Examining International Students’ Attitudinal Learning in a Higher Education Course on Cultural and Language Learning





Attitude Change, Attitudinal Learning, Cultural Learning, Higher Education, International Students, Language Learning


This study examined students’ perceptions of attitudinal learning outcomes and instructional activities within a language and cultural exchange (LACE) course at a midwestern U.S. university and explored whether perceptions differed based on students’ prior knowledge, major, and/or demographics. We utilized a mixed-methods approach to gather quantitative data from a survey sent out in Weeks 5 and 15 to 137 international students enrolled in multiple sections of a LACE course that gathered perceptions on attitudinal learning and the most impactful aspects of the course design. Follow-up structured interviews were conducted with 37 students. Results indicated students saw growth in their attitudinal learning, with the highest perceived gains regarding cognitive and then behavioral components. Data from student interviews provided specific examples of how student attitudes were changed in each of these four areas of learning. Limitations and future research are discussed.

Author Biographies

William R. Watson, Purdue University, USA

WILLIAM R. WATSON, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Learning Design and Technology at Purdue University. His research focuses on the critical, systemic change of education to realize a personalized learning paradigm, including the application of technology such as video games, virtual environments, and learning management applications in order to facilitate personalized learning.

Sunnie Lee Watson, Purdue University, USA

SUNNIE LEE WATSON, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Learning Design and Technology at Purdue University. Her research interest focuses on the design of information age, learner-centered education, including attitude change instruction and the integration of information-age learning technology such as MOOCs and PIES.

Sarah E. Fehrman, Purdue University, USA

SARAH FEHRMAN, MA, is a PhD student in Learning Design and Technology at Purdue University. Her major research interests are sociocultural adjustment, online course design, and attitudinal change in cross-cultural learning.

Ji Hyun Yu, University of Michigan, USA

JI HYUN YU, PhD, is a Learning Experience Designer in the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan. Her research is situated at the intersection of learning experience design and data analytics, focusing on data-informed design for personalized and rigorous learning in online settings.

Shamila Janakiraman, Purdue University, USA

SHAMILA JANAKIRAMAN, MS, is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Design and Technology program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue University. Her research interests are in game-based learning, attitude change instruction, online teaching and learning, MOOCs, sustainability education and adult education. Specifically, her dissertation research focuses on the use of game-based learning to change attitudes in environmental sustainability.


Allen, M. C., & Fehrman, S. E. (2018). Language and cultural exchange: A guidebook for international students (4th ed.). Van Griner.

Anaya, G., & Cole, D. G. (2001). Latina/o student achievement: Exploring the influence of student-faculty interactions on college grades. Journal of College Student Development, 42(1), 3–14.

Andrade, M. S. (2006). A first year seminar for international students. Journal of the First-year Experience & Students in Transition, 18, 85–103.

Andrade, M. S. (2009). The effects of English language proficiency on adjustment to university life. International Multilingual Research Journal, 3(1), 16–34.

Andrade, M. S. (2010). Increasing accountability: Faculty perspectives on the English language competence of nonnative English speakers. Journal of Studies in International Education, 14(3), 221–239.

Andrade, M. S., & Evans, N. W. (Eds.). (2009). International students: Strengthening a critical resource. ACE/Rowman Littlefield.

Andrade, M. S., Evans, N., & Hartshorn, K. (2014). Linguistic support for non-native English speakers: Higher education practices in the United States. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 51(2), 207–221.

Ascione, F. R. (1992). Enhancing children’s attitudes about the humane treatment of animals: Generalization to human-directed empathy. Anthrozoos, 5, 176–191.

Baba, Y., & Hosoda, M. (2014). Home away home: Better understanding of the role of social support in predicting cross-cultural adjustment among international students. College Student Journal, 48(1), 1–15

Bai, J. (2016). Perceived support as a predictor of acculturative stress among international students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 6, 93–106.

Bodenhausen, G. V., & Gawronski, B. (2013). Attitude change. In D. Reisberg (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of cognitive psychology (pp. 957–969). Oxford University Press.

Bohner, G., & Dickel, N. (2011). Attitudes and attitude change. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 391–417.

