JAPANESE SOJOURNERS AND INTERCULTURAL EFFECTIVENESS: A MIXED METHODS CASE STUDY
|Conventional folk wisdom insists study abroad is an inherently valuable educational experience for young people. While traditional study abroad programs were typically a semester or a full year in duration, short-term study abroad programs of only a couple weeks are now the most common type of sojourn abroad. Problematically, evidence is mounting that the so-called “immersion assumption,” the thrust of which is that being abroad leads to intercultural development, and which seems to permeate the administrative ethos of a majority of study abroad programs internationally, is a poor assumption indeed (Vande berg et al., 2012). Moreover, my review of the empirical literature on study abroad suggests to me that instrumentation used to measure intercultural development, much of which was popularized during the era when longer term study abroad was the norm, might not be as well-suited to the era of short-term study tours. Finally, very little research at the intersection of short-term study abroad, intercultural development, linguistic proficiency, and personality has been produced—particularly in the Japanese context. This study had three purposes. The first purpose was to establish evidence that short-term sojourns abroad can impact an aspect(s) of intercultural development in Japanese undergraduate students (N = 203) from two universities in western Japan. The second purpose was to explore how L2 English proficiency, speaking self-efficacy, and aspects of personality might promote or inhibit intercultural development for Japanese sojourners. The third purpose was to examine sojourner reflective journal entries and interview transcripts in order to explain the findings. To execute this study, I used an embedded correlational design in which pre-post-sojourn Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) scores and cross-sectional pre-departure predictors (TOEIC, New Vocabulary Levels Test (NVLT), self-efficacy, and Big Five personality markers) were analyzed through the application of Welch’s t-tests and multiple regressions. Qualitative data were analyzed in order to explain the quantitative findings in greater detail and to ensure sojourner experiences abroad are given voice in the study. The results of this study indicated the following. First, sojourners scored statistically significantly higher than non-sojourners on Intercultural Effectiveness Scale Global Mindset at posttest. There was no significant difference between these groups on any other Intercultural Effectiveness Scale construct at posttest. This suggests that study tours positively contribute to the development of intercultural effectiveness, particularly in terms of knowledge acquisition. Second, none of the individual differences included in this study (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, linguistic proficiency, or self-efficacy in communication) demonstrated any significant predictive association with changes in Intercultural Effectiveness Scale scores pre- to post-sojourn. Third, study tour programs that included explicit opportunity for sojourners to engage with host nationals were4 associated with statistically significant changes in Intercultural Effectiveness Scale Relationship Interest at post-sojourn. Finally, qualitative analyses provided limited explanation as to why the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale constructs of Global Mindset and Relationship Interest changed pre- to post-sojourn. While FACET scores for sojourner reflective journals were positively correlated with Intercultural Effectiveness Scale Relationship Interest at post-sojourn, the content of the journals was idiosyncratic and no discernable pattern between the content of the journals and changes in Intercultural Effectiveness Scale scores was found. Case studies of eight sojourners further exemplify the complexity of trying to establish explanation(s) for why some sojourners’ Intercultural Effectiveness Scale scores increase, decrease, or remain unchanged. Several theoretical and pedagogical implications are drawn from this study. Theoretical implications relate primarily to the capacity for study tours to contribute to Japanese government goals of developing global human resources, a degree of support for the much-maligned immersion assumption, and my findings that individual differences did not demonstrate any capacity to predict sojourner change in intercultural effectiveness pre- to post-sojourn. Three pedagogical implications of these findings first include the necessity for study abroad administrators and educators to acknowledge that immersion abroad is beneficial to sojourners only insofar as it helps them increase their knowledge about their host culture. Second, with greater pedagogic intentionality, particularly in the form of structuring study tours to include extensive opportunities for contact with host nationals, is critical if students are to grow beyond the simple knowledge domain. Finally, reflective practices are highly valuable but, as the results of this study show, Japanese sojourners are likely to need substantial scaffolding and a clear imperative to reflect within a set framework and on subject matter that transcends the superficial.
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|JAPANESE SOJOURNERS AND INTERCULTURAL EFFECTIVENESS: A MIXED METHODS CASE STUDY
|Croker, Robert A.
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