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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

Year Degree Awarded

2018

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Ezekiel Kimball

Second Advisor

Ryan Wells

Third Advisor

Jane Miller

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Leadership | Higher Education Administration

Abstract

ABSTRACT

LEARNING PROSOCIALITY THROUGH EXPERIENCE: MODELING THE OUTCOMES OF POSTSECONDARY STUDY ABROAD AND SERVICE LEARNING

MAY 2018

CHRISTINA R. MONTE, B.S., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

M.S., DREXEL UNIVERSITY

Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

Directed by: Dr. Ezekiel Kimball

In recent years, study abroad and service learning programs have experienced rapid growth on college campuses. Study abroad requires students to travel to another country and experience a different culture while service learning exposes students to differences that exist in their own communities. Study abroad has the ability to internationalize the student experience. Service learning can help students recognize the needs of others. As a result, both study abroad and service learning programs have been tied to student development outcomes; however, the extent to which these experiences influence outcomes that persist after college graduation and into young adulthood is unclear. Studies have explored outcomes associated with domestic service learning and study abroad, yet few have looked at outcomes after college graduation. In addition, much of the evidence surrounding study abroad and service learning has been self-reported immediately after the experience and is based on limited evidence.

This dissertation addresses three gaps in existing literature. First, this study uses a longitudinal dataset to systematically investigate the long-term outcomes of study abroad, service learning, and both study abroad and service learning. Second, this research uses a nationally representative dataset, rather than the small convenience samples that have been common in prior research, in order to produce generalizable claims. Finally, this research simultaneously investigates study abroad, service learning, and both study abroad and service learning to identify the effects of these programs and differences in prosociality outcomes. Research identifying how these activities influence prosocial outcomes in young adult life is necessary so that institutions can measure whether the objectives of these programs are realized. Additionally, with colleges and universities increasingly merging study abroad and service learning to offer international service learning programs, more research is necessary to explore differences in outcomes to determine whether institutional objectives are met.

This study is framed by a comprehensive review of extant literature on study abroad and service learning. Based on this review, a modified version of Terenzini and Reason’s (2005) Conceptual Model for College Student Experience is recommended. The modified model suggests outcomes should be extended beyond those defined in the current model. The modified model posits global citizenship to be a primary goal of higher education and suggests the model extend beyond learning, development, change and persistence, which are defined as the finite goals of the Terenzini and Reason (2005) model. As such, it incorporates outcomes related to civic engagement and prosociality, which contribute to global citizenship. To examine study abroad and service learning through the lens of this conceptual model, this study uses data from the Educational Longitudinal Study [ELS] of 2002-2012. ELS provides data on critical transitions experienced by students as they move through high school into postsecondary education and their careers. For this study, data was drawn from the first follow-up survey, which was administered in 2004 to seniors in high school and then in 2012 to those who went on to college and graduated from a four year institution. The analytic sample for this study included those who completed the third follow-up survey and earned a bachelor’s degree or higher at that time. This study employed a quantitative research design using regression analyses, a Wald test and descriptive statistics to answer the three research questions.

The results of this research revealed differences in study abroad, service learning, and both study abroad and service learning participation by gender, race and socioeconomic status. White, affluent females comprised the majority of study abroad and service learning participants. Additionally, females comprised the majority of those placing high value on helping others while in high school and were among those most likely to complete service work prior to college. In addition to looking at precollege characteristics and in college participation, this research explored the relationship between study abroad, service learning, and both study abroad and service learning on prosociality four years after college graduation. The results of the regression analyses indicated that service learning and both study abroad and service learning were predictors of prosociality four years after college graduation; however, study abroad alone was not a predictor. In addressing the differences in prosociality within each activity, the outcomes were compared. The results showed the highest mean found when both study abroad and service learning had occurred in college followed by service learning only. Study abroad produced the lowest prosociality among the activities; however, it was still higher than if a participant had done neither study abroad nor service learning.

The results of this dissertation show that study abroad and service learning appear successful in achieving certain developmental outcomes in students. Interpreting these results through the lens of Kolb’s Experiential Theory Model aids in better understanding the results of this study. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory emphasizes learning as a process of re-learning with reflection and active engagement as key components to successful learning. The integration of study abroad and service learning has the potential to deepen experiential learning, and with these two programs being merged with increasing frequency, more research needs to investigate the joint effects of study abroad and service learning. Notably, this study’s findings may understate the effects of combined study abroad and service learning due to the way that relevant ELS variables recorded study abroad and service learning participation. With better data, higher education administrators will be able to speak about international service learning more intentionally. Further, they will be more effective in setting objectives for these programs and meeting those objectives.

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