MARINA MARKOT: As you are trickling in, I will start in the interest of time. My name is Marina Markot. I am director of Cornell Abroad. And it is my utmost pleasure to be introducing the next speaker and the next segment of our program.
Mick Vande Berg is an esteemed colleague of mine and also a dear friend. And this is a truly special occasion for me to detail his accomplishments in the field. You have in your program a little booklet that has a very long description of what Mick has done. But if you would all allow me to just stay away from that and summarize briefly how I see Mick and his contribution to international education.
He has an amazing combination of backgrounds, of both being a faculty, a true academic, a researcher, and a really leader in international education, particularly education abroad as a field. Not only did he serve as director of international education offices, study abroad offices at most-esteemed institutions like Georgetown School for International Training, Kalamazoo College-- And many of you may not know, but in the field of education abroad, Kalamazoo is a great leader-- Michigan State University, which has for many years held the first place in the scope of education abroad activities at a US institution.
Mick also was the chief academic officer of CIEE, one of the largest nonprofit organizations of study abroad provider type. It's much bigger than study abroad, but Mick was leading the academic efforts of the study abroad division of it. It's called the Council on International Educational Exchange. He has personal international background and experience, studied abroad in Mexico, taught and lived and worked in Spain and France.
He's a published author. If you haven't yet read his book, Student Learning Abroad, What Our Students Are Learning, Why They Are Not, and What We Can Do About It, I highly recommend it. And I also want to mention that Mick is a founding member of the Forum on Education abroad, that since it was founded has become pretty much the main standards organization for education abroad as a field, has done tremendous work on a variety of aspects of really bringing disparate efforts of education abroad and different institutions and universities onto the common platform.
And so Mick was at the forefront of it and, as a result, was recently recognized by a very prestigious Peter Wollitzer Award for his remarkable effectiveness in influencing institutions of higher education to understand and support study abroad. So please welcome Mick Vande Berg.
MICHAEL VANDE BERG: Thank you, Marina, for that very nice introduction. What a great start this morning. Can I see the hands of all of us who were here for the earlier session? Nearly everybody. That's a good sign that we kept coming back. It really is very invigorating.
I said to Dr. [INAUDIBLE] during the break, I was excited to be able to be here and to speak anyway. But hearing the energy in the room and seeing all of you here around this internationalization effort is heady stuff. I do a lot of speaking. I do a lot of training in a lot of places in the United States and in the world. This kind of energy is not unknown to me, but it's very gratifying to see this at an institution, which has for so long been legitimately an international institution.
It's the sense that where you are right now is not the end of the story. There's something now that will follow this. And you're coming together and beginning to explore what the implications of that might be.
This session here, as you can see, is, in fact, the Implications for Program Design around some paradigm shifts in international education. And I think maybe a good starting point is I'd like to tell a story. I like to tell stories. So I'll start with a story today.
This is a story from the years that I spent living and working in Spain. My wife and I were academics, a professor of French, a assistant professor of comparative literature. We left our jobs. I was offered a position to chair an English department at a prestigious institution in Spain called El Instituto Nacional, which had been for a long time recognized as an important center for women's education in Spain, as an important contributor to, from the Franco regimes point of view, left wing thought within Spain, protected by a succession of US ambassadors during the Franco years, a really fine place to go.
And it's an interesting institute and remains so even today, because there are many Spanish students who study there. They're drawn by the attraction of US culture and US language. They could go down the street to the British Council. And they could study things British, including the British language, the English language. But instead, they're drawn-- in smaller numbers still-- they're drawn El Instituto Nacional.
And there are about a dozen US universities and colleges that send students there and many of them for a very long time quite prestigious brand names in international education-- Middlebury College, New York University, Syracuse University, Vassar, Colgate, Wesleyan, and so on and so on, Kalamazoo college, where I worked after working there.
And in taking that job, I was attracted to the job for a variety of reasons. One, I wanted to find out if I could really be an administrator. That was an interest of mine. And in that context, in this highly internationalized context, what I anticipated-- and this was my job as well-- I anticipated that one of the easy things for me to do to oversee and my staff would be the quote, "intercambio program," the exchange program between the Spanish students who were there studying things American and American English and the US American students who were studying there.
