The impact of study abroad on college student intellectual development

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


Vincent Tinto


Study abroad, College student, Intellectual development

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Developmental Psychology | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


This dissertation describes a research study designed to explore the relationship of study abroad and intellectual development for undergraduate students. Study abroad is a college activity that is normally not a graduation requirement for most undergraduates, nonetheless it is an activity that has seen a strong increase in participation over the past twenty years. Leaders and observers of higher education have consistently called for greater analysis of study abroad and its impact on student learning during the undergraduate years. This study attempts to contribute to this on-going discussion.

This is an empirical study seeking to answer the question of whether study abroad has a discernible impact on students' intellectual development. The Perry (1968) scheme measuring intellectual development during the college years was the model tested for one semester of study abroad; the instrument chosen was the Measure of Intellectual Development (Moore, 1990). Using a pre and posttest design, several variables, including gender and study abroad program structure, were analyzed.

Results from this research study are limited. No statistically significant changes in Perry score were observed for the students participating in this study. No evidence was found that any of the study variables, including gender, program structure, or program location, impacted intellectual development during one semester of study abroad. One significant finding from the study was that students who had traveled internationally prior to studying abroad began study abroad at a significantly higher level of intellectual development than those who had not. This difference disappeared after one semester of study abroad.


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