio to consolidate student reflection and learning.
• Finally, the centerpiece of this effort was learning to conduct formative and summative evaluations as a way of making immediate positive changes in the program.

After the initial rollout of the new pedagogical design, end of semester portfolios show that students display a greater competence in overcoming stereotypes and preconceptions and that they go beyond the limits of cultural tourism, becoming residents of their own neighborhoods, participating in activities with their host families and community partners and acquiring local habits, among other positive results.

The reform has generated a variety of other activities, including a monograph on the process and the development of a new instrument called “The Common Framework for Intercultural Learning”, modeled on the very successful deployment of the CEFR. It has been designed to support staff and faculty in mentoring students in the direction of developing intercultural competencies beyond language facility. It will be tested for the first time in the spring semester of 2017.

The contents of this presentation are complemented by the papers given by Davydd Greenwood, “Enhancing Intercultural Learning through Active Pedagogy, Program Integration, and Individualized Student Mentoring: The CASA-Seville Program” and Juan Muñoz, “Improving Linguistic Progress in Study Abroad by Linking Intercultural Competences and Cultural Immersion: Using the CEFRL as a Learning Tool in CASA-Seville".