I expected that there were a lot of lively interactivity. After all, the students were physically in the same space. The students had willingly put themselves into a situation where it would be really easy, in fact, almost incumbent upon them in their day to day dealings to deal with somebody else, to-- and I'm going to use this term frequently in my brief amount of time this morning-- to cross cultural boundaries.
It would be easy, it would be almost obligatory to cross cultural boundaries-- after all, in the same physical space, in the same classes, in some cases, in the same events. There were a lot of events in the Paraninfo, this auditorio, auditorium, and in the cafeteria, which provided room for breaks and for lunches and for dinners for hundreds of students.
And yet, what I found out-- and I think where I'm going with this, those of you who have for a long time been in international education-- what I found, much to my surprise and increasingly to my dismay, was if you think of this as Venn diagrams, we've got a group of 1,200 Spanish students and a group of 800 US American students, I'm expecting this extraordinary degree of interpenetration between those two groups. And that's not what's happening. In fact, there's very little interpenetration of the two groups.
The more I observe, the more what I see is that these are two cultural groups coexisting in the same space. And the intercambio program depended on them coming together and doing things. And it was very poorly attended. And so we began to work at it. We began to try very hard to figure out, how could we encourage or how could we simply illuminate this event in ways that would allow the students to see that it was there-- they somehow missed it-- and that they would begin to participate.
I learned to do focus groups at this time. I mean, what does a comparative literature professor know about focus groups, right? So I actually hired someone to come in and teach us how to do focus groups.
And what we heard from both the US and from the Spanish students was mirror image. They don't like us, they don't like Spanish people, or they don't like Americans. How do you know? Well, you can just tell. They don't want to speak our language.
This is remarkable, given the fact that some of the US study programs in that building required 100% use of Spanish. And yet, what the Spanish students are picking up on is somehow the US Americans quote, "don't like us, they don't want to speak Spanish." And the reverse was true as well with the US students.
For four years, I really tried. I did my best and tried to solve that problem. And unhappily, I have to admit that at the end of four years, back to Venn diagrams, while we had achieved some degree of increased interpenetration of those circles, nothing like what I thought ought to be happening.
And I went back to the States, and much to my surprise in the States, I encountered an industry, a study abroad industry, that was convinced that, if students simply crossed what I now consider political boundaries and linguistic boundaries and they did so willingly, that all good things would follow, and particularly this good thing-- the expectation that, in coming back from study abroad, that they would be able to work more effectively, to interact more effectively, and to go where Darla took us, not only more effectively but more appropriately with culturally different others. And what I had just experienced indicated to me that there was a problem with that perception.
What I'm going to talk about is I'm going to talk about that view and a couple of other views. I'm calling them in the title here, starting off calling them paradigms, following in the footsteps of Thomas Kuhn, for example, a way for us to organize our beliefs and our values around some topic. In this topic today, it's going to be around the crossing of cultural boundaries.
And there are three paradigms. And I'm quickly going to suggest that we might think of these-- through my work with critical theory-- we might think of these as, if not master narratives, dominant narratives, or more simply stories. These are the stories that we, the members of this community-- and I'm not really only referring to the Cornell international education community, although I am referring to that-- but that this community is a part of a greater community of international educators, that are very active increasingly in many parts of the world, that we have certain assumptions about how it is that people, human beings, and including our students and ourselves, learn in crossing cultural boundaries. Or how we learn to cross cultural boundaries.
So here are the three stories. We're going to talk very briefly about each. The first story says that when human beings cross those boundaries, when they physically relocate and they find themselves in a new space, where it is a different political space and a different linguistic space, that when left to their own devices, that they will learn well. Experience is learning in this model.
In the second, there is a critical difference-- two critical differences in this, as we'll see, I want to point out one right now-- we get as a community. And we can see this as early as the 1960s. We get really, really focused on the idea of immersion. How do students learn? They learn when we take steps to immerse them.
And in the third story, it's not that we stop believing that immersion is important in the third story. We believe it's important. But we believe that we need to do something as educators that we haven't had to do before.
We need to help the students learn to reflect on how they and others are-- and I'm using the term deliberately-- framing experience. And that in order for the students to be able to adapt to the new frame, that they have to be able to reframe their own experience. And these, minimally, are the things that are involved in the third story.
