This blog post was written by Eric Hartman, PhD, the Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College and the cofounder of globalsl.org
Global Learning and Community-Campus Partnerships: Questions Outstanding or Questions Answered?
- Do students learn on study abroad programs?
- Do students learn through community engagement?
- What do we know about the effects of engaged learning in communities off campus?
- For global learning, must students travel internationally?
- What are the benefits and risks of adding community engagement to study abroad programming?
In a field such as international education, which is touched by all disciplines, it is uniquely difficult to share a clear understanding of seminal works, current questions, and foundational knowledge. This challenge is only confounded when a distinct field such as international education is integrated with another distinct field, such as community-campus engagement, to develop new programming at the intersection of global learning and community-engaged learning. These challenges of shared understanding, as well as the real, documented risks of scattershot international education, volunteerism, service-learning, or community engagement, brought together a coalition of colleges and universities several years ago, which led to the launch of the Global Service-Learning Summit series and globalsl.org.
In the post that follows I work to briefly summarize the streams of research that inform understanding of the questions above (for more information see the GSL Research Wiki). I look forward to continuing to investigate these and similar questions with colleagues at the 5th Global Service-Learning Summit, which will be hosted by the University of Notre Dame from April 15 – 17, 2018.
Do students learn on study abroad programs?
Repeated, diverse studies have indicated that it is not the act of leaving that makes learning likely. Rather, it is the extent to which programming is surrounded by intentional reflective practice tied to targeted learning goals before, during, and after an education abroad experience. For those unfamiliar with this area of literature, I recommend Student Learning Abroad, an edited volume by Vande Berg, Paige, and Hemming Lou that I reviewed here. A strength of that volume is the extent to which it draws on multiple researchers, methods, and data sources to examine and better understand the ways in which program design intentionality yields more or less likely learning outcomes. Because the volume emerges from the study abroad literature, the studies are mostly concerned with intercultural learning, though they dabble in civic learning and critical thinking.
The opposite side of this response – yes, students may learn on study abroad, and are more likely to do so with intentional programming – is the admission that students may not learn meaningfully absent intentional programming. A breadth of studies and thought pieces, including chapters in the book linked above, have also illustrated the extent to which education abroad may reinforce stereotypes and patterns of paternalism (Ogden, 2007), power, and privilege (Zemach-Bersin, 2008). As a general rule, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad is a good, open access, peer-reviewed resource committed to hard-nosed, empirically grounded, rigorous thinking in this space. Anthony Ogden has also recently put together an excellent resource in this area, Foundational Reading for Education Abroad Scholar-Practitioners.
Bottom line: Yes and no, but the research gives us extensive insight regarding the components that make deep learning more likely. There is certainly room to continue to grow regarding the extent to which we are able to isolate specific student population and program component effects.
Do students learn through community engagement?
The community engagement literature is strikingly parallel to the international education literature. In a nutshell, specific, targeted reflective practice tying together text, experience, and course or program reward systems (e.g. what a student gets graded on; how a student demonstrates success) vastly increases the odds that learning will demonstrate enhanced student capacities regarding civic understanding and participation, critical reflection, or intercultural humility and communication capacities. For those unfamiliar with this area of literature, I recommend the IUPUI series on service-learning research, including Research on Student Civic Outcomes, Research on Service-Learning Conceptual Frameworks Volume 2A and Volume 2B, and International Service-Learning.
This response also parallels international education in respect to the opposite side of the equation. The field of community engagement has arguably been more attentive than education abroad in respect to developing studies that consider the downsides of student learning “through exposure” to community members. A seminal work in this area is Stoecker and Tryon’s Unheard Voices, which showed that many community organizations were concerned that underprepared students exhibited racist and paternalistic attitudes during community engagement experiences. The concern is that, rather than developing agents of social change, service-learning programs may amount to nothing more than a “glorified welfare system” (Mitchell, 2008), reinforcing structures of inequality and hierarchy in the process.
Bottom line: Same as above - Yes and no, but the research gives us extensive insight regarding the components that make deep learning more likely. There is certainly room to continue to grow regarding the extent to which we are able to isolate specific student population and program component effects. Models of targeted reflective practice – like Clayton’s DEAL Model (Ash & Clayton, 2009) - make desired learning outcomes more likely.
