Most educators know that student success depends on much more than fact recall and content knowledge.
It is for this reason that many schools are always looking for new ways to expand on extra-curricular activities like excursions and exchange programs that build critical life skills.
One program helping do this is Rustic Pathways, which established in Australia 1983 by an American entrepreneur who began bringing US students on 8-week tours across the Outback.
This year, Rustic will have approximately 12,000 students travelling globally with around 1,000 young Australians. The programs cover 19 countries, where students can get involved in programs covering community service projects, education and global studies, cultural immersion/exchange and adventure/challenge.
Sam Murray, Rustic Pathways’ Australia country director, said while the program offers a wide range of 'off-the-shelf' programs, its speciality is creating bespoke programs for schools to extend students’ learning into the world.
“Our team works closely with educators to co-design innovative programs that achieve desired learning outcomes,” Murray told The Educator.
“The program design process involves consultations with our team in Australia, our Director of Student Impact, our Director of Community Impact and our team of international Country Directors.”
Rustic has identified 10 key student learning outcomes around which it designs its programs to enable students to achieve personal growth and have a positive impact on the world.
They include openness to new ideas and experiences; a sense of wonderment; a belief that all people are connected by a shared humanity; a desire to positively impact the lives of others; empathy; self-awareness; humility; grit; independence and intercultural competence
In 2016, in partnership with two PhD students from Penn State University, Rustic began measuring the growth its students’ experiences in these learning outcomes as a result of participating in Rustic Pathways programs.
“To understand our impact on students, we use surveys, interviews with students and their parents, and reports from our trip leaders to determine whether they experienced growth as a result of our programs,” Murray explained.
“Measuring our impact on students allows us to constantly improve our program design and execution to best deliver meaningful and lasting learning experiences.”
Murray said the company has seen a strong correlation between student satisfaction in its programs and growth across all learning outcomes.
“We evaluated how often students felt they embraced behaviours associated with our Student Learning Outcomes on a scale from one to six,” Murray said.
“Ninety-eight percent of students experienced growth in at least one of our student learning outcomes after participating in a Rustic Pathways program in 2017.”