Passport to Change: Designing Academically Sound, Culturally Relevant, Short-Term, Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs
reviewed by David M. Moss - April 05, 2019
Title: Passport to Change: Designing Academically Sound, Culturally Relevant, Short-Term, Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs
Author(s): Susan Lee Pasquarelli, Robert A. Cole, & Michael J. Tyson (Eds.)
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA
ISBN: 1620365480, Pages: 266, Year: 2017
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Passport to Change: Designing Academically Sound, Culturally Relevant, Short-Term, Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs, edited by Susan Lee Pasquarelli, Robert A. Cole, and Michael J. Tyson, is a welcome arrival to the field and a much-needed catalyst for the further development of study abroad programs at institutions of higher education. In an era when the threat of closed borders, extreme nationalism, and a rising fear of culturally complex, globally-minded perspectives looms large for many academics, this well-developed project offers advice and encouragement with significant potential to enhance international programming across the spectrum of academic disciplines. Although billed as a much-needed practical guide, the volume effectively incorporates theory to support such guidance.
The focus of Passport to Change is short-term, faculty-led programming, although as a scholar with 20 years of experience facilitating various international programs, I found many elements of this book to be applicable beyond this intended scope. However, given that more than half of all U.S. students who study abroad do so through short-term programs, this focus is both welcome and warranted. While the contributors acknowledge several challenges inherent to short-term study abroad programs, they do not frame these as deficits.
Not overlooking fundamental notions underpinning studying abroad, Deardorff reminds us:
From the outset, it is important for faculty to return to the pivotal question of what students should know and be able to do as a result of participating in this study abroad experience that they wouldnt be able to accomplish if they had stayed at the home campus. (p. 81)
Building out from this central question, she notes that developing intercultural competence is a lifelong process and acknowledges that when designing short-term study abroad experiences, no single experience can result in achieving this often elusive aim. I appreciated this authentic stance and found that the entire tone of book embraces a realistic, can-do attitude that encourages creative thinking about program planning as opposed to dictating a narrow path forward.
The book is presented in three sections, and Part One is titled Understanding the Nature of Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs. The stand-alone but highly informative chapter that comprises this section reads as a how-to guide for conceptualizing the short-term programs that are the focus of the subsequent sections of the book. The tables and figures throughout this chapter are essential in laying the groundwork for beginning to consider the many details that underpin the planning of such international programming. Everything from budgeting to legal risk and management are addressed in this must-read chapter. I could easily imagine such a chapter serving as a catalyst for discussion with administrators and/or personnel at study abroad offices to build momentum at the outset of a collaborative planning process.
The second part of the book, Designing the Curriculum for Study Abroad: Student Preparation, Experience, and Return, is comprised of eight distinct chapters. Highlights include a comprehensive literature review about the role of guided reflection in the learning process, best practices for short-term programming, and a series of prompts and exercises to help faculty to consider outcome-based assessments at both the student and program level. I suspect many readers will approach these chapters as I did; I found myself cherry-picking through various exemplars to find the design features and details that were most relevant to me. For those interested in service learning and/or internships as an element of program design, I was pleased to see that they are both addressed in Chapters Seven and Eight, respectively.
The third and final section of the book, Implementing the Study Abroad Program, offers an opportunity to wrap up a few pragmatic and conceptual loose ends. Topics include everything from student recruitment, attending to the needs of parent/guardians, as well as a brief section on program evaluation. It was on the topic of student assessment and program evaluation that I would have liked to see a bit more in terms of methodology, the use of technology, and perhaps even examples of student work. The need to document and demonstrate the clear, value-added impact of our efforts seems to be an ever-increasing demand across the academy, and I believe few academic areas can demonstrate a greater bang for the buck, so to speak, than education abroad. As such, faculty need to know how to capture and communicate this clearly and concisely. The final chapter offers an unexpected but very welcome perspective, seeking to capture voices from partners abroad. My experiences have taught me that explicit attention to the nature of our collaborative work with international partners and sensitivity to our footprint on host cultures and contexts are central to facilitating an impactful experience for our students and hosts.
Passport to Change approaches the field of education abroad as one that is central to the academic mission of higher education. Through the lens of experiential learning and teaching, the book offers timely perspectives on how to ensure academic rigor is at the core of any study abroad program, especially those faculty-led, short-term experiences that historically may not have emphasized learning as much as travel. This is a must-read resource for any team of faculty and personnel considering developing or enhancing such a program.