Quality of Education

Designing program objectives and program learning outcomes

Dr. Georgia Bedford

Higher Education, Communication, Argumentation, Public Debate

February 22nd 2022 - United States

Empowering Cultural Adaptation and Success in Higher Education

Welcome to the inaugural World Higher Education Summit, where leaders and innovators in the field of higher education converge to shape a transformative learning experience. Today, we have the privilege of hosting distinguished experts, Dr. Georgia Bedford and Dr. Fadoua Loudiy, as they shed light on a pivotal topic—designing program objectives and outcomes, cross-cultural adaptation, and the vital aspects of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Global Education.

Dr. Georgia Bedford, a renowned visiting lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh, possesses a wealth of experience in teaching at prestigious universities across Greater Pittsburgh. Her professional interests span diverse subjects, including business communication, media literacy, civil discourse, and public speaking. Dr. Bedford's dedication extends beyond teaching, as she actively contributes as a student advisor, mentor, and member of curriculum committees, further enhancing the academic experience.

As Dr. Georgia delves into the importance of cross-cultural adaptation, she uncovers the significant role it plays in mental health and well-being. With students undergoing cultural transitions while pursuing higher education, it becomes crucial to address these transitions programmatically, fostering a smoother and more positive adjustment process.

Culture, as defined by Professor Georgia, is embedded in individuals and influences their way of thinking and living. She highlights the impact of cultural transitions on students' mental health, emphasizing the two critical points of disruption: from secondary to post-secondary education and the transition from program completion to the workplace.

Dr. Bedford underscores the need to align program objectives with these transitions, urging institutions to consider cultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion across cognitive, affective, and behavioral learning objectives. She emphasizes that early underperformance is common among students due to cultural adaptation challenges, which can be mitigated by cultivating a supportive environment that facilitates recovery and adjustment.

Professor Bedford introduces the four primary phases of cultural adaptation: the honeymoon phase, crisis phase, recovery phase, and adjustment phase. She delves into the emotions and challenges students face during each phase, stressing the importance of timely intervention and support. By providing opportunities for social networking, familiarization with systems, and fostering self-confidence, institutions can expedite the transition to the adjustment phase.

In conclusion, the insights provided by Dr. Georgia Bedford shed light on the intricate relationship between cross-cultural adaptation, mental health, and successful program outcomes in higher education. Her expertise and dedication pave the way for institutions to proactively address the challenges of cultural transition, ensuring students thrive academically and personally on their journey toward global success.

Speakers Info


Dr. Georgia Bedford Acting Associate Director William Pitt Debating Union (WPDU)/Visiting Lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Georgia Bedford possesses a unique combination of educational leadership experience across prestigious institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock University, Robert Morris University, Penn State, and Duquesne University. Her background also includes robust business acumen, with roles as a Consulting COO, Project Manager, and Director of Communications. She excels at leveraging her extensive education and business experiences to coordinate and administer academic programs while implementing strategic plans independently and in collaboration with diverse stakeholders.


Dr. Fadoua Loudiy Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategic Media & Communication at Slippery Rock University

Fadoua Loudiy is a distinguished communication scholar and educator with over two decades of experience in higher education. She is a dedicated researcher in the fields of transitional justice, DEIG (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Globalization), communication ethics, human rights, and global and intercultural communication. Her commitment to academic excellence and ethical communication has earned her the prestigious Pennsylvania Communication Association 2019 Donald H. Ecroyd Research & Scholarship Award. Currently, Fadoua serves as the Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Communication Association, where she continues to contribute significantly to the field of communication.

Session Script: Designing program objectives and program learning outcomes


Angelika Sharygina
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm excited to welcome you to the very first world higher education summit. And today, we're joined by leaders in their field of higher education by the incredible Dr. Georgia and Dr. Fadoua Loudiy. And it's a great pleasure to have you here. Today's topic is crucial for everyone in higher education, designing program objectives and outcomes, cross-cultural adaptation, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and Global Education. It's a great privilege for me to have panelists like Dr. Georgia and Dr. Fadoua for today, and let me tell you a little about our panelists. So Dr. Georgia Bedford is a visiting lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh with years of teaching experience for top-ranking universities throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area; her professional repertory interests providing instruction arguments, civil discourse, media, literacy, business, professional communication, and public speaking, and many other. Dr. Georgia has been positioned as a student advisor, student mentor, and member of the assessment accurately curriculum committee.

