What Works 2017


In recent years global citizenship education has moved from the periphery to the core—to the point that developing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to do collaborative work across geographic and cultural boundaries is not a ‘nice-to-have’, but rather essential to success in the 21st century.

This movement has, in turn, sparked the ‘professionalization’ of all aspects of global education programming. From within and outside of schools, a growing community of practice continues to create and codify those practices for experiential education, logistical coordination, and risk management that make up standards for excellence.

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Key Questions

In order to increase the practical utility of this work, we have organized the results around a selection of the most common choices confronting program designers. Of course, factors of risk management, program logistics, financial viability, timing, and individual preference will doubtlessly continue to impact decisions around these choices. Our hope is that this work will provide a perspective on educational outcomes to add to the conversation.

Debates around the number of locations to visit during an educational travel program largely fall into two camps. The first, perhaps influenced by long-standing comparisons to packaged tours, prioritizes ‘seeing as much as possible’ within a particular country and ensuring that no box goes unchecked. The second speaks to the idea of ‘developing a sense of place’, and seeks to minimize time spent on internal travel in favor of more engagement with a single place.
Decisions on the number of students travelling tend to be pushed higher and lower by two opposing forces. Driving student numbers higher is the financial reality that small groups are more expensive, and larger groups allow for economies of scale. This force is countered on the higher end by the logistical realities around scarcity of seats, beds, chaperones, and other necessities. These realities push group sizes lower, particularly as destinations become more remote.
This choice goes hand-in-hand with the decision on how many students to take on the program, and has the same financial and logistical constraints. Decisions on ratios are also often influenced by the presence of ‘standard practices’ from the summer camp world, which generally revolve around maintaining acceptable ratios from the perspective of risk management. The educational perspective, however, does not have as clearly-defined ratios, leading to our choice to include this question.
The use of smartphones on trips is an evergreen ‘hot topic’ for travel programs. We looked at the differences between programs with a stated policy to either ban phones entirely or limit their usage to certain times during the trip and programs that placed no restrictions on student use of phones.
Perhaps no topic has drawn more heated criticism than the rise of service projects on international travel programs. The contradiction between the resources spent on travel and those provided in the service project is entirely too blatant to ignore. Proponents of the inclusion of service projects often note the educational benefits for the traveler as a means of muddying the waters of this debate.
Outdoor activities during travel programs create a variety of headaches, ranging from the logistics of gear, transportation, and supplies to the physical demands placed on students and teachers to the very real risks created by wilderness settings.
We examined programs with and without outdoor activities, seeking to determine if the educational benefits are worth the pain.
While much lip service is paid to preparing students for travel programs, the difficulties in creating time within busy school schedules can create a disincentive for engaging in this work. Thus, we chose to look at the actual effect of preparation on the educational outcomes.
Living with a host family is meant to provide students with an opportunity to really experience what life is like in the host country, and is often thought to be one of the most rewarding parts of any international experience. However, for short-term programs of the type contained in this study’s sample, the inherent complications around arranging and vetting host families raise questions around the educational benefits of the homestay experience.
The flow of information across geographical boundaries in the modern world creates numerous possibilities for engagements to be made. A common choice entailed during the program planning process deals with setting time aside to visit local businesses, non-profits, or governmental offices abroad. These visits can create logistical complications around scheduling and ensuring that the ‘right people’ are available, and thus it can be important to know the actual impacts.
Peer-to-peer exchanges are often considered to be the bedrock of successful travel programs, providing opportunities for authentic cross-cultural collaborations and sharing. We looked at the effect of programs where the itineraries included significant time for youth exchanges, most often taking place in the context of a visit to a local school in the destination country.
Virtually every travel program begins in an urban environment, as groups fly into a major airport to commence their travels. Program designers must consider how much time to devote to navigating cities, weighing the difficulties of traffic, crowds, and disorder with the benefits of delving into a ‘real’ arena of life for many in the destination country.

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We’re always happy to talk about our methods and see how we can contribute to making better programmatic decisions.

Methods

We sought to introduce data-based considerations to common program planning questions through use of regression modelling of different variables. Observations were taken from 528 participants on 33 different programs in 16 different countries.

The dependent (outcome) variables were set as the constituent outcomes for global citizenship skills utilized by Envoys. Together, these outcomes comprise Envoys driving mission, that students improve their capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance, while navigating the world with empathy, understanding, and respect.

We chose independent variables as those aspects that could differ from program to program, such as engagement in meaningful service activities, overnight homestays with local host families, attending cultural performances in a destination country, and cross-cultural exchanges with local youth, as well as logistical variables, such as the number of travelling students, the length of time devoted to travel, restrictions on student phone use, and the intensity of academic preparations for the trip.