So very quickly, first story-- the first story, as international education arises in the years immediately preceding and immediately following World War I, modern internationalization. Again, Cornell has been doing it for longer than that. And as Darla pointed out, international movement, international education has existed in one form or another for a very, very long time. But in its modern form and institutions, coming together and bilaterally or in wider networks making decisions that they would like to exchange students, they would like to exchange faculty. Those are the earliest forms of this, 1909, 1910.
Then the war comes along and ruins everything until 1919-- one of the earliest re-entries into internationalization after this, Georgetown, one of the institutions where I've worked. And during that time period, the model, the dominant model, was given to us by the activities from the so-called Grand Tour, the idea that there were certain enriching experiences that well-healed, typically males, although females did participate as well, could have by visiting the civilized places in the world, by which they meant a handful of Western European countries.
And the reason why there is interest in a handful of European universities and a handful of US universities right during the period of the First World War immediately before and after is that some parts in the US had come to be seen by Europeans as quote, "civilized." So Harvard, for example, the University of Wisconsin, Stanford, and a few other institutions are places that were deserving of the title, the tag, civilized.
It's a very hierarchical notion of culture. There are some cultures-- it's in the nature of things that some cultures are superior to others. And those are the places where we'd like to go and we'd like our students to go.
If we switch to 2014-- and one of the interesting things, by the way, as an aside, one of the interesting things about these three stories is, the first is supplanted, undermined by the second. The second is, in turn, supplanted, undermined by the third. But they continue to exist.
There are people who continue to embrace the idea that somehow, as in the first story, that it's the environment that is in some largely undefined way is making our students learn. Maybe a better way to put that is that the environment is imprinting the learner. And that explains learning. And there are people probably here among us who, maybe in unexamined ways, are continuing to embrace that kind of assumption.
And so what I find interesting is, if we Google education abroad or study abroad or US students abroad or French students abroad, what we find are many, many, many photographs that look like this. The photographs represent iconic images of study abroad. We all know that the one on the left is-- where is that?
SPEAKER 3: Sydney.
MICHAEL VANDE BERG: Sure, it's Sydney. We recognize it immediately. It's an icon for us. And it's an icon for our students.
The way that we organize ourselves, the activities that we create, the policies, the practices, are redolent, representative. They embody the assumptions. And when someone took this photograph, whether it was a student or a faculty member, that person was implicitly making a statement about things that are valued in study abroad.
I suppose that we're all aware of the fact that many of our students compete with each other and send each other photos like this of all of the important places that they've been to when they're abroad-- the students who travel very widely who are collecting as many quote, "experiences" as possible. Why? Because the basic assumption is, experience is learning.
So what do we do as educators? What's our role? Well, among other things, our role is to provide culture-specific information to our students. And it oftentimes takes the form of lists, of dos and don'ts.
If our students go to France-- a place where I was a visiting professor in the spring of 2012 and 2013-- if our students go to France, that we teach them that in quote, "French culture," that you need to go around the room and you need to shake everybody's hand when you enter and when you leave. If we send them to Spain, we'd let them know that, it's not unusual for people to quote, "interrupt" you when you're speaking, that you shouldn't get angry about this, that don't get angry if the Spanish do that.
If we're sending students to China, we tell them, well, if somebody gives you a business card, don't clean your nails with the business card. [LAUGHS] and things like this, right? I'm not here entirely to criticize giving our students list of dos and don'ts. I am suggesting, however, that, if this is as far as our preparation is going, that we're probably not doing what the students actually need. But that's a perspective from story three, and we'll get there.
Here's the second story. By the 1960s-- largely, I think, because of the popularization of the notion of cultural relativity through cultural anthropology-- Franz Boas had been talking about this phenomenon since the turn of the century. But it took international education a little bit of time to have those insights begin to reflect themselves in practice. Social psychology plays a very important role. And the emerging field of intercultural communications all by the 1960s are playing an important role.
This is what I want to focus on here. Rather than a hierarchical organization of culture, the second story gives us a vertical organization of culture. It says that cultures are co-equal. The implication then is, wherever we send our students, it's a legitimate thing to send our students there, because they can have a cultural experience. They can learn to cross cultural boundaries.
