Psychosocial Effects of Studying Abroad: Openness to Diversity

Open Access
Wortman, Thomas I.
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 01, 2002
Committee Members:
  • M Lee Upcraft, Committee Member
  • Donald E Heller, Committee Member
  • Robert M Hendrickson, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Michael Richard Laubscher, Committee Member
  • Dennis Stephen Gouran, Committee Member
  • student development
  • international education
  • international
  • study abroad
  • diversity
  • Chickering
The number of students from the United States who study abroad as part of their curriculum and the number of study abroad programs for students have been steadily increasing over the past 50 years. A review of literature in this area shows that little significant research addressed the effects of studying abroad upon students' openness to diversity. Further, most studies that have purported to measure study abroad outcomes have failed to use scientifically rigorous methods. This dissertation reports a quantitative study to determine what specific developmental outcome—in terms of openness to diversity—results from students at The Pennsylvania State University participating in an international education program or study outside the United States. The researcher compares measured results with those from a comparison group of students who remained in the United States. Students who participated in study abroad programs in spring semester of 2001 displayed high levels of openness to diversity prior to their experience. The data from this research revealed a clear ceiling effect for the dependent variable. When all but the three top scores in the study’s pretest were considered, students in the experimental group showed an increase in openness to diversity; the students who did not participate in an academic program overseas showed no change. Further data analysis indicated a significant increase in openness to diversity among students who studied in programs where they were fully integrated into the host culture, but not in students who studied in programs in which they were less than fully integrated. Finally, students studying in English speaking countries showed an increase in openness to diversity whereas those in non-English speaking countries showed no change. This research provides contributions to the body of knowledge relating to the impact of study abroad programs and to the body of research on students and outcomes in higher education. Additional contributions from this research are in program development, administration, and evaluation among study abroad professionals.