Penn State’s Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit

Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit
Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit

Developing global citizenship through short-term study abroad is little like trying to juice a grape (if you don’t have the right tools). It’s also naive and presumptuous to think we can turn students into global citizens, like Jesus turned water into wine, by merely sending them off to another country. It presumes that all students who study abroad already understand and embrace a local concept of citizenship, when this isn’t always the case—to put it kindly. I’m thinking of the kids who threw their McDonald’s trash out the window of their car the other day, while I was driving behind them.

Perhaps before students study abroad, we should look more closely at how to develop local citizenship in college, through service-learning and other educational constructs. It’s difficult to foster the concept of citizenship, let alone “global” citizenship, in an individualistic culture where many people don’t even know their neighbors! I sometimes wonder if students feel more connected to their online communities than they do their cities, countries, or the world. Nonetheless, all study abroad programs can broaden students’ understanding, if we engage them in the process.

The question is how do we connect students with the right aspects of their study abroad experience? Social responsibility, competence, and engagement (multi-dimensional constructs of citizenship) can take years to develop at home, so how do we jumpstart this process and reframe it globally over the course of just a few weeks? How can we create or move a student’s concept of citizenship within the framework of the world?

Last month, I learned about a wonderful project developed by Penn State University. It’s called the Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit. This toolkit consists of twenty tools (for any academic discipline), which begin to foster global citizenship and academic development through short-term education abroad courses. Each tool is described in one page (along with objectives, materials, and evaluation strategy), and is supported with a student handout and/or other helpful documents.

The tools are organized by…

(1)    Primary Focus Area: Global Citizenship or Academic Development.

(2)    Phase of Instruction: Pre-Departure, In-Country, or Post-Study Abroad.

(3)    Content Thread (or method): Communication, Utilization of Technology, Primary & Secondary Research, Experiential Learning, and Culture & Identity.

(4)    Learning Type: Formal, Non-Formal, and Informal.

An example of one of these tools is called Blog Abroad. It can be used during pre-departure, in-country, or post study abroad, and utilizes technology. It’s a formal learning activity with three objectives. The first objective is “To experience writing not just as a tool for displaying knowledge but also as a means for acquiring knowledge.” The other two objectives are (a) self-discovery, through critical reflection, and (b) the development of global knowledge and perspectives.

This tool, Blog Abroad, is an assignment that requires students to maintain a blog throughout the duration of the course. Students can write within three broad themes: global issues, expanding worldview, and global citizenship. Students are also required to read and respond to the blogs of their classmates.

While I already mentioned global citizenship, these tools are also designed to foster academic development, which consists of self-concept and self-efficacy. The idea of self-concept is to expand student perceptions of their own academic abilities, and self-efficacy is to expand their commitment to and involvement with the coursework.

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5 thoughts on “Penn State’s Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge and that of other educators/directors to enhance Study Abroad experience. Your articles, links, tools, and passion for the awareness and advancement of Study Abroad are a definite asset in assisting both faculty and student. I find it commendable to promote the value of the experience and to spark new interest. Most rewarding, you respect the needs of the faculty, the student, and the culture to which the students will be immersed. I applaud your efforts to widen the visible spectrum of the Study Abroad Program; to bring it back to its roots and move toward Universal growth.

  2. Wendy, thanks for sharing this, it sounds like a great resource! I think the more study abroad professionals share the ideas and resources they have developed to help their students gain the most out of their study abroad programs (including the much-maligned short-term “island” programs), the better off we’ll all be (and by that I mean EVERYONE–i.e. all of us in this interconnected, yet all-too-frequently-ill-understood world of ours!). And your website is doing a terrific job of facilitating this type of exchange.

    Of course there are limits to what short-term study abroad can do, but in my experience that incredibly important first short-term trip abroad often leads (for many students who might not otherwise have ever grown abroad at all), to additional study abroad and/or foreign language study upon return to the home campus, both wonderful things in and of themselves.

    In addition, over and over again I have seen my students make almost unbelievably huge leaps in gaining a greater global awareness in just a few short weeks abroad, even when they are not “immersed” in the local culture. In my short-term literature programs abroad, I choose literary texts that help focus attention on and accelerate my students’ examination and comprehension of cultural differences, cultural assumptions, and that help raise important questions that might not otherwise occur to them in such a short period of time. In addition, their informal encounters with local people they meet and talk to (including the conversations in which they find themselves on the defensive as Americans abroad) can be used to help them learn an amazing amount, and truly open up their global perspective in a very short period of time. I also use journal assignments to help push them to think more deeply about the culture they are observing, as well as to consider the relationship between America and the rest of the world, to grapple with the assumptions people in other countries hold about Americans, and to ask themselves questions about what it means to be a “good” American as well as a good citizen of the world, and why these things are important.

    I hope that the Five Tips for Americans Studying Abroad that I have posted on my website will also be a helpful resource for study abroad teachers and their students, one more way of getting the most out of time spent abroad, whether it’s for just a few short weeks, or a longer time.

  3. Thanks for sharing your ideas. As someone who wants to study abroad, the one thing that strikes me first is the adventure of it. New culture, new place, new surroundings, system, new everything! The idea of being in some place unfamiliar is cool! Although I have to admit, the idea of being able to adjust academically (specifically) sank in as time drew nearer.


  4. Hi! I find this education toolkit for faculty very valuable for those who need it. Certainly, in a globalized society, it is important for teachers to be able to connect with their students all the time. When faculty is able to teach abroad, it certainly expands their outlook on a lot of matters.

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