June 14, 2014
June 14, 2014
June 14, 2014
20.42.1 - 20.42.14
Why Invest in International Research Experiences for Undergraduates?: Intercultural Maturity in Domestic and International REU Participants This paper compares the learning outcomes for students participating in domestic andinternational undergraduate research experiences in STEM fields. The research is grounded inthe Developmental Model of Intercultural Maturity, which assumes that intercultural skills requirea complex understanding of cultural differences (cognitive dimension), capacity to accept and notfeel threatened by cultural differences (intrapersonal dimension), and a capacity to functioninterdependently with diverse groups (interpersonal dimension). This study examines howinternational and domestic undergraduate research experiences affect intercultural maturity ofSTEM students. This question is timely as science and engineering faculty recognize theimportance of preparing students to work cross-culturally. Specifically, the National ScienceFoundation notes that “Future generations of the U.S. science and engineering workforce mustcollaborate across national boundaries and cultural backgrounds, as well as across disciplines tosuccessfully apply the results of basic research to long-standing global challenges such asepidemics, natural disasters and the search for alternative energy sources.” The researchers compare the experiences of students participating in two ResearchExperiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs funded by the National Science Foundation; theNanoJapan International REU Program and the Rice Quantum Institute REU at Rice University.NanoJapan is a twelve-week REU program through which twelve freshman and sophomorephysics and engineering students complete nanotechnology research internships in labs at Japaneseuniversities. The RQI is a ten-week REU program in which sophomore and junior studentscomplete quantum-related research internships with faculty at Rice University. At the end of thesummer, both NanoJapan and RQI students present topical research posters on their summerprojects at the Rice Quantum Institute Summer Research Symposium. RQI and NanoJapan participants in summers 2012 and 2013 completed pre- and post-programassessments using the Georgia Institute of Technology International Internship Survey; a valid andreliable measure of how students assess their preparation for the general knowledge, abilities, andskills required for an internship, and of their workplace self-efficacy. Students, regardless ofprogram, self-reported that they improved in skills and abilities necessary for research in general,such as an ability to make presentations; design and conduct experiments; or analyze and interpretdata. The NanoJapan students reported statistically significant gains on categories of itemsassessing their preparedness related to the cognitive and interpersonal domains of interculturalmaturity: an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams or in a cross-cultural environment; tothink critically and logically; to carry out projects independently; and to function in the hostcountry’s culture and society. Of more importance, the NanoJapan students rated their preparationin these categories lower than the RQI students at the start of the REU, but self-reported a rate ofchange such that they scored higher than RQI students at the end of their experience. In otherwords, students participating in the international REU perceived accelerated improvement on keymeasures of intercultural maturity as compared with their domestic counterparts. This research identifies dimensions in which the international REU, as distinct from a domesticexperience, may affect intercultural maturity, and suggests that the impact of the experience abroadmay accelerate these gains. This research can inform the discussion of the impact of investment ininternational research opportunities for undergraduate students.
Matherly, C., & Phillips, S. R., & Kono, J., & Curtis, S. M. (2014, June), Why Invest in International Research Experiences for Undergraduates?: Intercultural Maturity in Domestic and International REU Participants Paper presented at 2014 ASEE International Forum, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--17205
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