(CS EdX Sessions) Bond, J & Thwaites, R

Title: Global Citizenship: Exploring transformational learning in international trips within the School of Environmental Sciences

Presenter: Bond, J & Thwaites,R

School of Environmental Sciences &Institute for Land, Water & Society

Session Type: Paper Presentation

When: Thursday 19th November 2020, 11.30 am to 12.30pm


Abstract: This project addresses the strategic priority of Graduate Learning Outcomes (GLO). The research adopts a qualitative approach to investigate how successful the School of Environmental Sciences (SES) is in contributing to transformative learning for students participating in our four international experience programs. This is of direct need for the university as the strategy (2017-2022) has highlighted Teaching Quality and Distinctiveness as a key pathway for transforming teaching and learning and developing graduates who are self-aware and change agents within their communities. These attributes of graduates form part of the GLOs, particularly the Global Citizenship GLO. However, the international literature stresses that appropriate curriculum design and active scaffolding are necessary for students undertaking international experiences, to challenge students to examine their preconceptions of diversity and cultural competence rather than reinforce existing negative stereotypes (Nairn 2005).

We undertook in-depth qualitative interviews with students who participated in an international program delivered through the School of Environmental Sciences to Bhutan, Nepal or Cambodia. We drew on the theoretical frameworks of transformational learning, learning which “transforms problematic frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, reflective, open and emotionally able to change” (Mezirow 2009, p.22), and critical incident technique (Butterfield et. al 2005). This analytical perspective allowed for the exploration of students’ individual experience, critical reflection, holistic orientation, awareness of context and thinking on future practice regarding their own personal transformation and ideas of social change (Taylor 2009).

Findings show that students have largely gained self-awareness and insight into other cultures through the SES international trips. This self-awareness is evident in their thinking but further exploration is required to explore whether this translates into behaviour change. Further, COVID-19 has restricted international travel for most people in the world and highlights the need to develop curriculum to meet the Global Citizenship GLO through pathways alternative to international travel. In our discussion we explore how the disruptive process (Salter et al., 2016) or ‘pedagogy of discomfort’ (Boler 1999) which underpins the process of becoming a Global Citizen can be achieved through different teaching activities.


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Mezirow, J. (2009). Transformative learning theory. In J. Mezirow & E. W. Taylor (Eds.), Transformative Learning in Practice: Insights from Community, Workplace, and Higher Education (pp. 18-31). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Nairn, K. (2005). The problems of utilizing ‘direct experience’ in geography education. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29(2), 293-309.

Salter, P., Halbert, K., & Howard, E. (2016). Teacher education for sustainable futures. In K. Halbert, P. Salter, & M. Singh (Eds.), Local Global Citizenship in Higher Education: A framework and case studies for curriculum development (pp. 12). Retrieved from: https://www.jcu.edu.au/data/assets/pdf_file/0003/374934/LGL-eBook.pdf

Taylor, E. W. (2009). Fostering Transformative Learning. In J. Mezirow & E. W. Taylor (Eds.), Transformative learning in practice: Insights from community, workplace, and higher education (pp. 3-17). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.