Does Faculty-Led Short-Term Study Abroad Improve Students’ Global Competence? Findings From a Systematic Review and Evidence Gap Map


  • Colleen Fisher University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Laurel Iverson Hitchcock University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Stacy Moak University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Ashley Neyer University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Sarah Moore University of North Texas
  • Scott Marsalis University of Minnesota



Global competence, faculty-led, short-term study abroad, systematic review


As a high-impact pedagogical practice, study abroad is frequently utilized as an internationalization strategy to build post-secondary students’ global competence, but the impact of faculty-led short-term study abroad may vary widely across outcomes of interest. An understanding of student learning outcomes is especially needed now as COVID-19 begins to shift from pandemic to endemic and universities restart international initiatives. This systematic review synthesized and mapped evidence on global competence outcomes of short-term study abroad for undergraduate and graduate students. Studies (n=92) reported a total of 215 outcomes representing the three global competence domains of knowledge (41.4% of all outcomes), attitudes (38.1%), and skills (20.5%). Data sources used to assess global competence outcomes included self-administered surveys (40.1% of assessments), student journals (24.9%), and qualitative interviews (13.6%). While findings from this sample of studies offer evidence of positive impact of short-term study abroad on students’ global competence, the substantive and methodological evidence gaps identified can help to build conceptual clarity and guide design of future assessment approaches.

Abstract in Spanish

Como práctica pedagógica de alto impacto, estudiar en el extranjero se utiliza con frecuencia como una estrategia de internacionalización para desarrollar la competencia global de los estudiantes postsecundarios, pero el impacto de los estudios a corto plazo dirigidos por profesores en el extranjero puede variar ampliamente según los resultados de interés. La comprensión de los resultados de aprendizaje de los estudiantes es especialmente necesaria hoy en día que COVID-19 comienza a cambiar de pandemia a endémica y las universidades reinician las iniciativas internacionales. Esta revisión sistemática sintetizó y mapeó la evidencia sobre los resultados de competencia global de los estudios a corto plazo en el extranjero para estudiantes de pregrado y posgrado. Los estudios (n = 92) informaron un total de 215 resultados que representan los tres dominios de competencia global de conocimiento (41,4% de todos los resultados), actitudes (38,1%) y habilidades (20,5%). Las fuentes de datos utilizadas para evaluar los resultados de competencia global incluyeron encuestas autoadministradas (40,1% de las evaluaciones), revistas estudiantiles (24,9%) y entrevistas cualitativas (13,6%). Mientras los hallazgos de esta muestra de estudios ofrecen evidencia del impacto positivo de los estudios a corto plazo en el extranjero en la competencia global de los estudiantes, las brechas de evidencia sustantiva y metodológica identificadas pueden ayudar a construir claridad conceptual y guiar el diseño de futuros enfoques de evaluación.


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Author Biographies

Colleen Fisher, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Colleen Fisher is Associate Professor of Social Work and MSW Program Director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a recent Fulbright Scholar to India. Dr. Fisher’s research focuses on health equity, both in the U.S. and in the Global South, social and structural factors that promote or hinder health and wellbeing among marginalized and vulnerable populations. She regularly teaches faculty-led short-term study abroad courses and has published several articles on the topic.

Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Laurel Iverson Hitchcock is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director in the Department of Social Work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research interests include in social work education, technology and social media, interprofessional education, and public health social work. Her current work examines the use of high-impact teaching practices (service learning, education abroad and simulations) with social work students. She blogs at

Stacy Moak, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Stacy Moak is a professor in the department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Alabama Birmingham. She holds a juris doctorate from Loyola University New Orleans and a PhD in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans. Dr. Moak has been recognized by her university as an outstanding faculty member in Education Abroad. Her primary research focus concerns offender reentry and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Ashley Neyer, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Ashley Neyer is the Director of the Office of Education Abroad at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has served in the field of international education for over a decade, prioritizing student accessibility, diversity, and cultural learning in program development and outreach efforts. She has accomplished strategic growth for faculty engagement in internationalization through innovative programming that prioritizes enhancing students’ global competency skills.

Sarah Moore, University of North Texas

Sarah Moore is an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Department at the University of North Texas. Her research focuses on international social work practice and education—encompassing refugee and immigrant populations, survivors of torture, and the Ethiopian immigrant community. She serves on the Board for the Global Awareness Society International and was a 2022 recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad award to Norway.

Scott Marsalis, University of Minnesota

Scott Marsalis is Interim Director, Research Services, Sciences, Agriculture, & Engineering, in the University of Minnesota Libraries as well as a social sciences librarian primarily supporting Social Work, Family Social Science, and Kinesiology. He is an instructor for the IMLS-grant funded Evidence Synthesis Institute, training librarians in how to best support evidence synthesis. His research focuses on supporting and evaluating the quality of evidence synthesis reviews in the social sciences.


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How to Cite

Fisher, C., Iverson Hitchcock, L., Moak, S., Neyer, A., Moore, S., & Marsalis, S. (2023). Does Faculty-Led Short-Term Study Abroad Improve Students’ Global Competence? Findings From a Systematic Review and Evidence Gap Map. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 35(1), 417–452.



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