Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Developing Intercultural Competence by Participating in Intensive Intercultural Service-Learning

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Developing Intercultural Competence by Participating in Intensive Intercultural Service-Learning

Article excerpt

This quasi-experimental study investigates the effects of an intensive intercultural service-learning program on the intercultural competence of undergraduate students by utilizing pre- and post-course assessments of intercultural competence as measured by the cultural intelligence (Van Dyne, Koh, & Ang, 2008) and intercultural sensitivity (Chen & Starosta, 2000) scales. The intercultural sei-vice-learning course utilized The $100 Solution(tm) model with immigrant and refugee families. It was implemented in treatment sections (n = 52) of a general education course on cultural diversity in the U.S. Comparison sections (n = 118) of the same course implemented the same curriculum without the service-learning experience. Statistical analysis confirmed that service-learning had a significant positive effect on students ' intercultural competence, particularly their intercultural strategy and action, although not on their intercultural knowledge, motivation, or sensitivity. The investment of time and effort required to implement high-quality, intensive, intercultural service-learning programs enhances some aspects of students ' intercultural competence.

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Because there are already numerous qualitative studies about the experiences of undergraduate students in intercultural service-learning, this study focuses on quantitative measures of intercultural competence. Despite the fields' call to conduct "systematic scientific research with meaningful indicators of educational outcomes" (Hatcher & Bringle, 2000, pp. 68-69), to date little research points toward some clear and significant correlation between intensive intercultural service-learning and intercultural competence. Furthermore, there is a clear need for experimental and quasi-experimental research in the field of student outcome assessment in service-learning with comparison and control groups in order to determine if outcomes are attributable to the service-learning experience (Billig & Waterman, 2003, p. 19). This study utilizes multiple-item, psychometrically-sound measures with documented properties to measure constructs meaningful to intercultural competence --a primary goal for the course and service-learning program under study.

Many professional fields today acknowledge the importance of intercultural competence in conducting work ethically and efficiently, especially when serving racial minorities and diverse populations. Many argue that in our interconnected world, "if our young people do not learn about other societies, they may well be unable to cope with the complexities of their own" (Tonkin, 2004, p. 19). This assertion holds true for learning about and being able to work across cultural groups with whom students are unfamiliar. Present higher education institutions strive, in one way or another, to produce not only capable professionals but also responsible global citizens skilled at facing the challenges of pluralistic societies, diverse workplaces, and a globalized world (Deardorff, 2009a; King & Howard-Hamilton, 2003). Thus, achieving intercultural competence and civic outcomes are common educational objectives in higher education (Ward 1996). Unfortunately, the vast majority of higher education students are not achieving global preparedness standards (Deardorff, 2009b).

Service-learning can help address the need of bringing people together across differences to address local and global issues (Keith, 2005). Service-learning is well suited to the development of intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes by providing experiential and reflection opportunities "with and about diverse persons that are not easily replicable in the classroom settings alone" (Deardorff, 2012, p. 158). As such, service-learning experiences are one of the many pedagogical tools faculty tap to ensure students meet intercultural competence goals such as global sensitivity and understanding (Bringle, Hatcher, & Jones, 2011). …

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