Moreover, Dr. Bedford's research continues from her dissertation on contemporary issues and problems associated with curriculum assessment, access, equality, and equity. It's a great pleasure to have you here today. Dr. Georgia, where are you joining us from?

Dr. Georgia
I am in the United States in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Angelika Sharygina
Excellent. And I'm honored to be joined by Dr. Fadoua Loudiy, an assistant professor in the Department of Strategic Communication and Media. She's the co-director of the Middle East Studies Center and actively contributes to developing programs on global learning and diversity at equality and inclusion. Dr. Loudiy is the second vice president-elect of the Pennsylvania Communication Association, and she has published several journal articles and book chapters on communication ethics and transitional justice. And she's the author of transitional justice and human rights in Morocco. It's a great pleasure to have you here. Where are you joining us from?

Dr. Fadoua Loudiy,
Thank you for having me. I'm also in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Angelika Sharygina
Excellent. Well, some of the greatest minds are there. And it's a great pleasure to interview you today. Because today's topic is vital not only for higher education institutions but also for the setup of schools because today we are going to talk about the learning outcomes and designing program objectives in the cross-cultural dimension. I would like Professor Georgia, if you could kindly share your screen, I know that you have prepared a presentation that you would like to share with our audience.

Professor Georgia

Angelika Sharygina
Excellent. Thank you.

Professor Georgia
My portion of the presentation will discuss cross-cultural adaptation as it pertains to mental health now; cultural adaptation is something we all have to deal with when we move from one place to another for an extended period. And we know that higher education is increasingly becoming aware that we're dealing with a mental health epidemic among our students. What we may not think about as an important area of examination is the fact that among the significant contributors to, you know, poor states of mental health in higher education is the cultural transition process. Transitions can lead to heightened stress, anxiety, and depression. If we understand this process better, we can develop adaptive strategies designed to target points of change so that we can move students more smoothly and quickly, to the recovery and adjustment phase of this process. And we can do that by addressing transitions programmatically by designing objectives and outcomes.

What is culture?

Professor Georgia
So, one of the first things we want to address just in terms of a basic understanding is what culture is and why it is an important consideration to build into the programmatic objectives of our end outcomes. First of all, it is embodied in the person. No one defines culture as a pattern of meaning, a way of describing the world and living in it, the rules for which rules are deeply internalized in individuals. And then some fundamental aspects, different cultures create different worlds. In fact, in a study examining psychological responses to environmental shocks, Quinlan all states that human thought itself is cultural; human thought is comprised of, quote, familiar and shared ways of thinking to which an individual has grown accustomed, in part, because they have been exposed to a culture for extended periods. These ways of thinking provide people with reliable mental modes for action that inform predictable outcomes, and through regular interactions with people and the environment, in pattern practices. So we know that there are two critical points where students experience disruptions to their known ways of thinking, practices, and behaviors.

And they also experience heightened anxiety, specifically as a result of these cultural transitions. The first is from secondary to post-secondary education. And on the other side is the transition from program completion to the workplace. Morpheus argues that program objectives should be written on the other side of the process; we make assumptions, we assume the students have difficulty transitioning when they come from the secondary experience, but we may not be thinking about the career side. So mort says graduates' career and professional accomplishments during the first several years of graduation should be built within program objectives. And you know, this may be limited, however, to the level of concepts and contemporary skills according to the respective industry.

Program objectives and outcomes: cultural adaption and competence

Professor Georgia
So we know that in terms of program objectives and outcomes, there we can only speak of them in general terms because they are designed across three primary levels, beginning with the university mission, the respective college or school, at the departmental level, and then further once a student declares a concentration or a track. So what types of courses, theories, practicums, experiential, and programmatic considerations are determined at those levels, and we also understand there to be three types of learning objectives. Cognitive, what do we want our graduates to know. Affective, what do we want our graduates to think about, care about. And behavioral, what do we want our graduates to be able to do? Ideally, consideration should be given to cultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion across all three objectives as well as at the level of outcomes.

