This special issue is devoted to a study of an action research-based reform of a US university study abroad programme to make it a genuine intercultural immersion experience. The four-year collaborative reform process combined participatory organisational redesign, the development of a comprehensive active learning approach and the teaching of intercultural competence through ethnographic immersion and community engagement in Seville, Spain. The case is an example of the development of intercultural competencies through guided behavioural change, of action research to reform higher education programmes and of active learning combined with formative and summative evaluation. The reader will learn about the experiences of the staff, faculty and mentors in the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA)-Sevilla study abroad programme and those of the sponsoring US universities as they together achieved a fundamental reform of a decades-old study abroad immersion programme. This special issue has many authors because this was a collaborative action-research project with continuous group work and brainstorming. The authors’ names are placed in the sections where the authorship is clear, but, as befits a collaboration, many of the ideas are the result of the combined thinking of all the authors. Authorship of the various sections has been allocated mainly to clarify for readers the most relevant author to contact to learn more about particular dimensions of the process. The guest editors took on the editorial duties on behalf of this larger group.
Eva Infante Mora, Davydd J. Greenwood, and Melina Ivanchikova
Part 1: Active learning and intercultural competence
Action research reform of a US study abroad programme in Seville, Spain
Eva Infante Mora and Davydd J. Greenwood
CASA-Sevilla is a study abroad programme for US university students with an advanced level of Spanish. In recent years, new patterns of social behaviour among students (mainly the use of technology and low-cost flights) aggravated their difficulties in establishing contacts with the local society, which often resulted in the perpetuation of stereotypes. The programme goals of cultural immersion and language improvement were therefore at risk. Through an action research and a participatory organisational development process, CASA-Sevilla stakeholders carried out a profound reform of the programme, based on the principles of active pedagogy, mentoring and community-engaged learning. This section illustrates this reform process, with its highlights and shadows.
Eva Infante Mora, Juan Muñoz Andrade, Davydd Greenwood, Richard Feldman, Melina Ivanchikova, Jorge Cívico Gallardo, and Purificación García Saez
This section discusses how the changing students’ experiences necessitated a rethinking of the educational programme and the development of an active pedagogy. The reform used two powerful instruments: an adaptation of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which allows the language coordinator to evaluate the linguistic needs of students upon arrival (and the students to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses) and to design strategies that help them improve during the semester; and the new Common Framework for Intercultural Learning, inspired by the former, which allows students to acquire and improve behavioural intercultural skills through self-managed research practices. This section describes how the language teaching reform was carried out in the programme, the role of the Common Framework for Intercultural Learning, the role of the mentors who accompany students in their learning paths throughout the semester and describes the combined use of these tools.
Eva Infante Mora, Davydd Greenwood, Melina Ivanchikova, Carmen Castilla-Vázquez, Rafael Cid-Rodríguez, Bartolomé Miranda Díaz, and Gustavo A. Flores-Macías
This section of the account of the action research and thorough reform of the CASA-Sevilla study abroad programme describes how the courses in the fields of anthropology, history and art / art history were changed. It explains why a pedagogical reform was needed, the choices faculty members made and the difficulties they faced. Transitioning to an active pedagogy has not been an easy path for faculty. The accounts show how they integrated independent intercultural research into their classes and how they reacted to their new roles as intercultural mentors. It also includes a description of the faculty member-in-residence’s role in the programme and reflections on the reform by the faculty member who served as Cornell representative in CASA-Sevilla during the 2016–2017 academic year.
Eva Infante Mora, Luisa Álvarez-Ossorio Piñero, and Bartolomé Miranda Díaz
This section of the comprehensive account of the action research and pedagogical reform of the CASA-Sevilla study-abroad programme concerns the introduction of community-engaged learning as a way to complement classroom instruction. Some experiential elements were already part of the programme’s previous design (homestays, cultural visits), but they needed to be structured into the curriculum, with clear learning goals and evaluation criteria. In addition, to palliate the obstacles students experienced when trying to establish connections with the local society, service-learning in community organisations was introduced into the core ‘Beyond Stereotypes’ course. This section describes the strategies that were designed to encourage active learning in the homestays, the cultural visits and the participation in community organisations, and the role these elements play in the new programme.
Eva Infante Mora, Marina Markot, Stephen Capobianco, Melina Ivanchikova, Richard Kiely, Richard Feldman, and Amy Cheatle
The action research process initiated in 2015 to make a thorough reform of the CASA-Sevilla study-abroad programme not only produced significant pedagogical developments but also brought about a profound change in the way of working and relating within the programme work organisation itself and with Cornell University colleagues. This section focuses on organisational changes in each of the units involved, and reflects a path full of transitions, diplomacy, exchange of perspectives and inter-institutional as well as intercultural learning. To make these pedagogical reforms work in practice required significant organisational change and support efforts on the part of both CASA-Sevilla and the supporting organisations at Cornell University.
Eva Infante Mora
Evaluation is essential to the analysis of the performance of academic programmes and is a central feature of the academic accountability movement. Most study abroad programmes, however, lack evaluation protocols, even though establishing them and acting on the results would contribute to their credibility. This final section of a comprehensive account of the reform of a study abroad programme presents how CASA-Sevilla has developed evaluation strategies to inform pedagogical changes in each successive semester to improve student-learning outcomes. The programme’s aim is to achieve a 360-degree assessment by treating students holistically and including all involved faculty, staff, community partners and host families. The aim is also to be transparent in pointing out the problems in the programme’s performance and use them as an impetus for improvement. This section is written to share what we have learned in hopes of starting a more robust dialogue among study abroad programmes about evaluation.
The article builds on an empirical study of knowledge practices in international, interdisciplinary MA education, foregrounding the role of academic staff in identifying and explicating academic norms to students recruited from different subject areas and institutions. A central theme is transition, which refers to the state of liminality that postgraduates can experience when new to a discipline, institution and sociocultural context. I argue for lecturers as ‘transition managers’ who may ease students’ transfer into an unfamiliar academic culture. This argument is explored in an analysis of interview data collected from four MA courses, which suggests that lecturers’ transition management involves an awareness of classroom diversity, an acceptance of responsibility for academic socialisation and the development of new pedagogic practices.
Capacity-building projects in African higher education
Issues of coloniality in international academic collaboration
Hanne Kirstine Adriansen and Lene Møller Madsen
This article studies issues of coloniality in so-called capacity-building projects between universities in Africa and Scandinavia. Even fifty years after independence, the African higher education landscape is a product of the colonial powers and subsequent uneven power relations, as argued by a number of researchers. The uneven geography and power of knowledge exist also between countries that were not in a direct colonial relationship, which the word coloniality implies. Based on interviews with stakeholders and on our own experiences of capacity-building projects, this article examines how such projects affect teaching, learning, curriculum, research methodology and issues of quality enhancement. We analyse the dilemmas and paradoxes involved in this type of international collaboration and conclude by offering ways to decolonise capacity-building projects.
Penny Welch and Susan Wright
In this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, academics from Denmark, Chile, the United States and the United Kingdom analyse capacity-building projects between European and African universities, the experiences of mobile academics returning to their home country, the role of tutors on international interdisciplinary MA programmes, the contemporary relevance of classical and medieval approaches to education and levels of information literacy among undergraduates.