Thursday, July 30, 2015


Examining the Meaning of “Transformational” in International Service Learning

Susan Blackwell, Assistant Professor Teacher Education, University of Indianapolis
Theory and Insights  International service-learning experiences for students and faculty often generate deeply felt emotional and intellectual changes.  Students’ worldviews are often altered politically, morally, personally and/or culturally.  Two students’ will share their self-perceptions of their changed worldviews as a result of their participation in an international service-learning course that took them to Belize, Central America.  Participants will also engage in discussion regarding the term “transformational” as it applies to students and faculty traveling to developing countries.

Presentation Details:
The session will begin with a short presentation on the concept of “transformational” as it relates to profound experiential learning. Participants will receive a handout with the presentation slides from the faculty member and students’ presentations as well as a bibliography.  

Part 1

  • The role of the instructor in preparing students for international service-learning trips that challenge students’ belief systems (Eyler and Giles, 1999)
  • Short-term vs. long-term effects on students and what we know from current literature (Kiely, 2004)  
  • Defining the term “transformational” (Mezirow’s transformational learning theory, 2000))  
  • Background on the service-learning trip to San Ignacio, BZ, CA    

Part 2  

Two students will then each present the impact of the trip on their worldviews and career goals, using their journal notes as well as comments from other student participants to show the variety of learning across the spectrum of students who made the trip.    

Part 3

The large group will be broken into three small groups, facilitated by a student or the faculty member for small group discussion.  The questions to be used are the following:  

  • What have been your international service-learning experiences with short-term or long-term changes morally, politically, personally, or culturally (for yourself or students)?  
  • What kind of “transformation” should be the goal for international service-learning trips?    

Wrap-Up The small groups will reconvene to share observations based on discussion and prior experiences.    

Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will increase their knowledge of students’ transformative perspectives regarding an international service learning experience.
  • Participants will increase their knowledge about the impact of transformation in an international service learning teaching model
  • Participants will gain a deeper understanding of why the term “transformational” can be problematic

Intended Audience: Higher Ed Faculty Across All Disciplines Interested in the Effects ofInternational Service-Learning

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Indiana Campus Compact is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for significant funding in support of programs, training,and resources for our member campuses that allow them to deepen their commitment to community engagement and service-learning.