"We’ve worked on this course for 3 years, and we’ll just keep trying. The idea is to take the lessons we’ve learned and to extend them further each time."
~Melissa, STEM Professor
Myth vs. Reality Developing any course is an iterative experience. Regardless of the discipline, faculty often modify and adapt their course design over time to improve student learning.
But adapting courses to support intercultural learning is particularly difficult. It is a trial-and-error experience that requires a higher level of flexibility and responsivity, and universities provided limited training for faculty engaged in education abroad course design (Laux, 2021).
The Research New research examines how faculty adapt their course design over time to improve intercultural learning (Laux, 2021). The research reveals 4 key findings:
Faculty feel that adapting and improving education abroad courses is more difficult than other types of courses that they teach
When designing intercultural learning activities, faculty receive very limited support or guidance from their universities
Due to the lack of training, faculty often use a lengthy trial-and-error process to improve intercultural learning
Faculty believe that improving education abroad courses requires them to develop a higher level of flexibility and responsivity
The Solutions Improving course design to enhance intercultural learning is a difficult and lengthy process. The 5 design principles help faculty mitigate that experience through effective course design strategies. Getting started is easy. Faculty can:
1. Take ownership and make a long-term commitment.
"As the subject matter experts, we really were left to our own experiences and creativity in the course design. There are lots of eyes making sure the academic rigor is at the right level, but much less on ‘how’ it is going to be learned."
~Jason, agriculture professor
"This doesn’t happen in one day. This doesn’t happen from one year to another year. You need to learn from the experience. This is something that you need to work on."
~Chris, engineering professor
2. Be responsive to student needs and feedback.
"I try harder to incorporate the students’ interests. When we first started doing this, the itinerary was built before the students signed up. But I recognize that I have to create an experience that has components for every single person. I’ve got to have some food, some adventure, some history. So I create a trip that would hit a greater variety of interests that the students can resonate with."
~Kevin, anthropology professor
3. Be flexible and innovate on-the-fly.
"You have to be able to turn on a dime. Be more responsive to what’s happening on the ground. I’ve created so many activities at one o’clock in the morning or just thrown out my lesson plan because something happened, and that is what we needed to talk about. That was what we needed to work through."
~Daniel, sustainability professor
4. Give yourself some grace.
"I’ve learned to be very flexible and open. The goal is not to accomplish 10 things. The goal is to maximize the intercultural learning. I’m used to running things on a very tight schedule. [On campus] I don’t waste time and we get it done. And that is just a wrong, unhelpful approach in terms of intercultural learning."