Program outcomes, on the other hand, are met incrementally, primarily through coursework, where students gain knowledge and skills that cumulatively should progress toward the completion of a program, outcomes are achieved results, and the student typically demonstrates what they have learned evidentially, through assessments, and in other ways at the classroom level. So this is the way learning is assumed to be demonstrated. So the problem is that students tend to underperform early in their program. And they may even experience difficulty when they move into core courses of concentration for their track. They also experience problems in transition in their early professional life. So we know that these transitions cause students to experience heightened stress, anxiety, and depression.

Phases of cultural adaption

Professor Georgia
What are these phases of cultural adaptation? There are four primary phases. Phase one is the honeymoon phase. Phase two is the crisis Phase. Phase three is recovery, and phase four is an adjustment. So when a student arrives either on campus or the other side in a new workplace, they will initially experience most likely positive feelings of excitement and optimism coming into a unique experience. And they are also the same factor that comes into play when they go into the shock phase. At this point, they realize Yes, I'm actually in a new environment; the expectations, the practices, the processes, and the demands are heightened, very different from either the secondary school experience or at the end of a program. Academia is very different from professional life. So at this point, they can experience things like sadness, irritability, anxiety, and depression; they can even experience changes in their eating and sleeping habits. And so the goal is to get them beyond this point, toward recovery and adjustment more quickly. And we understand and assume that recovery, you know, takes time and patience.

But we also have to build in opportunities for social networking and familiarization with systems, practices, and processes so that students can begin to feel a reduction in their stress and have, you know, increased levels of comfort. Ideally, we want to get them to the adjustment phase before they leave their first year and certainly give them opportunities to move more quickly into that phase once they reach professional life. And in adjustment, you know, this is where they are experiencing more self-confidence and become familiar with the new environment.

Cultural adjustments of international students

Professor Georgia
So we understand and assume that this is the case for international students. And I'm going to look at two different models, the global model and then a model that applies more domestically. So the world of higher education is very different from secondary school, from the philosophy of education to pedagogy; it's vastly different academically to operate in academia and be in the world of business. And so the strategies on either end of this are going to be different. But in terms of building and program objectives and outcomes on either end of that programmatic department, well, at the university level, some basics can be addressed. And then, on the other side, programmatically, departments and disciplinary communities can do a better job professionally. But when people shift from one culture to another, there's a feeling of chaos because what is happening, they're attempting to apply old cultural rules to the new environment.

And the response is that they're either going to do something incorrectly, or just the unfamiliar nature of the new environment will result in what Hofstede calls acculturative stress. This comes from the work of burying Ennis, anthropologists back in 1974, as a response to the cultural shock phase, where people compare one culture and the movement to another as a movement to an alien cultural environment. So, we know that cultural shock tends to be difficult for international students because everything is new and different when they arrive in a foreign country. And while they may feel the excitement, initially, they're likely to go into the shock phase for many reasons. But the transition itself, the exposure, they're going to experience all those symptoms, they will hopefully be able to adapt through many different supports international offices provide. And you know, global offices are there for that purpose. But at the university departmental levels, we need to figure out are those needs are being addressed. We also know that when they go back home for an extended period, they will go back through that process as they attempt to reintegrate into their own culture. And that process is, in fact, cyclical because when they come back to study, you know, in the country where their program is located, they're going to go back through that process all over again.

Cultural shock: cultural adjustment

Professor Georgia
But we may not consider this adjustment in terms of what happens to domestic students; we believe that they know how to be a student. And they know what the expectations and demands are for being a student. But what we don't consider is that there is a lot of hand holding that goes on within the secondary school. And I've had many students come to me and say tell me what to do. I don't know what to do, or I don't understand how to use the systems, and they are in their sophomore years.

Cultural adaption strategies

Professor Georgia
So we can help guide them by understanding different phases of adaptation in terms of acculturation and enculturation. So if we look at them a little bit more closely begin to develop strategies that we can integrate throughout these processes. And I want to explain that acculturation is a process. It's not a unitary event. It's not a simulation where we ask someone to exclude their history, values, beliefs, or what we might think of as a cultural subtraction. Because this can happen when we ask a person to remove their self-identity or adopt identity projections of the dominant culture, an adjustment occurs. However, there is an identity shift regarding what it means to be a student. So, it certainly is on the other side the difference between being a student and being a professional, this is in part an identity shift, but acculturation strategies can be developed based upon understanding what it is. So the Social Science Research Council defines acculturation as a culture change that is initiated by the conjunction of two or more autonomous cultural systems through cross-cultural cultural interactions between groups or a contact situation.

