EVALUATION AND DISSEMINATION FRAMEWORK
Evaluation and dissemination are both iterative and ongoing, and the six members of the research team will provide formative, process and summative evaluation of EPITOME. The Project co-Leaders (PLs), Senior Team Member (STM) and Team Leaders (TLs) will record their ongoing reflections in bi-monthly focus group meetings throughout the entirety of the EPITOME project. Team meetings at the beginning, mid-point and end of the project will provide formative, process, and summative evaluation. Stakeholder meetings will discuss relevant evaluation questions at each stage of the process: What are our project goals and how will we know if we achieve them? (Establishment phase) How are we tracking towards achieving our goals and what unexpected outcomes have changed our approaches? (Mid-point phase) Did we achieve our project goals? (End point, summative evaluation). Our approach to evaluation is also consistent with the D-cubed evaluation model and Owen’s (2006) evaluation processes.
The mixed-methods and longitudinal approach will allow some cross-validation and comparison of the data as well as the harvest of qualitative material for use in preparing the guides for study-trip designers. We anticipate that the data can be looked at either as a whole, and through institution-specific, cohort-specific, and year-specific groups, as well as having a series of longitudinal case studies. Additionally, we propose to use qualitative methods to interview the students participating in these tours in a semi-structured fashion (Shank 2006). In no circumstances will the students be interviewed by an academic responsible for the marking of assessments related to their OMP.
The integration of broad-based surveys at multiple points during the overseas sojourn, together with more focused case studies built on qualitative semi-structured interviews, will provide a more in depth set of longitudinal case studies that are cross-checked against the surveys to help us understand whether these case studies are representative (Yin 2002). The use of interviews in this manner is similar to the work of Weaver and Tucker (2010), although Weaver and Tucker only use one set of interviews. We are especially interested in comparing students’ own insights about their experience at each stage to see if we can identify fundamental changes in their perspectives that might represent clear evidence of a ‘transformational’ experience. That is, instead of asking students about transformation, we will analyse thematically the interviews to see if their answers to key questions have, in fact, changed significantly in a way that coincides with the learning goals shared by mobility programs.
Data collection, especially the online surveys, will incorporate students participating more widely in short-term international study tours throughout 2015 and 2016. As part of the 2014 AsiaBound funding from the Federal Government, four UWS short-term mobility projects have received funding providing up to sixty UWS undergraduate students with subsidies to participate in short-term international mobility study tours across the Schools of Business, Social Sciences and Psychology, Education and Humanities and Communication Arts. In addition, other groups of students within UWS are participating in short term international study tours under the existing OS-Help scheme. Downey will also recruit students participating in OMPs at MU.
The EPITOME website will act as a repository for research results, open access teaching materials, examples of student work, researchers’ commentaries and suggestions for tailoring teaching modules to enhance the transformative nature of OMPs. Student outcomes will also be showcased by means of You-tube video clips, online presentations and reports. As mentioned earlier, ideally the site would be hosted on or linked to the OLT site to facilitate access across the higher education sector and all teaching materials will be made available under Creative Commons license to encourage adoption, dissemination, and tailoring to a variety of programs by end users.
Investigators will also work with their learning and teaching representatives and other stakeholders such as school and faculty deans on ongoing implementation of the trialled module at partner campuses. At this stage too, investigators will continue to collaborate with other members of the reference group, including representatives of professional study abroad organisations and of DEEWR’s Australian Universities International, to disseminate the findings of this project through practical workshops, major symposium hosted by UWS conference presentations, and articles in scholarly journals. Results will also be openly communicated to other International Organisations who have expressed interest in the project, and workshops for staff will be offered on those campuses where practicable.