Global Mindness englanti kuva

Global Mindedness survey to measure how studying abroad impacts on students’ responses to difference and diversity

Studying abroad is encouraged, but do international experiences have a real impact?

Thousands of students from Finnish higher education and institutions of vocational education and training head abroad annually for study or practical training. These international opportunities are supported and actively encouraged, for they are seen to promote the students’ professional and personal development.

But do these mobility periods have a real impact on students, and what kinds of impact are they?

Studies have typically asked what the students themselves feel have been the benefits of study or practical training abroad. The responses show that mobility periods are regarded as a useful experience in many different ways. Especially significant are getting to know new languages and cultures and personal growth. Mobility periods are also felt to benefit future careers and studies.

There is less research on how studying abroad affects attitudes and coming face to face with difference and diversity – how encounters with new people and situations impact on students. This may be partially because the area is seen as difficult to examine.

Global Mindedness survey evaluates attitudes and changes of responses to difference and diversity

Global Mindedness is a survey which aims to measure young people’s attitudes toward international and intercultural encounters and how they respond to coming face to face with difference and diversity. The survey is the result of collaboration between CIMO and Professor of Global Education (University of Oulu) Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti.

The survey seeks to discover whether there are changes in the students’ responses during their time abroad. The findings will tell us more about the impacts of mobility periods and how students respond to international encounters and difference also on a more general level.

The data comes from a questionnaire which the students will take before and after their mobility period.

Theoretical background

The Global Mindedness survey is grounded in three different dispositions toward difference and diversity. These dispositions, exemplified by three metaphors of travelling, are the work of Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti (2010) and Gert Biesta (2010), who took their inspiration from Hannah Arendt’s ideas. The first metaphor, a caravan disposition indicates that we approach the world through our own frame of reference and that there is a single truth for us, the only right one. The second metaphor, a tent disposition suggests that we attempt to understand the perspective of others and build common ground on this notion. In the third metaphor, the backpack disposition, our mind is open to other people’s frame of reference and is ready to approach them without a clearly defined common frame.

These three conceptual tools are not seen as progressive stages of development, but as different ways of encountering difference and diversity. Each may be appropriate in particular contexts and one is not superior to others. We may use all three frames in parallel. They are part of the attitudinal, emotional and cognitive repertoire which may be applied with a varying emphasis in different encounters.

The Global Mindedness survey measures these dispositions through 21 statements, which will help to see where the respondents stand on the attitudinal map. The post-mobility questionnaire also invites the students to estimate to which extent their attitudes, skills and competences have been influenced by their time abroad.

About the implementation and results

The pilot phase of the Global Mindedness survey was launched in spring 2013 for students who were heading abroad for a mobility period. It was open until the end of 2016. The survey was also tested with learners in vocational education and training.

Over the three years, almost 1,500 higher education students responded to the survey both before and after their mobility period. Additionally, more than 500 students studying only in Finland responded to the comparison survey targeted at non-mobile students.

Based on the results, higher education students who complete a mobility period are a somewhat select group in terms of attitudes. The disposition of Visiting, which is flexible and open to adjusting one’s views, is emphasised to a greater extent among students heading abroad than among those who do not intend to complete a mobility period.

On average, the changes occurring in students’ attitudes during the mobility period were not very big. A clear majority of the respondents agreed with the dispositions of Empathy and Visiting both before and after the mobility period. Some changes could be seen at the level of individual students, especially as regards the disposition of Tourism. The rigid disposition of Tourism relying on one truth strengthened abroad among about 10 per cent of the respondents and weakened among approximately the same proportion of respondents.

You can read more on the results of the survey in the Facts Express -publications.

More information about the survey: Irma Garam (+358 295 338 549; irma.garam[at]oph.fi)

  • Andreotti, V.O. (2010): Global Education in the ‘21st century’: two different perspectives on the ‘post-’ of postmodernism. International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning, 2(2): 5–22.

  • Biesta, G.J.J (2010): How to exist politically and learn from it: Hannah Arendt and the problem of democratic education. Teachers College Record 122(2): 558–577.