Dixon, Brett Russell (2018). Perceptions of study abroad in China: Why do students want to participate? Doctoral dissertation (Adult and Community College Education), North Carolina State University, leigh, NC (USA). (Link:)

Abstract: This mixed methods research study, which used Q methodology as the research design, examined viewpoints of why students intending to take part in study abroad programs in China want to participate in them. In the first part of this study, three university staff members involved with study abroad programs and two students intending to study abroad in China reviewed a list of 59 benefits and outcomes of study abroad which were derived from research literature to see if there were additional items not discovered. Based on this review, a set of 44 items was reached after redundant items were removed and additional items were added. These 44 benefits and outcomes were organized into four thematic categories (domains), Career, Education, Intercultural Competence, which includes three sub-domains, Cognitive, Intrapersonal and Interpersonal, and Personal Development. A Q table was then developed so study participants could rank their perceptions of these 44 statements on a scale ranging from +6 (items most like participants’ viewpoints) to 0 (neutral items) to -6 (items most unlike participants’ viewpoints).

In the second part of this study, 39 undergraduate and graduate college and university students, who were studying in a diverse mix of locations in the United States including small to large-sized public and private schools in rural to urban areas and intended to participate in a study abroad in China program, completed a Q-sort by sorting 44 statement cards based on the extent the statements reflected why they wanted to participate in a study abroad in China program and answered follow up reflection questions related to the study.

After factor analysis was conducted on the 39 Q-sorts, a 6-factor solution emerged as a result of the data analysis. The six factors represent six different viewpoints of the benefits and outcomes of studying abroad in China among the 31 participants who loaded on these six factors.

The six factors were named: (1) the Career-Language Viewpoint, (2) the Intercultural Competence-Language Viewpoint, (3) the Intercultural Competence-Personal Development- Non-Career Viewpoint, (4) the Experiential and Applied Learning Viewpoint, (5) the Career- Experience Viewpoint, and (6) the Career-International Viewpoint.

This study found that 11 out of 12 (91.67%) of the participants who loaded on the three intercultural competence-focused factors (Factors 2, 3 and 4) were female. This aligns with findings of other research studies on intercultural competence and gender which show that women score higher on measures of intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competence. Future studies could continue to examine the relationship between gender differences in personality traits and socialization and aspects of intercultural competence to further determine the nature and degree of these relationships.

This study’s findings can be used by study abroad in China program planners, providers and marketers to help improve the study abroad experience for future study abroad participants. The identification of student viewpoints about the benefits and value of study abroad and ranking of study abroad outcome preferences can help inform and shape how future study abroad programs are organized.