How relatively successful we've been with that? In some cases, I think we've been quite successful. If we look at countries, destinations that were considered to be nontraditional in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, even into the '90s, certainly China would be high on that list. Japan would be high on the list in the '60s and '70s. Yet, no one would consider those to be nontraditional destinations anymore.
By the same token, if we look at all of Africa, all of the African possibilities that exist in international education, we haven't been very successful there. The percentage of students who opt to study abroad in African destinations remains about where it was 20, 25 years ago in terms of percentages, quite low. But the ideal is, we can send students anywhere for cross-cultural experiences.
And what do we do as educators? What's our role? What does the good educator do? The good educator seeks to do two things. One is to immerse students in the experience. Immersion begins to play an outsized role in the rhetoric of international education at this point.
When we go to conferences-- in fact, today, we've heard the term immersion already. And again, I'm not here to criticize the use of the term immersion. It plays a very important role within study abroad.
In story two, immersion becomes an end in itself. If we immerse our students successfully, they will learn. Learning is a function of immersion. So it's a version then of the positivism of story one. It's the environment still that's responsible for people learning.
It's the environment-- another way of putting this, it's the environment where meaning lies. Meaning is external to us. Meaning comes to us when we have these experiences in new and different territory.
So one thing we do is we set up conditions that will allow our students to immerse or will require them to immerse. And the ideal for us is, we can imagine that-- this is one of my favorite photographs of immersion-- we imagine her as a student willingly and expertly throwing herself into, diving into, the deep end of the pool. The deep end of the pool is where the cultural difference is going to be encountered.
And when she's completely immersed in the cultural difference, good things will happen, including when she comes back from this experience. With her experience in the deep end, she will be better for it in this way. She'll be better at crossing cultural boundaries. She'll be better at acting effectively and appropriately with culturally different others.
The other thing that we do, as faculty, is, prior to departure typically, we educate our students. We talk about cultural difference. And we've learned to codify. This we have certain kinds of cultural difference that we want our students to learn about.
So they include nonverbal communication, communication styles, learning styles, cognitive styles, value contrasts. They'll ask things like individualism, collectivism. The cognitive styles, there are learners who are detached from the thing that they're involved with. And there are learners that are more connected with the thing that they're involved with, and so on, and so on.
Again, these are very important things, I think, in intercultural training, which I do a fair amount of. I think these are important things to teach learners. I don't believe-- although I once did, I don't believe that these things, in and of themselves, teaching about them is likely to help most people learn to cross cultural boundaries.
Back to Madrid, those four years I spent in Madrid, a lot of those students, in fact, had studied this. Or more recent, when I was a visiting professor at a business school in France last spring and the spring before, my students, when I told them in the beginning of the class that they were going to choose cultural partners, and that the only three criteria were these-- somebody you don't know, somebody with a different passport than you've got, and somebody whose first language is different from yours-- before asking them to come into the center of the room, get out of their chairs and do this, I told them three times what it was going to be.
And I know how hard this is from experience. I train a lot of students as well. And when they came together of 32 students, I said, here's the moment. This is the moment you've been waiting for. This is why you enrolled in this course.
The course was called something like getting better at dealing with difference or something. And the course description made it very, very plain what we were going to do in this course. Again, like in Spain, a couple of decades earlier, these students had willingly put themselves into this situation. Why? Because they wanted to get better at dealing with culturally different owners.
Yet, when confronted with the moment of 32 students, two went out and chose cultural partners. The rest were, not simply frozen, they were frozen in interesting ways. First, they weren't frozen. What they did is they went and collected themselves into national groups.
So the 16 French students, half of them were French, the 16 French students collected in three groups of French students. The four Canadian women went and they did a Canadian women's group. The one US American in that particular class, where did he go do you think?
SPEAKER 3: Canadians.
MICHAEL VANDE BERG: He went to join the Canadians, because that was close enough, right?
And so on, and so on, the two Pakistanis went over there, and so on, and so on. So they are atomized, which we see. When we think of international students coming to Cornell, I'll bet we see this here. We see it all over the world. It's a very common thing. We bring ourselves up to the point of crossing that cultural boundary. And then we find it very, very difficult to do it.
