College students' transformative learning: an ethnographic case study of an alternative break program to Kenya

Gardenier, Karen, author
Makela, Carole, advisor
Jennings, Louise, committee member
Bruyere, Brett, committee member
Aoki, Eric, committee member
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This study describes the processes and forms of college students' learning resulting from a non-credit-bearing, two week alternative break program to Kenya that took place December 2012 - January 2013. It is necessary to understand students' learning on short-term education abroad programs because of three national trends: 1) growing study abroad offerings of eight weeks or less, 2) increased popularity of programs to non-traditional locations, and 3) desire among universities, employers, and legislators to create globally engaged graduates. This exploratory study uses interviews, focus groups, and participant observation in an ethnographic case study design. Fourteen students, two group leaders, eight host community members, and the researcher participated in the study. Mezirow's transformative learning theory provides the theoretical lens through which research questions, observations, and conclusions are formulated and drawn. Research is presented in three journal articles bracketed by an introduction and conclusion. The introductory chapter describes the research purpose, questions, significance, theoretical perspective, delimitations, and the researcher's perspective. Chapter two seeks to uncover how students learn. Findings discuss five processes of student transformative learning, namely 1) learning as a journey, 2) experiencing discomfort, 3) reflecting and relating to one another, 4) building relationships with the community, and 5) receiving support from group leaders. Chapter three examines the forms, or outcomes, of student learning. It demonstrates that affective, behavioral, and cognitive forms of learning are possible and offers guidelines for practitioners who lead and administer short-term education abroad programs. It also explores students' reentry challenges. Chapter four recounts in-depth stories of two students as they recall the multiple ways the 2011-2012 program to Kenya impacted their actions, thoughts, and emotions and how it prompted them to return one year later. It pays particular attention to the ways students engaged in reflection and reframing. The final chapter provides linkage among chapters and results for the study as a whole. This study concludes that dialog, reflection, individualization of experiences, and relationship-building are essential to students' learning during and after an international experience.
2014 Fall.
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education abroad
academic exchange
international exchange
multicultural education
study abroad
transformative learning
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