Brunsting, N. C., Smith, A. C., & Zachry, C. E. (2018). An academic and cultural transition course for international students: Efficacy and socio-emotional outcomes. Journal of International Students, 8(4), 1497–1521. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.1467805

Brunsting, N., Zachry, C., & Takeuchi, R. (2018). Predictors of undergraduate international student psychosocial adjustment to US universities: A systematic review from 2009–2018. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 66, 22–33.

Chavajay, P. (2013). Perceived social support among international students at a U.S. university. Psychological Reports, 112(2), 667–677.

Coleman, G. J. (2010). Educating the public: Information or persuasion? Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 37(1), 74–82.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Sage.

Deardorff, D. (2015). Intercultural competence: Mapping the future research agenda. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 48, 3–5.

Dole, J. A., & Sinatra, G. M. (1998). Reconceptualizing change in the cognitive construction of knowledge. Educational Psychologist, 33(2–3), 109–128.

Engberg, M. E., & Mayhew, M. J. (2007). The influence of first-year “success” courses on student learning and democratic outcomes. Journal of College Student Development, 48(3), 241–258.

Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive dissonance. Scientific American, 207(4), 93–106.

Frost, S. H. (1991). Fostering the critical thinking of college women through academic advising and faculty contact. Journal of College Student Development, 32(4), 359–366.

Gagne, R. M., Briggs, L. J., & Wager, W. W. (1992). Principles of instruction (4th ed.). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Glass, C. R. (2012). Educational experiences associated with international students’ learning, development, and positive perceptions of campus climate. Journal of Studies in International Education, 16, 228–251.

Gómez, E., Urzúa, A., & Glass, C. R. (2014). International student adjustment to college: Social networks, acculturation, and leisure. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 32(1), 7–25.

Han, S., Pistole, M. C., & Caldwell, J. M. (2017). Acculturative stress, parental and professor attachment, and college adjustment in Asian international students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 45, 111–126.

Hine, C. (2000). Virtual ethnography. Sage.

Jaccard, J., & Blanton, H. (2005). The origins and structure of behavior: Conceptualizing behavior in attitude research. In D. Albarracín, B. T. Johnson, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), The handbook of attitudes and attitude change (pp. 125–171). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Jung, E., Hecht, M. L., & Wadsworth, B. C. (2007). The role of identity in international students’ psychological well-being in the United States: A model of depression level, identity gaps, discrimination, and acculturation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 31(5), 605–624.

Kamradt, T. F., & Kamradt, E. J. (1999). Structural design for attitudinal instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (pp. 563–590). Lawrence Erlbaum.

King, P. M., & Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2005). A developmental model of intercultural maturity. Journal of College Student Development, 46, 571–592.

Korobova, N., & Starobin, S. S. (2015). A comparative study of student engagement, satisfaction, and academic success among international and American students. Journal of International Students, 5, 72–85.

Kort, B., Reilly, R., & Picard, R. W. (2001, August). An affective model of interplay between emotions and learning: Reengineering educational pedagogy-building a learning companion. In Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (pp. 43–46). IEEE Computer Society. doi: 10.1109/ICALT.2001.943850.

Kovtun, O. (2011). International student adaptation to a U.S. college: A mixed methods exploration of the impact of a specialized first-year course at a large Midwestern institution. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 48, 349–366.

Kuh, G. D., & Hu, S. (2001). The effects of student-faculty interaction in the 1990s. The Review of Higher Education, 24(3), 309–332.

Li, J. Q., Liu, X., Wei, T., & Lan, W. (2013). Acculturation, internet use, and psychological well-being among Chinese international students. Journal of International Students, 3, 155–166.

Li, J., Marbley, A., Bradley, L., & Lan, W. (2016). Attitudes toward seeking professional counseling services among Chinese international students: Acculturation, ethnic identity, and English proficiency. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 44(1), 65–76.

Ligon, M., Ehlman, K., Moriello, G., & Welleford, E. A. (2009). Oral history in the classroom: Fostering positive attitudes toward older adults and the aging process. Journal of Aging, Humanities and the Arts, 3(1), 59–72.

Longerbeam, S. D., DeStefano, T. J., & Lixin, Y. (2013). “We cannot reach them”: Chinese undergraduate student perceptions of the U.S. campus climate. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 50, 326–344.