Here are some of the-- and these emerge in the 1960s and 1970s in international education. Most of them, with the exception of the last one, are universal in the sense that you find them in country after country after country. These are very common practices for immersing students.
If I do these things as an educator, I act responsibly. I'm doing my job, particularly if prior to the departure of the students, I've taught those kinds of cultural difference-- learning style differences, communication style differences, and so on. Then I put the students in situations through homestays, through enrolling them directly in university courses, through maximizing their contact with those nationals, and so on. I put them in these situations, knowing-- not suspecting, not hoping-- knowing that that's going to work.
Why has this story persisted? Because a number of us in this room are no longer telling the story. Me too. But why has it persisted so long? I think there are two kinds of quote, "evidence" that we can look at that will explain why this one has [SPANISH]-- the story has continued for as long as it has.
One of them is, is that it's not unusual at all, is it, for our students to come back and say, I've been transformed by the experience. The transformational part of this story is very powerful. Hey, in no way am I going to suggest that students aren't learning anything on it when they study abroad. Absolutely, clearly, students are learning things.
But I do wonder about this report of transformation in this regard. Does that feeling that they have, that change of attitude that they have, does that in fact contribute to their becoming more effective and more appropriate in dealing with culturally different others? Does it help them become better at crossing cultural boundaries?
I was 20 when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. And I remember, still, I have a powerful, powerful memory of this. I stood there on the rim. And it's what the 18th century, I think, talked about it in the concept of awe. I felt incredibly small there with the evidence of millions of years in front of me. And my life was small and, perhaps, even insignificant.
And at the very same time, I expanded out from myself and became a part of that greater whole, something like that. And that I can still narrate this all these years later suggests it was very powerful, very important to me. Did it contribute to my becoming more effective and appropriate in dealing with culturally different others? If I had done that and I had crossed a political boundary, if I had done it in Madrid, if I had done it in Shanghai, would it have contributed to that? That's the question that we're asking.
So one thing that we've got is evidence that students tell us. And we tend, I think, too often not to examine what that part of the story means from the student point of view. I think it's an interesting thing to talk about.
And related to that, when the students come back and they tell us that they've been transformed, and then naturally we would like to send as many of them abroad as we can. If we do the math from about 30 years ago, we're now spending more than five times as many US students abroad for academic credit than was the case three decades ago. Here, at Cornell, the president has thrown down a marker-- send 50% of the students abroad.
When I worked at Michigan State, my explicit order from the president, my first day on the job-- in case I hadn't gotten this during the interview process-- my order from him was, my marching orders were, you will make Michigan State number one in the country. Meaning, how many bodies went out the door?
Look, there are all sorts of good things that are happening in study abroad. I'm not suggesting that your president is wrong by asking you to send 50% of the people abroad. I do think, like a lot of us in this room I'm sure, I think that.
The question, though, is not a quantity question, it's a quality question. It's the reason why we're here today. We want these educational experiences-- no matter how many students go abroad-- we want the educational experiences to be effective. And one of those that we want is we want students to come back having enhanced their ability to cross cultural boundaries.
By the 1990s, a new story emerges. And a new story emerges around two concepts. One is around the concept of experiential, and the other is constructivism. The two are related, by my way of thinking, in the following way.
Rather than pointing to the environment and saying that the meaning of things is in the environment, what these stories, what these movements say is, no, we are the meaning-makers. The meaning is in me. There's something very, very extraordinary about us, as human beings, almost godlike, in our, not ability, it's-- I suppose, it is an ability, but it's one that we do automatically, so that when our students go abroad, they have a way of making meaning.
They make meaning, according to interculturalists, they make meaning because of their experiences in cultural groups up to that point, both groups from their infancy, all the way to the groups that there are members of right now. That way of experiencing that they have in different contexts is what they carry with them when they go around. So when we talk about people going abroad and having baggage when they go abroad, part of the baggage is a world view, ways of experiencing.
And what story three is going to tell us-- and I won't run through all of these disciplines. This is an incomplete list of disciplines, by the way. And these are major figures who have had important influence and continue, some of them, to have important influence in education abroad.
