Publication Date

Fall 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Barbara Burch (Director), Julia Link Roberts, Craig Cobane

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


This dissertation’s focus is at the intersection of study abroad, impact assessment, and a population of gifted and talented students at a specialized, residential high school called The Gatton Academy. A summative impact evaluation was conducted to assess effects of Gatton Academy study abroad programs on student participants’ perceptions of peer belongingness, mentor belongingness, and personal growth and development, as well as to compare differences among three different program models being employed by the school. The three program models studied included a Non-Credit program, a Faculty-led Field-Study, and a Faculty-led Traditional program. The research was conducted amidst documented calls for increased assessment of study abroad impact and during a time when a national effort was underway to drastically increase the number of American students studying abroad, including during high school. Over 90% of students at The Gatton Academy study abroad before high school graduation. A quasi-experimental, pretest and posttest design was implemented. A 37-item survey instrument was designed, validated, and reliability-tested to measure participants’ perceptions on the studied variables. Paired-samples t-tests were used to compare responses from pre to posttests for each of the 89 study participants. When considering the entire study population, findings indicated that participating in study abroad did not have a significant effect on perceptual change. Yet, when the program models were considered individually, findings showed statistically-significant growth for peer belongingness for participants in the Non- Credit program and statistically-significant positive gain for personal growth and development for Faculty-led Field-Study students.


Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Gifted Education