By Rachel O'Connor | Contributor
Have you ever wondered why you take a survey before and after a Lighthouse trip? Or been curious about who interviews you after you study abroad?
Taylor's Intercultural Research Team is responsible for both. The team collects data from students who participate in Study Abroad, Lighthouse, J-term and spring break trips and analyzes it through the lens of student growth. The findings are then presented to trip leaders and sometimes even published in academic journals. Steve Snyder, professor of psychology, leads the team of five to seven students who generally are affiliated with the psychology department and are interested in a hands-on research experience. The team members participate in every part of the research process as well as receive credit for their work.
The team began in 2006 when Steve Bedi, professor of Higher Education, approached Snyder with a desire to measure the growth of students who participate in intercultural experiences. According to Bedi, intercultural experiences are important because they help students figure out themselves and their gifts. Bedi secured the funding for the team from the Spencer Centre for Global Engagement as a part of the school's intercultural initiative.
Together, Snyder and Bedi agreed that the development of an intercultural inventory would be necessary to measure growth. While there are many inventories in existence, none of them measured the spiritual component of growth. A literature review was conducted by students in the '06-'07 school year, and the findings were combined with Taylor's Core Values to create the Taylor University Intercultural Inventory (TUII). The TUII was revised based on the review of experts in the field and found to be a valid and reliable instrument.
The 72-question TUII operates on a likert scale and is administered as a pre and post-test that bookends each trip. The questions are designed to evaluate holistic changes that occur in the cognitive understanding and personal development of students. They accomplish this by measuring the change that occurs in the 23 Intercultural Developmental Scales that include variables like spiritual awareness and interpersonal attitudes.
Currently, the team includes seven students with senior Kelly Sisson as the student leader. Even though Snyder oversees the team, he places most of the responsibility of the team efforts in the hands of the members. This includes the new projects the team decides to pursue.
Snyder and Rachael Schwulst ('18) are now in the process of publishing an article about perceived intercultural development in the journal "Teaching and Teacher Education." In the future, the team is hoping to branch out into consulting and training for churches looking to improve their intercultural mission trips.
Although the Intercultural Team is currently at full capacity, Snyder is always looking for students, especially underclassmen, who are motivated, hard-working and curious to join the team in the future. Contact Snyder if you are interested in being a future team member or learning more about the work and findings of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.