The Experiential Learning Impact of International and Domestic Study Tours: Class Excursions That Are More Than Fieldtrips

Presented by: Dr. Lilia Gomez-Lanier

Educators have long supplemented formal classroom activities with strategies, such as fieldtrips and guest speakers, to interweave formal classroom learning with real-world practices and make it more engaging. Experiential education programs, such as international and domestic study tours, bridge the limitations of formal learning classroom by allowing students to experience reality in a new learning dimension. This study compares a new domestic study tour to New York City and a popular, established international study tour to China operated by the same fashion-merchandising and interior-design department at a public college in the United States southeast region. The tours were structured to allow students to meet industry professionals and to investigate and analyze issues, such as collaborative work, cultural differences in business and creativity, and cultural and social identity in the environment and personal development. Before and after the study tours, students completed a survey developed by the researcher to gauge their perceived level of understanding and attitudes toward the study tours. Additional student feedback was obtained from reflection journals documenting students’ personal development, design expressions in the environment, and experiences that might have affected students’ personal views of the industry. The present research findings strongly suggest that both study tours not only provided participants with a positive academic learning environment but also promoted cultural learning and expanded students’ personal worldview, especially among the China study-tour participants. The findings indicated that participants in international study tours tend to have more positive attitudes and experiential learning experiences than those on domestic study tours. The findings suggest that, in addition to academic learning, study tours enhance participants’ worldviews through the exposure to different cultural contexts, whether domestic or international. Finally, the findings support making reflection journals an integral part of experiential learning. Overall, international study-tour participants appeared to gain more appreciation for the learning experiences obtained on the study tour than domestic study-tour participants.

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