What do we know about the effects of engaged learning in communities off campus?
For at least a decade and a half, scholars and practitioners have been asserting that there is a dearth of studies regarding the impact of engaged learning in communities off campus. And throughout that time, researchers have been slowly, steadily responding to that challenge. It is clear, as evident in Unheard Voices and in some of the chapters in Larsen’s edited volume International Service-Learning: Engaging Host Communities, that: communities may be specifically harmed by some forms of engaged learning (such as orphanage volunteering or medical volunteering - see Hartman, 2016); communities may be confused by or resentful of the presence of students for various reasons; and that good intentions do not always track on to any meaningful outcomes. However, several studies indicate positive effects of various forms, including specific project outcomes, but also diffusion of rights norms, development of civil society networks, and the opportunity to co-educate the next generation of individuals committed to more just, inclusive, and sustainable communities. A repeated point of confusion among individuals who critique all engaged learning out of hand is the question of what counts as outcomes (Pillard Reynolds, 2014). Numerous studies have demonstrated that community partner organizations approach partnership in ways that are savvy and thoughtful, seeking the kinds of outcomes that interest them the most. These outcomes of interest may include educating students and sharing in cultural exchange. Much of this research is summarized in the following video below.
Once again, intentionality is vital, and shared intentionality is particularly important here. Numerous frameworks have developed to support community and campus stakeholders in efforts to develop shared meaning, process, and understanding of success, to troubleshoot repeated areas of challenge and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for all stakeholders. One such framework is Fair Trade Learning (see Campus Compact, nd). A key component of mutually beneficial partnership that is often understated is time. Partnerships that include sufficient effort to achieve mutual understanding often reflect several years of relationship development.
Bottom line: Engaged learning can have clear positive effects, but numerous instances of clear harm have resulted from the good intentions of students and faculty. Co-development of partnerships over time, drawing on resources developed through years of practice and research, increase the likelihood of avoiding harm.
For global learning, must students travel internationally?
No. There are many different conceptions of global learning, but Campus Compact (2012), NAFSA and AAC&U (Hovland, 2014) have all indicated global learning advances intercultural capacities, civic capacities, and critical reflection capacities. A wonderful collection of theoretically grounded program examples of domestic global learning is available in Sobania’s edited volume, Putting the Local in Global Education.
One variable in this discussion that remains under-examined is the variable of “immersion”. That is, education abroad programs immerse students in an unfamiliar culture for an extended period of time. The examples in Sobania’s collection also immerse students – day, night, class time, and in between – in another cultural context, though still in the United States. Other evidence suggests that students may develop intercultural capacities through deliberately structured intercultural learning dialogue on campus (Aichele, 2016), or through intentional engagement across cultures close to campus, in programming that is not immersive.
Bottom line: Students may clearly make statistically significant and meaningful progress on measures of global learning such as intercultural capacities, civic capacities, and critical reflection capacities through domestic global learning. Yet many program factors, such as immersion, remain under-examined in the research literature. A network of colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations is participating in a multi-institutional research initiative designed to make further progress on these questions through the Global Engagement Survey (see the report on Assessing Global Learning).
What are the benefits and risks of adding community engagement to study abroad programming?
In this post I have largely avoided key questions of purpose – WHY do we do it? – and attempted to answer the question of what we know. However, responding here requires a brief dance into questions of motivation and core values. International education has always held within it a significant community of educators who believe its purpose is the promotion of intercultural understanding and, ultimately, peace. This conception, suggesting we need international education because it will help achieve peace through pieces, connects with a sense of global citizenship tied to notions of shared human dignity and the aspiration of shared peace.
As Chickering and Braskamp (2009) have identified, it is possible to develop intercultural communication capacities without making progress on sense of global civic capacity or social responsibility. In their research and in the Global Engagement Survey, the data suggests that adding deliberate community engagement to international education programming increases the likelihood that student learning will include increasing depth of thinking and commitment to global citizenship goals tied to those lofty conceptions of shared community and peacemaking.
