This week was an extremely exciting time at Winterline Global Skills, with our first year students completing their final skills programs at the Central Square Theater, and bringing the whole Winterline family together here in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In the days leading up to their final performance and the First Dinner, we brought in Craig Shealy of James Madison University and The Summit on Cultivating the Globally Sustainable Self, to round out the preliminary results of the Beliefs, Events, and Values Inventory (BEVI) survey, and to determine what kinds of progress the students had really undergone during their 9-month gap year program with Winterline.
As described by the Forum BEVI Project, a collaboration with the Forum on Education Abroad, the BEVI survey measures processes such as: basic openness; the tendency to not stereotype in particular ways; self and emotional awareness; preferred strategies for making sense of why “other” people and cultures “do what they do”; global engagement (e.g., receptivity to different cultures, religions, and social practices); and, worldview shift (e.g., to what degree do beliefs and values change as a result of specific experiences). There were a number of assessment measures we could have gone with, but few of them held up to the BEVI’s very high standards of quality, depth, and rigor, principles we strive to live by at Winterline.
What kinds of change did we expect to see after our students had been through so many different work and cultural environments? After having learned so many different skills? After having spent so much time with one another under the mentorship of their two field advisors?
Despite all our confidence and belief in the program's design, we knew we wanted to document that change from a third party. We wanted the results to speak for themselves. We also wanted our students to get a sense of how they themselves were changing and growing, to not leave them alone in their sense-making of the gap year experience.
Preliminary results from the BEVI were 'very striking and highly compelling.' Compared to how the students responded to the survey at the beginning of their gap year, they seemed different people -- more open, mature, empathetic, patient, and aware. They had grown as people and adults across the board and even off the charts.
As Shealy noted, "This is high impact learning at a level that I have never seen." From the standpoint of the BEVI, a change of five points, positive or negative, often is considered meaningful. In some cases, Winterline was seeing changes in students at three or four times this rate.
The question then is why? As the findings from the survey continue to be investigated, we will certainly continue to update our students and our readers. But in Shealy's opinion, that success probably has much to do with the way the program was constructed.
Roughly every two weeks, our students move, as a unit, from one skills-based partner to the next, with an incredible variety of challenges, surprises, and cultural expectations awaiting them at every corner.
They appear to have been changed deeply by the diversity of experiences, the challenges conquered, and sometimes, the failures appreciated.
In one of our internal surveys, a student anonymously responded to the question, "In what ways are you a different person as a result of Winterline?"
"Too much to say. Winterline destroyed everything I knew about myself. But it also built it up to make it stronger. I love Winterline."
Our pride aside, it is delightful to see that what the research is saying is lining up with the experiences our students are having, and what we are ultimately trying to accomplish at Winterline.
We'll be publishing further findings in the coming days, so please stay tuned to our website by signing up for our email newsletter at the top of this page.
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