Citing Thirlwall testing, Nelson argues that acculturation in this sense is a process of adaptation to new conditions. And then, given an array, I refer to methods whereby the culture of society once a slightly may have to be modified as a result of a different community or culture. And there is disagreement amongst scholars as to the extent to which acculturation is individualized or occurring primarily through contact between groups as a dynamic interplay. Or, in other words, is it unidirectional, where the dominant culture of academia, in this case, flows down to the student, we would hope not what, but it is; we do understand it to be a psychological process; it is both at the individual and the group level, to which extent depends primarily on the level of analysis in the situation. But we can say that as a principal condition of acculturation, as a dynamic process, through continuous contact with the normative structures of the dominant culture, through systems exposure to support and services, and information, a first-year student in, this case, would by necessity have to adapt and or modify certain habits and ways and practices. Still, through knowledge and other strategies, hopefully, we will shorten that process and make it less stressful, less stressful. And then, of course, with you know, in terms of building programmatic objectives and outcomes, addressing transition has to take place on both sides.

So students can become enculturated to the environment by incorporating guided participation in cultural practices; what are some things we do on campus? What are events that we celebrate and things like games and, you know, finding ways to include students and learn from students? Ideally, it should be a reciprocal process.
So, you know, during the process, learners, hopefully on both sides, develop participatory knowledge about each other, develop new skills, and, you know, grow to be constructive and understanding individuals that can interact with each other through both communities.

Adaptive Strategies

Professor Georgia
And so some suggestions just generally speaking, because as I said, it's too broad of a topic to cover every possible opportunity. You know basic skills, research, and academic integrity from secondary to post-secondary education. This is something we've run into all the time. And in fact, students often learn some of these things incorrectly—basic introductions to technology and learning management systems. I've had students tell me they have no idea how to use the learning management system two years into their academic life, Introduction to supportive services, and whatever supports are available for students. And in fact, if we need to add to that base of services through mentoring programs, and on the other side, undoubtedly, disciplinary communities will be better at identifying strategies.

But in the post-secondary to professional translation, bringing in guest speakers having guest speaker series, even guests in the classroom, explaining to students on a disciplinary level, what the expectations are, what it means to be a professional within a discipline, internships, not everyone can do internships. Still, we should be trying to find ways to move students from the crisis point to adjustment. And that concludes my portion. I will pass this on to Dr. Loudiy,

Angelika Sharygina
Thank you very much, Dr. Georgia is this. It's incredible how you talked about all those different phases and processes of cultural adaptation, from the honeymoon phase to crisis recovery adjustment. And it's exciting to see how from 1974, there still has been some progress from the initial cultural shock. However, there are still challenges, and students across the world still in 2022, will face those challenges. And thank you so much for contributing to countering those challenges and helping students overcome this. And to you are Dr. Fadoua, I know you have much to contribute to today's discussion. I am looking forward to your input here.

Dr. Fadoua Loudiy
I think it's essential to talk a little bit about my background and how that has influenced my perspective. So I will be talking about what a cosmopolitan ethic is and our understanding of global learning. And I will start by talking a little bit about myself. I am a native of Morocco; I've been an expatriate and the United States for 20 years; I speak Arabic, French, some Spanish, and English. And I view my culture as a hybrid and something dynamic and constantly changing, as well as my identity. I have been teaching intercultural communication and other courses from a global and international perspective for 20 years, and I have recently designed a global and intercultural communication certificate. It's an undergraduate certificate at Slippery Rock University. I have worked as a freelance interpreter, translator, language trainer, and facilitator for many years. I also work with refugees here in Pittsburgh. And I have adopted not consciously but as a way of just circumstances, cosmopolitanism as a way of thinking and living.

Learning outcomes

Dr. Fadoua Loudiy
So the way I came to this is to facilitate a seminar for a learning community at Slippery Rock University. And I'm borrowing here learning outcome for Slippery Rock University about global learning, which is defined as developing a worldview that acknowledges diversity and worldwide interdependence and has three effects. So understanding the importance of diverse experiences, cultures, and identities, understanding how groups and individuals and interaction impact self and society, and then applying multiple perspectives to address local, regional, global and cultural issues. And this is, I want to emphasize that this is not this particular outcome simply to try to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion, and global learning to pay lip service to these issues. Still, it is a necessity in this day and age. And as we have seen with the impact of COVID and the recent war in Ukraine, we have become so interconnected financially, in terms of our cultures in terms of our social media, so the world has really kind of shrunk. And that is emphasized more during times of crisis, like the health crisis that COVID has created worldwide.

