Student Engagement and Study Abroad


  • Liam Rourke University of Alberta
  • Heather Kanuka University of Alberta



In this study the authors assessed student engagement during a short-term study-abroad program using the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Data were collected from a group of Canadian undergraduates spending six weeks in Mexico. Their program included a 10-day bus tour, three half-credit courses, and accommodations with local families. The authors administered the NSSE twice: once at the conclusion of the students’ current school year and six weeks later at the end of their study-abroad program. A comparison of responses from the two administrations of the NSSE indicates an advantage, though modest, for the study-abroad setting. Study abroad’s stature in higher education as a high-impact learning activity received moderate support from the data. The authors encourage administrators and researchers to use student engagement and the NSSE to refine study-abroad programs.

Author Biographies

Liam Rourke, University of Alberta

Liam Rourke is the director of medical education research in the University of Alberta’s Department of Medicine. Prior to taking up this role, he spent consecutive summers conducting ethnographic evaluations of study-abroad programs offered by the University of Calgary.

Heather Kanuka, University of Alberta

Heather Kanuka is the academic director of the University of Alberta’s Centre for Teaching and Learning. The unit offers teaching workshops and programs to help academics develop new courses and curriculum as well as basic teaching skills needed for the university environment.