Bottom line: Deliberate, structured learning relating to community engagement, social responsibility, and social justice is more likely to develop student learning consistent with the aspirations of a robust form of global citizenship. When this is done well, as indicated above, community members and organizations recognize shared benefit through such engagement.
In Sum: Intentionality is vital in pedagogy and partnerships, increasing the likelihood of intercultural learning, global citizenship development, and positive outcomes for host community members. At globalsl.org we have collected hundreds of open-access, peer-reviewed resources, teaching tools, and syllabi supporting deeper understanding and intentionality across this work. It is absolutely not safe to assume that all forms of global, community-engaged learning contribute to global citizenship or community development outcomes.
- Campus Compact. 2016. globalsl.org. Link
- globalsl.org. nd. Global Service-Learning (GSL) Research Wiki. Link
- Campus Compact. 2017. Global Service-Learning Summit 5: Dignity & Justice in Global Service Learning. 14-17 April 2018, South Bend, IN. Link
- Vande Berg, Michael, R. Michael Paige, and Kris Hemming Lou. eds. 2012. Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Link
- Hartman, Eric. 2013. Student learning abroad [Book review]. globalsl.org. Link
- Ogden, Anthony. 2007. The view from the veranda: Understanding today’s colonial student. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 15, 35-55. Link
- Zemach-Bersin, Talya. 2008. American students abroad can’t be ‘global citizens’. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Commentary, 7 March 2008. Link
- The Forum on Education Abroad. 2015. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. Carlisle, PA: Dickinson College. Link
- Ogden, Anthony C. 2017. Foundational reading for education abroad scholar-practitioners. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University. Link
- Hatcher, Julie A., Robert G. Bringle, and Thomas W. Hahn. eds. 2016. Research on student civic outcomes in service learning: Conceptual frameworks and methods. IUPUI Series on Service Learning Research. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Link
- Clayton, Patti H., Robert G. Bringle, and Julie A. Hatcher. eds. 2012a. Research on service learning: Conceptual frameworks and assessments. Volume 2A: Students and faculty. IUPUI Series on Service Learning Research. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Link
- Clayton, Patti H., Robert G. Bringle, and Julie A. Hatcher. eds. 2012b. Research on service learning: Conceptual frameworks and assessments. Volume 2B: Communities, institutions and partnerships. IUPUI Series on Service Learning Research. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Link
- Bringle, Robert G., Julie A. Hatcher, and Steven G. Jones. eds. 2010. International service learning: Conceptual frameworks and research. IUPUI Series on Service Learning Research. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Link
- Stoecker, Randy, and Elizabeth A. Tryon. eds. 2009. The unheard voices: Community organizations and service learning. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University. Link
- Mitchell, Tania D. 2008. Traditional vs. critical service-learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(2), 50-65. Link
- Ash, Sarah L., and Patti H. Clayton. 2009. Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, 1, 25-48. Link
- Larsen, Marianne. ed. 2015. International service learning: Engaging host communities. Routledge Research in International and Comparative Education. New York: Routledge. Link
- Hartman, Eric. 2016. Malia, the rise of the gap year, and ethical international engagement. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 12 May 2016. Link
- Pillard Reynolds, Nora. 2014. What counts as outcomes? Community perspectives of an engineering partnership. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 21(1), 79-90. Link
- globalsl.org. 2015. Research insights for best practice international volunteering. [web video]. Link
- Campus Compact. nd. Fair trade learning: Summary & key documents. Global SL Blog. Link
- Campus Compact. 2012. A praxis brief: Campus Compact’s response to “A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future.” Boston, MA: Campus Compact. Link
- Hovland, Kevin. 2014. Global learning: Defining, designing, demonstrating. Washington, DC: NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Link
- Sobania, Neal W. ed. 2015. Putting the local in global education: Models for transformative learning through domestic off-campus programs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Link
- Aichele, Anne. 2016. Campus dialogues: Creating a culture of civility. NASPA blog, 15 November 2016. Link
- Campus Compact. 2016. Assessing global learning. Global SL Blog. Link
- Chickering, Art, and Larry A. Braskamp. 2009. Developing a global perspective for personal and social responsibility. AAC&U Peer Review, 11(4). Link