Date of Award

6-8-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Cathy C. Kaufman-Crop, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Valeri R. Helterbran, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Monte Tidwell, Ph.D.

Abstract

The growth in technology and the global nature of business and work have created new challenges for higher education. Administrators from institutions around the country desire more international study by their faculty and students as well as more visitors and residents to the campus from countries abroad. Are college students prepared for the challenges of living with, learning about, relating to, and engaging in discussions with international students or faculty? What components of the rural, private college environment help students gain skills in cultural adaptability? This research study, utilizing focus groups of students in a qualitative case study design, was conducted to answer such questions. Multiple theories were used as a foundation for this study, including Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Student Development (1993), Astin’s Student Involvement Theory (1984), and Bennett’s Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (1993). The focus group questions followed Astin’s I-E-O Model (1970a, 1970b, 1991) as they related to significant input, experience, and output factors that in their perception affected the development of their own cultural adaptability. The junior level student participants described numerous experiences to this effect, following Bloom’s taxonomy (1954) of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The students described changes in their knowledge that occurred through coursework in religion, ethics, language, and philosophy. They described effective learning techniques facilitated by talented faculty efficient in provoking debate or controversy about various topics relating to culture. The student participants emphasized skills learned through group activities; whether they were a part of leadership, student government, or resident assistant training. The presence of international students in the classroom as well as living in the residence halls had a profound impact on the student participants, helping to create positive attitudes toward others of a different culture. The responses by the students indicate that growth and development in cultural adaptability is a multi-faceted process that involves all levels of the university.

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