Learning objectives

Dr. Fadoua Loudiy
So this particular learning outcome has led to three learning objectives. The first is to expand fields of experience and knowledge to include worlds outside of one's own. It was so discovering new cultures, new ways of being new languages, and new foods, even though we don't think necessarily of food as something that can be learned in educational contexts. But it is.

The second one is committing to learning about the world, the rest of the world, and oneself, which is also very important when we think about global learning.
And the last one is to infuse that knowledge so that knowledge is gained outside and inside of the classroom, but to infuse that knowledge and understanding into the classroom and the pedagogy so that professors and instructors can share that with the student and even frame and develop their pedagogy with these learning objectives in mind.

Approaches to Global learning: Cosmopolitan Education

Dr. Fadoua loudiy
So what I would like to spend a couple of minutes on is this idea of Cosmopolitan education. Because we often hear about globalization and global learning, I take issue with this idea of global learning because it is a concept that has an affinity with globalization. And globalization is a capitalist movement. It is a movement to share products, sell products, and make money out of cultures to make cultures subservient to a capitalist agenda. Whereas cosmopolitanism, as an ideal and as a philosophy, is a perspective that starts with looking at the world as cosmos and as individuals, we are part of all of us, no matter where we are, in terms of our geographic location, Pittsburgh or elsewhere, we are all connected to this hole that is the cosmos. And so, this idea of Cosmopolitan education starts from within. First is this grounding and understanding of one's culture before we can understand other people's cultures.

And one of the kinds of fascinating things that happened in my classroom with my student was when we talked about culture. Their understanding of culture and I think Dr. Georgia did a really wonderful presentation on defining culture, by my students think of culture as something exotic, quote, unquote, it's not something that they have, it's always other. And it's essential to help them define, understand and appreciate their own culture and where they come from because it is hard to try to understand someone else if we don't understand ourselves. And also, this idea of situating ourselves, both in our societies and in our own culture, but also on a global and more significant scale. So it's like the micro and the macro, you know, what's happening locally and globally. And also, with this comes a desire to understand people in Ukraine, people in Afghanistan, and people in Syria, to develop that curiosity that there is shared humanity to all of us, no matter where people live and that this difference that people bring to the table, nurtures our own culture and nurtures our soul.

The fourth aspect is to develop cultural humility because I frequently hear my students say that they think American culture is the best in the world. And that ethnocentric perspective is not unique to Americans or my American students. But it's this understanding that one, it is normal to feel that way about one's culture, especially if the only one that one knows, but also that all cultures feel the same way if you feel unique about your culture, all other cultures, cultures feel the same way.
And the last aspect is to develop this cosmopolitan ethic for global learning. And I have three coordinates I refer to when I think about this cosmopolitan ethic. And it's a bit of a summary of what I just shared. The first one is self-reflection and grounding. And it's this understanding of worth; where are we speaking from? That is so, so important. The second one is the idea of seeking unity. And this goes back to the concept of the cosmos. So the cosmos is this significant entity that is whole, and we're part of that substantial entity. So the recognition that we are part of a whole, and that in our learning about others, we were trying to become whole again, that we're no longer parts but seeking wholeness and unity. And the third one is this a priori recognition of otherness that we're always other to somewhere; we're always strangers to another person or culture. So these are some of my thoughts on cosmopolitan education. Thank you.

Angelika Sharygina
Thank you so much, Dr. Fadoua, because this is an eye-opening experience for many of our audience. You were talking about prioritizing opening up to a global perspective and seeing everyone as a whole. And this is a holistic approach to the current challenge that most universities face. And for our audience in higher education, this is an excellent reminder about the importance of that cultural curiosity, openness, and intuitive acceptance of otherness. And today, we see that humanity has united, and we can see this in many areas of the world. And I believe that what you are saying is happening right now. And thank you so much for the brilliant presentation. Dr. Fadoua, Doctor, Georgia, it's been a great pleasure to talk to you, and it's been a great honor to know you because you are doing some fantastic things to promote unity.
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