What is it that turns an ordinary student into an Erasmus student? A team of researchers at the University Teacher Training College in Vitoria-Gasteiz (UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country) has studied the psychological profile of those students who plan to participate in mobility programmes with that of the ones who are not considering doing so, and has detected signs that would point to differences between the two groups. So it is in fact a subject that invites research. Thanks to this preliminary work, an article has been published in the journal Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences and entitled International mobility and psychological factors: a related study for teacher training. On the basis of this, the aim is to study the subject in greater depth, as it is expected to prove useful in designing the faculty's international mobility programme.
The authors of this piece of research are José Domingo Villarroel, Igor Camino, Pilar Aristizabal and María Teresa Bizkarra, Principal of the Teacher Training College of Vitoria-Gasteiz. The four of them in fact belonged to this faculty when they started on the project. Villarroel used to be Deputy Director of the international area, although he now works at the Teacher Training College in Bilbao (the others remain in Vitoria-Gasteiz): "We wanted to encourage student and teacher participation in international projects and mobility programmes. We think that knowing the client –in other words, the students' motivational profile– could be of interest when approaching the plans for the future." Previous studies indicate that the students who go abroad raise their self-esteem, cultural sensitivity and flexibility. So there are sufficient reasons for wanting to encourage mobility.
Sample of 60 students
In this first study they have concentrated on certain psychological factors that had already been regarded as indicators previously to see whether there is any relation with being prepared to participate in mobility programmes. Their methodology is based on questionnaires, and the sample is made up of 60 students in their second year at the Teacher Training College: 30 who during the 2011-2012 academic year had already applied to participate in the Erasmus programme or in a similar one, and as many others who were not intending to go abroad. As regards gender, the number of men to women respondents was on a par. "To start off, we looked at the kind of methodology used internationally, and we came across some articles specifying the questionnaires that had been useful in these tasks," explains Villarroel. So apart from the routine questionnaire on demographic data, another two were used: the first analyses adaptation to multiculturality, and the second, the Weltanschauung of each respondent.
According to the results produced by these questionnaires, as expected, there are differences between the students planning to go abroad and those who are not. The difference is reflected, above all, in the sub-scales referring to open-mindedness, responsibility, cultural diversity, effectiveness and interconnectivity, since those belonging to the first group scored higher in them. "It seems that the students who are about to embark on Erasmus or on another international programme are more flexible when it comes to accepting a variety of contexts, they feel that it is important to get involved in international problems, they find it easier to value other cultures…", specifies Villarroel.
Variations are also perceived with respect to gender. These are mainly in terms of cultural empathy, responsibility, cultural diversity and interconnectivity; but the difference is not so marked.
Seeking funding to go on
So it seems that the students who are keen to participate in mobility programmes do in fact share certain characteristics, like, for example, the capacity to understand other cultures without prejudice and to be more flexible in varied cultural contexts. What is more, a sense of responsibility towards the global community, a positive attitude towards cultural diversity, and a belief that one can contribute something towards changing the world are things that emerge more frequently in the group made up of potential Erasmus students. However, as Villarroel points out, the sampling carried out is too small to be able to speak of definitive results. The main contribution of this piece of research has been to verify the validity of the methodology used and the presence of differential signs: "We have seen that studying this subject can be of interest, because we have found something, but we would need to develop the research in an even more robust way."
The Teacher Training College in Vitoria-Gasteiz is now seeking funding to continue with the research. If it is successful, the funding would be used for gathering the maximum quantity of data possible, which would help them to design a more appropriate and attractive programme for the Teacher Training College students. "The plan is to get to know the motivation and interest driving the students who want to participate in the mobility programmes, and on the basis of that to design programmes for the future," concludes Villarroel.
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