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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.

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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.

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Eva Infante Mora, Davydd J. Greenwood and Melina Ivanchikova

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.