As discussed throughout this RoadMap, we are entering a new era in student mobility between the United States and Japan – an era which draws in new kinds of students, new kinds of institutions, and academic disciplines new to international work. This is also an era in which greater connectivity between U.S. and Japanese colleges and universities plays an important role.
At the same time that study abroad is more important to more students than ever before, however, many students are uncertain of their ability to pursue it. As discussed elsewhere in the RoadMap, they often doubt their linguistic skills and their ability to understand and adapt to life in another country. For those new to an academic environment or in disciplines new to international work, they may not see themselves as the kind of student who studies abroad.
As Shingo Ashizawa has persuasively argued, programs aimed at preparing such students for success – both at home and abroad – are especially important in this situation. Fortunately many good ones are emerging. They share several key traits in common.
Common program traits for student success
Reflect a student-centered approach. Such programs reflect a student-centered approach to higher education, a movement gaining momentum worldwide. Student-centered programs aim at increasing student success by enabling students to become active agents of their own learning. Such programs are designed around what students need to know to become confident, life-long learners who can construct meaning from new information and experience.
Students become active, responsible participants in student-centered educational programs. They discuss and shape the learning goals of the program. Attention is then directed to what they will need to learn to achieve these goals, and activities designed accordingly.
Focus on assessing learning outcomes. Such efforts also benefit from frequent formative assessments to monitor student progress toward these learning goals. Here it is important to distinguish between outputs and outcomes. Output refers to such things as the activities conducted, classes taught, and number of students enrolled. Outcome, on the other hand, refers to the impact of such activities, classes, and enrollments. How were students changed by these programs?
In terms of international education, as Kevin Hovland puts it, learning outcomes should identify what it is that a global learner can do as well as what a global learner should know. Applying this to programs to enhance the success of Japanese students studying in the United States and vice versa: students should be prepared to do such things as interact productively with faculty and students from the other country, navigate classroom culture, contextualize the experiences they will have, and feel confident in communicating both verbally and in writing.
For students who are new to study abroad, such outcomes require focused student-centered attention by both home and partner institutions. Many of the exemplary cases described in this RoadMap do precisely this, and take advantage of partnership resources and relationships to enhance the chances of student success. Collaborative Online Learning, for example, enables students to hone their skills of international interaction, as do experiential learning programs. Many bridge programs allow students to enhance their language skills before taking credit-bearing courses.
Yoko Watanable and Mark Caprio describe such a student-centered program held at Rikkyo University to prepare Japanese science students to conduct research in English. From their perspective, the two most important elements of the program were active student participation in the learning process and the use of authentic science materials. Both gave factors enabled students to take control of their own learning.
Another important example is found to the left on this page.
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