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The benefits of outdoor education for internationalisation in higher education: A mixed methods study

Authors:

Abstract

Background Students working in cross-cultural groups can experience challenges, including different language skills and understanding of interpersonal behaviours. Without appropriate skills to manage these differences, cultural isolation can occur if people choose to primarily work with those of similar backgrounds. This study explores the benefit to multicultural groupwork following an outdoor education teambuilding course for higher education students. Method Students took part in a 3-day residential course, which aimed to develop groupwork skills through group problem-solving activities such as raft building, ropes courses and orienteering. Validated questionnaires (n = 312) were used to measure changes in groupwork skills, attitude towards multicultural groupwork and sense of belonging. Qualitative data was obtained during the course using a semi-structured video diary room (n = 49) and afterwards via focus group interviews (n = 16). Results International students initially had a lower sense of belonging to the university; however, this perception was significantly improved post-course. Regardless of their background, students found the course to be a valuable opportunity for experiencing multicultural groupwork and reported developing their groupwork skills, cross-cultural friendships and their ability to function effectively within multicultural groups. International students discussed at length how cultural backgrounds can influence how people work in groups. In contrast, although domestic students positively reflected on their international experience, they showed a less nuanced understanding of cultural differences in groupwork. Conclusion The topic of internationalisation is an important area for future research in outdoor education. Our findings demonstrate that outdoor groupwork skill courses can help develop international understanding in higher education, and suggest that more explicit discussion and reflection on these issues may be beneficial to enhance future courses.
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!!Sense!of!belonging!significantly!increased,!but!changes!were!greater!for!interna7onal!
students.!!
!!Interna7onal!students!had!lower!social!belonging!before!OE.!
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!OE!gave!students!an!opportunity!to!face!cultural!challenges,!learn!how!to!overcome!
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!!It!is!important!to!mix!groups!during!OE!to!ensure!groups!are!mul7cultural.!
!!Future!courses!could!explicitly!address!cultural!issues!(e.g.,!write!ac7vity!instruc7ons!in!
a!different!language!to!reverse!language!deficits!and!group!dynamics).!
!!Instructors!could!lead!more!explicit!discussions!surrounding!cultural!differences.!!
B%'&CD&E##"26?&Jennifer!Cumming,!Mark!J.!G!Holland,!&!Victoria!E.!Burns!
School of Sport, Exercise and
Rehabilitation Sciences, UK
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Sam!J.!Cooley!
Email:!
s.cooley@bham.ac.uk!!!!!!!!!
@samjoecooley!
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3.6
3.7
3.8
3.9
4
4.1
4.2
4.3
Pre!
Post!
Ins7tu7onal!belonging!score!(1?5)!
g,.+/0+#,%"&$2"#,)(,)&
Domes7c!
Interna7onal!
3.2!
3.4!
3.6!
3.8!
4!
4.2!
4.4!
4.6!
Post!
Social!belonging!score!(1?5)!
B#>(%"&$2"#,)(,)&
Domes7c!
Interna7onal!
P"<.001"
P"<.01"
Univariate!ANOVA!(interac7on):!!
F(1,310)!=!33.18,!p!<!.001,!ηp2!=!.10!&&&
Univariate!ANOVA!(interac7on):!!
F(1,309)!=!6.43,!p!=!.012,!ηp2!=!.02!&
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“the!challenge!is,!how!to,!the!students!who!don’t!have!
good!English,!how!to!persuade!the!team!leader!to!listen!
to!your!ideas!and!another!difficulty!is!how!to,!how!to!mix”!&
“I can more fully understand how to control or
communicate with different cultures and backgrounds”
“Before [OE] we often form a group with people
from the same nation … [now] it’s easier for us to
form a group that’s made up of different nations” !
“it’s a good thing to get on with different cultures
and, you know, be around different diversities ...
which I really do find interesting and I think it’s good
on a personal level as well”
Strongly!
Disagree!
Disagree!
Neutral!
Agree!
Strongly!
Agree!
1!
2!
3!
4!
5!
... This alumnus pointed out that " confidence grows the more different situations and different people and different experiences you have " . In previous research, diversity in groups has indeed been noticeably reduced when students are allowed to select groups themselves (Cooley et al., 2013). The data suggest that adhering to this preparation before OAE could help ensure that students approach OAE with desirable learner characteristics. ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose: This paper aims to evaluate the perceived efficacy of outdoor groupwork skills programmes for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and the factors that influence its success. It also illustrates the use of Kirkpatrick’s (1994) 4-level model of training evaluation as a framework for qualitative investigation of learning and transfer, from the perspective of key stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach: Over 24 hours of recorded data were collected using a video diary room, one-to-one interviews and focus group discussions. Participants were current students (n = 66), alumni (n = 12), outdoor education instructors (n = 6) and academic staff (n = 5). The data were transcribed, and then analysed by conducting conventional content analysis. Prolonged engagement, triangulation, peer debriefing and referential adequacy were used to establish the trustworthiness and reliability of the analyses. Findings: Outdoor groupwork skills programmes were widely viewed as being effective for developing interpersonal skills, attitudes and knowledge that were then further developed and applied during degree courses and later in the workplace. Four of the main perceived benefits were increased social integration amongst peers, academic success, personal development and employability. A range of psychological and environmental factors were reported to influence the extent of skill development and transfer, and are presented in the Model for Optimal Learning and Transfer. Practical implications: This study supports outdoor groupwork skills programmes as an effective method of groupwork skills training during higher education, and offers recommendations for promoting learning and transfer following training courses. Originality/value: This is the first study to systematically evaluate the long-term impact of outdoor groupwork skills programmes in higher education. A novel methodological approach is also demonstrated, which can be replicated in other contexts of training evaluation.
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