ACM will help to lead a ground-breaking partnership aimed at helping colleges and organizations like ACM develop study abroad programs that are more affordable and that provide the best experience for liberal arts learning.
Funded by a $215,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, the Study Abroad Learning and Cost Alliance is a three-year initiative involving the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), the ACM, and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts (CILA) at Wabash College.
Throughout the initiative, ACM will use insights gained from the research in practical ways to strengthen learning outcomes for students on ACM programs. ACM and the Center on Inquiry will also place this project within a broader context of the long-term research into effective practices for liberal arts learning conducted by the Center, as well as the academic and personal growth of students during their college experience.
The Alliance will analyze the effects of study abroad on liberal arts learning goals and the costs of various types of study abroad programs, specifically considering questions such as:
- How does a study abroad experience contribute to the learning goals of the liberal arts?
- What impacts do particular features of a program (such as the length of the program, language requirements, or a home stay) have in achieving the learning goals?
- How does student learning in study abroad programs relate to learning on campus?
- What are the actual costs of study abroad programs to a college or university, and how do these costs vary by program type?
- What changes in study-abroad program design can make them both more effective in accomplishing liberal arts learning goals and more cost efficient?
In answering these questions, the Alliance will undertake three separate but closely interrelated projects.
Learning from Study Abroad Project – GLCA will assess the impact of study abroad in achieving liberal arts learning through a web-based survey called Learning from Study Abroad (LSA). The survey will be taken by students both before and after studying abroad, as well as by comparison groups who do not study abroad. The LSA survey was developed by ACM, GLCA, and the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) during an earlier project funded by the Teagle Foundation.
Expanded Contexts for Liberal Arts Learning Project – ACM will work closely with the Center of Inquiry, which has conducted extensive research on liberal arts learning, to apply the findings from the LSA survey in the development of study abroad programs offered by the ACM.
Costs of Study Abroad Project – GLCA will work with a set of colleges to develop a comprehensive cost analysis of study abroad programs, especially comparing different types of programs.
During the project’s three years, the Alliance will compile and analyze data that should yield valuable insights into the relationship between characteristics of study abroad programs, the learning outcomes students attain, and the costs of various types of programs. At the same time, the Alliance’s work will provide practical knowledge about program design changes that can strengthen liberal arts learning outcomes in study abroad programs.
ACM Vice President John Ottenhoff expressed special enthusiasm about the collaboration with the Center of Inquiry, which is currently in the fourth year of its National Study of Liberal Arts Education involving 49 institutions. “With the very rich resources of the Wabash National Study, we’ll be able to get a much fuller picture of how study away — both internationally and domestically — fits into students’ learning experiences,” Ottenhoff said. “The Teagle Foundation has already had a profound impact on how we think about student learning on our campuses; this project will help us understand how off-campus study fits into that larger pattern.”
The ACM plans to administer the LSA to all students in its programs, and the Center of Inquiry will also ask students in its broader study to participate.