A Quantitative Assessment of Japanese Students' Intercultural Competence Developed through Study Abroad Programs

By Hanada, Shingo | Journal of International Students, January 1, 2019 | Go to article overview

A Quantitative Assessment of Japanese Students' Intercultural Competence Developed through Study Abroad Programs


Hanada, Shingo, Journal of International Students


The internationalization of higher education has changed higher education modalities. It has had an influence on the promotion of study abroad programs as a dimension of cross-border education. For example, the number of study abroad students has increased, quadrupling from 1.3 million in 1990 to 4.2 million in 2010, and it is expected to increase to 8.0 million by 2025 (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD], 2016, 2017). As this increase in the number of study abroad students has been seen as a symbol of the internationalization of higher education, different researchers have examined various components of the impact that study abroad programs have on students. These components are exemplified by interculturality (Jackson, 2018), cultural resistance (Lemmons, 2015), independence and self-confidence (Walsh & Walsh, 2018), cultural competency (Hermond, Vairezm, & Tanner, 2018), awareness of cultural diversity (Wooldridge, Peet, & Meyer, 2018), intercultural competence (Deardorff, 2009; Yarosha, Lukic, & Santibáñez-Gruber, 2018), self-efficacy and cultural intelligence (Nguyen, Jefferies, & Rojas, 2018), contact with host-society (Matera, Imai, & Pinzic, 2018; Rodriguez & Chornet-Roses, 2014), cultural adjustment (Basow & Gaugler, 2017) and acculturation process (Lee & Negrelli, 2018). This study differs from these existing studies by using a different perspective to focus on the impact of study abroad programs on developing one's intercultural competence. The previous studies have been largely comparative, analyzing and comparing two different kinds of study abroad programs such as short-term and long-term study abroad programs. Moreover, the majority of existing research about study abroad programs explore students who are from English-speaking countries. However, the nature of intercultural competence varies across cultural contexts, and it is therefore important to observe local contexts in intercultural competence research.

It is questionable whether an investigation of Japanese study abroad students would yield similar results given the different context. Although some studies have explored Japanese students (e.g., Hommadova & Mita, 2016; Martin, Schnickel, & Maruyama, 2010; Tanaka, 2007), the majority of such studies were largely conducted with qualitative analyses that included students from only one university or study abroad program. Based on the findings of previous research, this study has two aims. First, this study uses a quantitative analysis to explore the impact of study abroad programs on developing intercultural competence among Japanese students. Second, this study extends the existing single-case studies by examining 303 Japanese students at 15 different universities.

Research Question

This study empirically explores the impact of study abroad programs on cultivating intercultural competence in Japanese students who joined study abroad programs in Canada and the United States. The research question of this study is- "Which factors in study abroad programs contribute, either positively or negatively, to the development of students' intercultural competence?" Through an empirically based quantitative examination, this study will attempt to gain a greater understanding of the factors that contribute to the development of intercultural competence. In this study, developing intercultural competence refers to cognitive, affective, and behavioral developments that are related to cultural differences based on Bennett's developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS) (Bennett, 1993; Hammer, 2011).

Backgrounds of Japanese International Students

The term "international student," when used in Japanese policy papers, generally refers to both full-time Japanese international students, who study at foreign higher education institutions, and Japanese students who participate in study abroad programs that have been mostly arranged by Japanese higher education institutions. …

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