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Guest Blog Post: Integrating Global Learning in a Diagnostic of Internationalization by Elvira P. Castillo (Universidad La Salle)

By Shanna Saubert posted 08-15-2017 11:45 AM


This guest blog post was written by Elvira P. Castillo from the Universidad La Salle in Mexico.

Integrating Global Learning in a Diagnostic of Internationalization

In March 2016, I was selected to participate in the DIES (Dialogue on Innovative Higher Education Strategies) [1]  Training Course Management of internationalization 2016/2017 organized jointly by Leibniz Universität Hannover, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). The objective of the training course was to “qualify university staff from selected countries of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, to manage processes and tasks of internationalization in the area of higher education.” [2] The methodology of the training course was strictly practice-oriented and based on case studies. Hence, I was expected to develop a Personal Action Plan (PAP). Taking into account the opinion of the Director of the International Office at my institution, I decided that my PAP would be a diagnostic of internationalization in our institution.

Situation at Universidad La Salle

Founded in 1962, Universidad La Salle has created a reputation as a visionary, innovative, comprehensive, humanistic, and socially responsible private university. It is a member of La Salle Universities, one of the largest international organizations dedicated to accessible, quality education, research, and social transformation. The Lasallian network is comprised of more than 70 Lasallian colleges and universities worldwide, 15 of them in Mexico.

La Salle has a population of 7000 undergraduate and graduate students. We have seven faculties, and we offer 29 undergraduate programs, 32 specializations, 20 master´s programs, three doctoral programs, and one international master program. La Salle was one of the first universities in Mexico to address the issue of university internationalization. In the 1990s, the Centre for International Education, La Salle (CIEL) was created to support and implement the internationalization efforts of the institution. We maintain academic, research, and extension relationships with more than 90 international partners. At this time, CIEL runs the following programs:

  • Mobility programs: one or two semester long programs for incoming and outgoing students
  • Special programs: short-term, faculty-led, summer courses, internships, among others
  • Spanish courses: year-round courses offered at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels
  • Special projects: provides support to international projects of the university and follows up international agreements.
  • Graduate studies abroad: advising service for candidates of graduate studies abroad

La Salle established internationalization as a priority in recent years. In the current Strategic Action Plan (2009-2018), an internationalization committee, which reports to our Strategic Planning department, was appointed with the task of developing an internationalization plan with short, medium, and long-term strategies. Current structures in La Salle promote internationalization as a responsibility of CIEL; students, faculty, and administrators perceive internationalization as activities and actions that must be proposed, managed, assessed, and directed by CIEL. Many internationalization activities and projects are being implemented in the institution, but there is a lack of policies, protocols, and administrative support to further develop current efforts.

Diagnostic of Internationalization

The diagnostic had to include as much information, and from many sources, as possible. It had to involve students, faculty, and administrators. We decided to integrate in the study global learning and global learning assessment, since we were interested in how students are being prepared for global markets as part of our current internationalization strategies. Overall, our main goal was to analyze the level of the internationalization and to find out where we are and where we want to go. For instance, we planned to identify weaknesses and strengths, and to propose recommendations to enhance the internationalization efforts, reflecting in our context and opportunities. The project involved conducting a university-wide assessment of the level of internationalization at La Salle. It included meetings, interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis of historic and current data from the International Office (IO).

To accomplish the goals of the project, we reviewed resources from renowned professionals in the higher education internationalization field to identify and categorize best practices. We had formal and informal meetings with faculties, administrators, academic coordinators, professors, and students. To gather data, we interviewed stakeholders and applied surveys. We reviewed historical and statistical data from the IO such as projects developed and supported, partnerships, participants, and staff responsibilities.  In addition, we revised information collected by the Public Relations and Communication department, related to internationalization activities, that has been reported by the faculties on the university’s blog and newsletter.

These were the aims proposed for the study:

  1. Identify concepts, systems, and actors that are relevant to our university to enhance the internationalization program
  2. Identify internationalization activities that are taking place in the institution and develop a campus internationalization inventory
  3. Identify attitudes and expectations from students, faculty, and administrators towards internationalization
  4. Develop a set of recommendations based on findings
  5. Report findings to the top authorities to support the development of internationalization policies that respond to the needs and goals of our institution and network universities

Four major phases were planned, starting in May 2016 and finishing in July 2017, as follows:

  1. Define the extent and main goals of the project
  2. Develop instruments and collect data
  3. Analyze, classify and report data
  4. Report findings and recommendations

Integrating global learning and global learning assessment in the study

As part of the study, we wanted to find out if global learning and global learning assessment is being taking place in the institution. So, when we were in the second phase of the study, Develop instruments and collect data, these topics were included. The steps we followed for the second phase are below:

2.1 Defining the information to be collected

2.2 Selecting and classifying sources of information

2.3 Developing instruments to collect data from digital and printed sources

2.4 Selecting and developing instruments to be used for the data collection

2.5 Selecting participants

2.6 Inviting participants and apply the instruments

When completing step 2.1 Defining the information to be collected, the outcome was a categorized list of internationalization topics and issues to be included in the study, as follows:

  • Mobility programs
  • Curriculum and academic programs
  • Teaching-learning processes
  • Research and knowledge generation
  • Co-curricular education
  • Extra-curricular education
  • Liaison, international representation, leadership
  • Support services
  • Administrative management
  • International accreditations

We identified that global learning and global learning assessment should be evident in all these categories. However, it was a challenge to find out if global learning is taking place in these categories and if it is being assessed. For instance, when selecting and developing instruments to be used for the data collection, we developed questions in the surveys and interviews[3] that addressed global learning and global learning assessment.