Lowinger, R. J., Kuo, B. C. H., Song, H.-A., Mahadevan, L., Kim, E., Liao, K. Y.-H., Change, C. Y., Kwon, K.-A., & Han, S. (2016). Predictors of academic procrastination in Asian international college students. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 53, 90–104.

Martirosyan, N. M., Hwang, E., & Wanjohi, R. (2015). Impact of English proficiency on academic performance of international students. Journal of International Students, 5(1), 60–71.

Mesidor, J., & Sly, K. (2016). Factors that contribute to the adjustment of international students. Journal of International Students, 6(1), 262–282.

Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Sage.

Mori, S. (Spring, 2000). Addressing the mental health concerns of international students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(2), 137–144.

Mueller, C., Lim, J., & Watson, S. L. (2017). First principles of attitudinal change: A review of principles, methods and strategies. TechTrends, 61(6), 560–569. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0191-3

Nagda, B. A., & Gurin, P. (2007). Intergroup dialogue: A critical-dialogic approach to learning about difference, inequality, and social justice. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 111, 35–45.

Noddings, N. (2005). Educating citizens for global awareness. Teachers College Press.

Noddings, N. (2010). Moral education in an age of globalization. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 42, 390–396.

Pike, G. R., & Kuh, G. D. (2006). Relationships among structural diversity, informal peer interactions and perceptions of the campus environment. Review of Higher Education, 29, 425–450.

Poyrazli, S., Kavanaugh, P. R., Baker, A., & Al-Timimi, N. (2004). Social support and demographic correlates of acculturative stress in international students. Journal of College Counseling, 7(1), 73–82.

Rifkin, J. (2009). The empathic civilization: The race to global consciousness in a world in crisis. Tarcher-Penguin.

Schwandt, T. A. (2014). The Sage dictionary of qualitative inquiry. Sage.

Simonson, M. R. (1979). Designing instruction for attitudinal outcomes. Journal of Instructional Development, 2(3), 15–19.

Simonson, M. R., & Maushak, N. (1996). Situated learning, instructional technology, and attitude change. In H. McLellan, (Ed.), Situated learning perspectives (pp. 225–242). Educational Technology Publications.

Sinatra, G. M., Kardash, C. M., Taasoobshirazi, G., & Lombardi, D. (2012). Promoting attitude change and expressed willingness to take action toward climate change in college students. Instructional Science, 40(1), 1–17.

Smiljanic, I. (2017). The role of attachment, travel experiences and English proficiency in international students' acculturative stress and depressive symptoms. Journal of International Students, 7(2), 188–203.

Terenzini, P. T., & Pascarella, E. T. (1980). Toward the validation of Tinto’s model of college student attrition: A review of recent studies. Research in Higher Education, 12(3), 271–280.

Trice, A. G. (2007). Faculty perspective regarding graduate international students’ isolation from host national students. International Education Journal, 8(1), 108–117.

Watson, S. L., Watson, W. R., Janakiraman, S., & Richardson, J. (2017). A team of instructors’ use of social presence, teaching presence, and attitudinal dissonance strategies: An animal behaviour and welfare MOOC. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(2), 68–91.

Watson, S. L., Watson, W. R., & Tay, L. (2018). The development and validation of the Attitudinal Learning Inventory (ALI): A measure of attitudinal learning and instruction. Educational Technology Research & Development, 66, 1601–1617. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-018-9625-7

Van Horne, S., Lin, S., Anson, M., & Jacobson, W. (2018). Engagement, satisfaction, and belonging of international undergraduates at U.S. research universities. Journal of International Students, 8, 351–374.

Young, T., & Schartner, A. (2014). The effects of cross-cultural communication education on international students' adjustment and adaptation. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35(6), 1–16.

Zhang, J., & Goodson, P. (2011). Predictors of international students’ psychosocial adjustment to life in the United States: A systematic review. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(2), 139–162.

Zhao, C., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2005). A comparison of international student and American student engagement in effective educational practices. Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 209–231.



How to Cite

Watson, W. R., Watson, S. L., Fehrman, S. E. ., Yu, J. H., & Janakiraman, S. (2020). Examining International Students’ Attitudinal Learning in a Higher Education Course on Cultural and Language Learning. Journal of International Students, 10(3), 664–687. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v10i3.1083



Research Articles