E-Net News

Grant helps fund Elon research on impact of engaged learning

Faculty and staff are measuring the effects of both international and domestic learning experiences on student learning, student well-being and the way students think from global perspectives.

Elon University students visited a school in the village of Sokode, Ghana, in January 2013 to play games, dance, drum, teach and talk with students ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school.

A national organization for the advancement of a liberal education is helping to fund an Elon University team researching the way undergraduate students change after studying away from campus.

The Bringing Theory to Practice Project, part of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, has awarded the Elon researchers $10,000 for a study titled “Flourishing at Home and Away: A Study of the Relationship Between Student Psychosocial Well-Being, Intercultural Competence, and Study Away.”

Led by Deandra Little in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and Kimberly Fath in the Office of Institutional Research, the team is collecting and analyzing a series of surveys administered to students in select classes traveling away from campus for Winter Term 2014.

Researchers said the surveys will shed light on the way a study away experience, whether domestically or abroad, shapes student learning, student well-being and the ability of students to think deeply from a variety of global perspectives. In addition, faculty from each of the pilot Winter Term courses will share a student critical reflection assignment to be scored by a team composed of faculty, staff and students.

“There’s not a lot of research that’s been published on this particular topic, but anecdotally, many people report later in life how important a study away experience was to them,” Little said. “This project will complement other research projects being conducted by a number of Elon faculty who are studying various aspects of student learning in study abroad courses.”

Seventeen students participated in a Winter Term 2011 program titled "The Living Heritage of the Andes: Language, Society and Culture in Peru."

Following that analysis, the team will expand the project to examine other formats of study away courses, including semester abroad and domestic travel-embedded classes. “If we can figure out ways to make studying abroad more impactful, to find a way to make even more learning take place for students who will one day be global citizens, that’s a great thing,” Fath said.

Twenty-eight college and university campuses are currently participating in the Bringing Theory to Practice Project’s “Well-Being Initiative.” Findings from the Elon University team will be included in a 2015 national report on the various projects funded by the association.

AAC&U will share that national report with higher education audiences such as boards, foundations and associations, as well as with public leaders and policy makers.

In addition to Little and Fath, members of the Elon University research team include:

  • Peter Felten (Assistant Provost/History)
  • Maurice Levesque (Associate Provost/Psychology)
  • Jodean Schmiederer (Assistant Dean/Leadership & Student Affairs)
  • Woody Pelton (Dean of Global Studies)


Eric Townsend,
1/9/2014 9:50 AM