By story three, what we're recognizing is that, simply putting the students out there, even if we take steps to immerse them, is not in fact getting us where we want to go. The Georgetown Consortium study is a study that I was the PI on this study and had a wonderful research team. Darla mentioned earlier the importance of working in teams. I absolutely could not have done this project on my own.
We did data collection for 2 and 1/2 years, got $550,000 from Title 6 DOE to do this work. The institutions, the partner institutions, in addition to Georgetown, were the University of Minnesota, Rice University, and Dickinson College. So we had a distribution of different kinds of universities. Students from 190 institutions participated in this study.
We collected a lot of data. And we measured student performance in two ways. We measured their intercultural development through an instrument called the Intercultural Development Inventory, not the only instrument like its kind out there, but one that's been shown to be valid and reliable. And we also looked at second language acquisition. I'm going to focus in this report today very briefly on the intercultural dimension here, rather than the second language, although I think those are interesting as well.
When I got interested in this, when I applied for the funding, what I was interested in is story two. I was interested in the assertion that, if we take steps to immerse students in the environments, that they will develop interculturally. And so you saw those lists before, the list before of the common strategies or tactics for immersing students.
This is what we looked at. And this is what we found. Studying abroad for longer periods, does it matter? Yeah. Does it matter as much as we have traditionally thought? Not according to the findings in this study.
In this study, students peak-- in terms of the impact of duration-- they peak within the range of 13 to 18 weeks. If duration were as important as we have traditionally assumed that it is, that learning should continue, the curve should continue upwards. It absolutely does not. It flattens out.
Secondly, maximizing contact with host nationals, there's no evidence that this is, in fact, predictive at all of intercultural development. Enrolling at host institution classes, no impact. It doesn't mean I don't think that enrolling in host institution classes is important. I think it's important.
But it doesn't get us where we want our students to be, maximizing. Being housed in homestay has no impact. However, skip down, too, and see homestays, yes, very significantly, homestays, when students engage with the host family, when students are willingly spending more time with the host family, then they are, in fact, learning.
Here, in brief, is the third story. What do we have to do as educators to help students learn more effectively and appropriately in unfamiliar context? First, immersion remains important. If we don't offer our students immersion opportunities, it's just an abstraction. They have to have the tension, the disagreement, the conflict, the disequilibrium, the destabilization that occurs through the encounter with cultural difference.
Second, we have to help them learn to reflect. We have to take steps to do that. Most human beings don't seem to do that. Some do-- some people do learn to do this.
Most human beings don't seem to do that very well-- tend not to reflect, reflect on themselves. What are my cultural antecedents? What are you like culturally? Where did that come from? And third, helping them reframe the experience.
I'm going to show you one more slide. Here's some data, again, using this instrument. The top there is the result on a 90-point scale, the Intercultural Development Inventory. On a 90-point scale, students were barely registering as having developed interculturally across 61 study abroad programs. The average gains were 1.32 on a 90-point scale.
Look at what happens when we facilitate our students learning. Again, this is story three. What we get are extraordinary gains as measured by the IDI. These are very, very significant gains. For those of you who don't work with the IDI, these kinds of gains are unusual, very unusual, as you can see from the results of the Georgetown study.
So I think I'll probably leave it here. This is just an overview of these three stories. But that will leave us with this. I will ask this of us.
The data here in the Georgetown Consortium study-- and by the way, it's not the only study. There are many, many, many studies. There's a growing literature on this that throws seriously into question whether do we do our jobs well by simply immersing students in difference.
These are unsettling to those of us who have embraced these practices. But the good news is, we know how to get our students to where we would like them to go. There's a ton of knowledge out there that has been accumulated over the last decades about intercultural training.
And there are training venues that, if you're interested in doing some training yourself, then these are venues that are in North America. There are venues in Europe as well that are very worthwhile. But these are closer to home. And so if you have any questions about these later on, I"ll be glad to talk about that. Thank you very much.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Michael Vande Berg presented a paradigm shift in student learning abroad and concluded that students don't develop interculturally on their own; they need intervention to foster intercultural competence. The talk took place on February 10, 2014 as part of the Symposium on "What Constitutes a Meaningful International Experience," organized by the Einaudi Center.