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Learning together: reflections on of the evolution of a new study abroad programme BUTEX Symposium Study Abroad: An Investment for the Future, 4 July 2013. University of York Catherine Hyde – University of Worcester Helen Mongan-Rallis – University of Minnesota Duluth
Objective To examine factors that contribute to the development and ongoing maintenance of a study abroad programme so that it is mutually beneficial to all participants both from the host university and from the international partner university
Overview of session • The evolution of the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Study in England Programme (SIE) at the University of Worcester (UW) • Analysis of perspectives of participants • Lessons learned during the first two years of the programme • Your experiences – shared. . • What can we learn from our collective experiences?
Evolution of UMD SIE programme • 33 rd year of SIE Programme • The only UMD year-long programme with director & faculty • Began as a self-contained island programme at the University of Birmingham. • Moved to UW 2011 -12. UMD seen as working in partnership with UW • UW interested in greater integration
1980 Island programme. 1 year with director and faculty 2011 Move to University of Worcester – some integration 2013 UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM ?
Year 1 at UW • • Framework of UB SIE programme, with director who had previously directed the UB programme 1 UMD director, 2 UMD lecturers each semester, 1 UK Programme Assistant UMD modules by UMD lecturers only to UMD students but students also take 2 UW modules per semester. 3 x 3 -day field trips only for UMD students, connected to UMD modules 4 days a week (Fridays off for travel), 7 week travel break between semesters Accommodation in flats sharing with 5 UW students Invitations to UMD lecturers to participate in lunchtime lectures
Year 2 at UW • Cultural mentoring (using Bennett’s IDI) & required intercultural seminar • Programme design continues to emphasise academic tourism • 90 UW students take up UMD modules – “study abroad at home” • UMD lecturers do guest lectures, research presentations, attend institute meetings, collaborate in delivery of courses • No clear program goals or structure – “like designing, building & fixing an airplane while it is flying” • Growing awareness of differences in the two system (UMD & UW) & efforts to understand & address these
UMD student voices • Academic: module selection, assessments, amount & nature of work, teaching styles, expectations, self-direction • “UW lecturers treated us more as equals, Our classes felt more like conversations than being spoken to. ” • Differences in systems: timetable, SOLE page, grading, assessment submission • “I realized that I had a mono-vision of education. Coming to UW opened my eyes to how different academics can be. ” • Benefits: different perspectives, learn about UK, insights into US and self • “I think I’ve become more like who I will be for the rest of my life, good or bad, but I like knowing who that is. ”
UW student voices • Academic: Amount of work overwhelming, methods of assessment & criteria, use of technology, styles of teaching • “All the reading was a bit of a shock” • Differences in systems: textbooks, access to online resources • “The difference in accents wasn’t that bad—we’ve seen so many American movies. It would be harder if the accents were from Texas or something. . ” • Benefits: different perspectives, knowledge of other cultures • “I am more likely in future to take modules with other international students”
UMD Admin • Problems: ownership, not having clear business plan, assumption of similar system processes & resulting confusion, misunderstanding, timelines, financial strain on programme, staff turnover • “We had no involvement in the transition” • Positives: partnership & integration of UW & UMD, positive reputation of programme, support to students & staff • Suggestions: clear guidelines on how things done, who does what, timelines, onsite orientation • “In the jobs that we do we have to be effective cultural negotiators. Any time we are exposed to a different culture and practices in that culture, it strengthens us. ”
UW Support Staff • Problems: not aware of programme, assumptions leading to confusion over differences in systems, timetable • “I was aware of it – heard of it but knew nothing about it” • Positives: different perspectives, broadens us, greater appreciation for different systems, variety • Suggestions: Idiots guide on similarities & differences, expectations, policies, cultures, who does what, collaboration with UMD staff, have us assist in induction, use social media to communicate to students • “it brings a different experience to the table and that can never be a bad thing”
UMD Faculty • Differences: teaching methods, writing styles, assessments, grading criteria attendance, pass/fail, communicating with students, timetable, technology, switching rooms, role of students • Problems: differences in understanding of grading criteria, roles of lecturers & students, holding students accountable; incompatibility of technology between systems • Benefits: different perspectives, UW student contributions to class, connection with colleagues on campus • “Fun to have different perspectives on US and the world” • Suggestions: handbook explaining different systems & expectations; student contract indicating understanding of requirements; have academic advisors prepare students for what to expect; better communication with students
UW Academic Staff • “The most dangerous place is when you think you speak the same language” • Differences: nature & depth of reading & analysis, grading criteria, self-direction of students, style of teaching, terminology • Problems: UMD not engaged at first, didn’t make use of drafts & feedback, UMD students keep to themselves & as group • “I would like the students to realise that the tutor is not the one in charge” • Benefits: aware of own cultural incompetence, makes me rethink things, challenge stereotypes, interdisciplinary discourse, reflection on teaching, it benefits UMD students to get out of USA • “Our view of America is filtered through TV so its good to have that debunked”
What did we learn? • An initial perception of similarities, combined with openness & friendliness resulted in our over-generalising the similarities • It is vital to have partnership and programme stated goals to guide decisions & choices • It is crucial to have everyone involved understand what it is they are doing • There is a subtle balance between having stated goals & allowing for some flexibility -- allowing a healthy, dynamic evolution • It is important to understand the significance of the student experience for UW students and to give each a mentor • It is important for UMD students to have ongoing cultural mentoring and to know about the module choice before applying to the programme
Stumbling blocks… • Misconceptions and cross-cultural miscommunication • Terminology • Relationships • Internal barriers • Working within two (or more) pedagogical cultures • Student perspectives • Lecturer perspectives • Balancing continuity and changing needs/ demands
Recommendations • Clear partnership and programme goals developed in collaboration • Move from academic tourism model to cultural competence model • ‘Idiots guide’ for staff & handbook for students • SIE to follow same academic calendar as UW • Ensure module descriptions specify clearly the expectations for the module • Have indicative list of modules available to UMD students when programme is first promoted • explore ways to expand the partnership between the 2 universities beyond the SIE programme
Sharing your experiences. . Would you characterize your programme as: Island programme? Immersion programme? Educational tourism? Carefully structured, guided cultural mentoring programme? What have been your experiences? What lessons have you learned through the evolution of your programme?
Final thought…. Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not yet the end! (With apologies to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!)