We designed one survey for students and one survey for collaborators, although the questions were very similar in content. We were interested in collecting opinions and expectations about internationalization in La Salle. We applied the online surveys from February 3-17, 2017. We received 240 responses from students and 236 responses from staff.

Regarding the topic of global learning, we included the following questions in the surveys: (In the survey for collaborators, we asked: "From your point of view, during their studies in La Salle, students"; in the survey for students, we asked: "From your point of view, during your studies in La Salle, you")

  1. acquire global competencies necessary for the professional exercise
  2. acquire intercultural skills to work in globalized contexts
  3. acquire levels of language(s) that allow them/you to be functional in these language(s)
  4. acquire competitive profiles for a globalized labor market
  5. develop skills to study abroad
  6. develop an awareness of their/your role as global citizens
  7. demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility
  8. demonstrate an awareness of their/your responsibility to the environment
  9. other

It must be observed that the main goal of these surveys was to find out personal opinions of students and staff. To find out the extent of these statement being true, other instruments must be used. 

We would like to remark that collaborators responded yes more than students did, in all statements, but two. In the following table, the difference in percentage points (pp) are noted for each statement:


Students saying yes (%)

Collaborators saying yes (%)

Percentage points (pp)

1. Acquire global competencies necessary for the professional exercise




2. Acquire intercultural skills to work in globalized contexts




3. Acquire levels of language(s) that allow them/you to be functional in these language(s)




4. Acquire competitive profiles for a globalized labor market




5. Develop skills to study abroad




6. Develop an awareness of their/your role as global citizens




7. Demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility




8. Demonstrate an awareness of their/your responsibility to the environment




9. Other





The greatest differences between students and staff responses were found in the following statement: develop skills to study abroad. It must be noticed than only 45.4 % of students say yes, while 62.9 % of collaborators (17.5 pp) say yes. This is a topic which we definitely would like to investigate further.

Other statements in which there is a big gap between students and staff opinions are:

  • acquire global competencies necessary for the professional exercise (13.4 pp)
  • acquire intercultural skills to work in globalized contexts (10.4)
  • acquire levels of language(s) that allow them/you to be functional in these language(s) (10.4pp)

The smallest difference between staff and students was for the statement demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility (-2.4). We noticed, as well, that in this statement we had the greatest percentage of students and collaborators saying yes (81.3% and 78.9% respectively). In the graph below, we compare the yes responses from students and collaborators:

The interviews that we conducted with each faculty council (integrated by deans, academic coordinator, administrative coordinator, and head of programs), confirmed and extended the findings of the surveys. We explicitly asked the following questions:

  • How do you define global competences?
  • What strategies have you taken to achieve the desired global competencies in graduates? How do you measure the impact of these strategies?
  • What profile do you seek in your faculty in relation to the goals to support the development of global competencies in students? What preparation has the faculty taken to train teachers in global competencies?
  • What strategies does the faculty use to enable its graduates to enter the globalized labor market?

In our institution, global competences are defined as the capabilities that students need so they can integrate in the globalized labor market successfully. Particularly, they mentioned that students must be able to communicate in English and other languages, and to be able to navigate in diverse cultural environments by acquiring intercultural skills. However, we noticed that faculties do not have in place formal strategies to promote global learning. Then, there is no evidence that global learning is being assessed.

Regarding the profile that faculties seek to support global learning, they mentioned that preference is given to bilingual professors, also international experience is considered. However only one faculty mentioned that they promote training programs for their teaching staff in this topic. It was also noticed that professors with an international profile and/or bilingual are not being paid more when teaching in English, for example.

The strategies that faculty use to enable its graduates to enter the globalized labor market mentioned were: classes in English (very limited), technological tools, Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), internships, and conferences. However, we noticed that there is a need for these strategies to be institutionalized to be truly effective.

What´s next?

At this time, we are preparing a final report to be presented to our top authorities, to share findings of the study, as well to recommend further actions to develop our internationalization efforts. The biggest challenge we face today is that this project will bring changes to the university.

The report must be useful to develop an internationalization strategy that is truly effective for La Salle. It will include findings and recommendations, and provide information and evidence to expand, strengthen, and assess the impact of internationalization at La Salle. We expect changes to take place in the following areas:

  • Internationalization strategies
  • International programs
  • Key-tasks in the international office
  • Promoting and assessing global competencies
  • International awareness in the university community
  • Policies and processes to support and promote mobility; training of teachers, researchers and administrative staff; international projects
  • Interaction and integration of different cultures within the institution
  • Communication strategies
  • Services provided






#GlobalLearning #Internationalization
1 comment



09-05-2017 01:55 PM

As someone who believes wholeheartedly in the benefit of international education (as well as a current student of IE), I’m always looking for ways to measure and quantify this benefit.  More studies like this are seemingly always necessary to make sure the institution not only stays on track with internationalization goals, but understand what those goals are. The structure of the study does this and does well in engaging stakeholders and students alike. but one point I'm a curious about is how can we incentivize  these bilingual/internationally-experienced professors to integrate that global experience into the curriculum? Simply hiring more of them may not be enough, as evidenced by the large gap between those who feel they have skills for globalized marketplace. This is something I'd love to hear more about and follow up on, good luck with the final study!