GLOBALIZATION AND STUDENT LEARNING: A Literature Review and Call for Greater Conceptual Rigor and Cross-Institutional Studies

GLOBALIZATION AND STUDENT LEARNING: A Literature Review and Call for Greater Conceptual Rigor and Cross-Institutional Studies by Richard Edelstein CSHE.6.14 (April 2014)

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Abstract:

University learning objectives and the curriculum have evolved to include more knowledge, skills and aptitudes related to the increasingly international nature of a broad range of professions and occupations.  More broadly, graduates are expected to know more about the world outside their home country in order to be informed and responsible citizens and to function personally and professionally in international contexts.  There is, however, very little systematic assessment of international learning and programming. A review of the literature indicates that studies of institution level objectives and outcomes are few in number and studies that involve more than a single institution are also relatively rare. There is also a lack of consensus about the goals, nature and importance of the international dimensions of higher education despite a near universal realization that globalization requires institutional changes. As a result, there is no common language or set of concepts that are broadly accepted or shared by academics, institutional leaders or students within and across institutions regarding globalization and international education. Most of the research literature that is applicable to the international programs and curricula of the university appears to be concentrated in two main domains:  1) student mobility/study abroad (including foreign language acquisition and inter-cultural relations) and 2) the international student experience. Some recent research on international students and the larger student body at universities has focused on the campus climate and its effect on the social integration, intercultural contact and learning outcomes of what is often an increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse student and faculty population.  The challenges to research related to international curricula and programs at universities are many. To improve research, we need a strong theoretical foundation where the logic and normative assumptions are clearly explicated and the concepts used are coherent and understandable in light of the theoretical approach taken.  In addition, researchers and practitioners should strive to develop some degree of common language and common concepts that can serve to develop more opportunities for finding relationships and links between the broad range of disciplines, theories and methods that are present in the field. More research and high quality studies should be pursued at multiple levels of analysis beginning with the individual learner, the course or degree program, the institution, the broader state or regional system, the national level and the international or global level.  The capacity to study and assess international curricula at multiple levels across different student populations, institutional forms, and national cultures can only strengthen the quality of the research.