A new study from Purdue University confirms that university students who received group mentoring through the AFS Global Competence Certificate Program (GCC) during their semester abroad improved their intercultural competence much more than the students who had no support at all. These results have significant implications for educational institutions looking to foster intercultural awareness, respect for diversity and global-mindedness in their students, in both a sustainable and scalable way.

The study titled “Intercultural Learning in Semester-Long Study Abroad: A Comparative Analysis of the Effectiveness of One-on-One versus Group-Mentored Interventions,” confirms what the international education community has been saying for a while: intercultural learning doesn’t just happen on its own. Study abroad experiences must be facilitated and supported by a structured curriculum to have positive learning effects on students. 

By far, learning outcomes are achieved most effectively when students work one-to-one with their mentors. At the same time, students who receive no structured support while abroad are more prone to regressing in their intercultural development.

While one-to-one mentoring provides best results, many higher education institutions are faced with problems of scalability and cost-effectiveness when providing such support. Competent faculty members are already overburdened with work, and hiring more staff to focus on mentoring is often not a viable solution.

Scalability is one reason why Purdue University partnered with AFS to provide the Global Competence Certificate Program (GCC) to their students. This 18-module program combines online learning, including videos and discussion forums, with in-person intercultural experiences and guided reflection. Participants are assigned a group mentor who is trained to develop effective support. 

Published by the Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research (CILMAR) which promotes and facilitates intercultural learning at Purdue University, this study used a world-renowned tool to measure the differences in students’ learning: Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a leading cross-cultural assessment of intercultural competence that is used by thousands of individuals and organizations. 

“The GCC curriculum, along with several modules that focus learners on applying their newly gained intercultural competencies to their future careers, has allowed our team of mentors to support the adaptation and skill development of hundreds more study abroad students than we were previously able to reach,” says Dr. Kris Acheson-Clair, CILMAR’s Director. “The program is so successful that we are pursuing offering the GCC for credit at Purdue to a wider range of learners, beyond the study abroad context.”

Group-mentored interventions fall into a sweet spot for ‘scaling up’ both students’ acquisition of intercultural competence and institutional or national participation rates in education abroad,” concludes the study. Read more in the white paper available now on HUBicl, an on-line research repository for researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs in intercultural learning. The study is also scheduled for publication in December 2019 in the renowned Journal on Excellence in College Teaching.

“AFS has developed the Global Competence Certificate as a concrete intervention to meet the needs of global universities to provide both outbound and inbound students with vital cultural awareness and skills needed for today’s communities and workforce. This second study published by Purdue University  reinforces previous findings that students benefit significantly from facilitated learning,” says Linda Stuart, Head of the Global Competence Certificate at AFS Intercultural Programs.

AFS’s Global Competence Certificate program is available in eight languages, and it provides blended, personalized learning experiences with clear educational goals. It is currently used by 65 organizations in 40+ countries with over 7500 learners since its inception. Partners include Purdue University, University of Indianapolis, Augsburg University, the University of St. Thomas, Languages Canada, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgium, as well as a number of academic institutions worldwide. 

For more information on the Global Competence Certificate, please visit globalup.com or contact Linda.Stuart@afs.org, Director of AFS GCC.

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