Engaging in Study Abroad (SA) is such an immersive and potentially transformative experience where students are able to develop their academic and employability competencies, such as intercultural competence (ICC). With workforces becoming increasingly globalised this has become a key graduate attribute for young professionals. However, unlike other immersive experiences such as the ‘Year in Industry’ where benefits are clear to both students and potential employers, for SA the onus is on students to ‘make sense’ of this transformative experience in terms of articulating their experience and development to potential employers.
What did you do? Why did you do it?
I was tasked with critically reviewing the module by the Deputy Pro Dean for Student Education to better address the main learning outcomes which centred around students being able to articulate their rich experience to a range of audiences, such as employers. I thus took this opportunity to constructively align (Biggs and Tang, 2011) the learning outcomes to the assessments that would allow students both creativity and an opportunity to critically reflect on their intercultural competence (ICC) development and overall growth at given points in the year.
After some literature searching I came across a very interesting article that allowed students to be creative in the way that they reflected on their immersive cultural experience through the use of ‘image’ whilst also framing ICC in terms of enhancing employability. Students take ‘snapshots’ of a particular event, circumstance or scene that captures how they are working towards a particular learning outcome of the module on their intercultural journey whilst on their SA accompanied by a critical reflective commentary. Students were able to demonstrate tangible ICC growth in key affective and behavioural areas, such as ‘problem-solving’, open-mindedness’ and being more ‘culturally sensitive’ in an innovative manner. In this way students are able to capture ‘real time’ vivid examples of significant cultural insights at a particular point in time to facilitate deeper, more critical, and meaningful reflection.
Below is an example of a student’s photograph taken as part of the multimodal assessment:
‘This picture taken on the 21st October 2019, on first glance, is a quintessential holiday shot. The calm rippled seas flanked by flourishing palm trees provide an idyllic scene for anyone looking to relax. Look closer, however, and you will see all the features and paradoxes of Singapore that make it more than a simple tourist destination. The past five months of my year abroad have given me an understanding of the country and culture that, while not complete, allows me to grasp more of what the city-state means to its people.’ (Extract from student critical reflective commentary on about photograph)
What was the impact of your practice and how did you evaluate it?
After completing just one cycle of the newly aligned dynamic reflective assignments there is a marked increase in overall quality of assignments with students being able to articulate their experience in terms of ICC and increased employability through critical reflection, drawing on real-life examples from their Study Abroad year through the use of dynamic multimodal assessment. In terms of numbers: 100% of students passed the module, with an increase of 3% to the module average marks and 31% securing a first in multimodal dynamic assignment.
How could others benefit from this example?
With reflective writing becoming an increasingly popular mode of assessment, this dynamic multimodal style of assessing reflective writing is highly transferable across disciplines as it not only appeals to generation z, or the ‘Insta generation,’ students as they are to develop their creative digital skills, but also offers a ‘real time’ snapshot of their learning journey which learners can use as a jumping-off point for deeper critical reflection.