“Those lessons learned went right out the window once I was atop the soil where it all happened”: Transformative Learning in a Study Abroad Course


  • Michelle Jarman University of Wyoming
  • Mary Burman University of Wyoming
  • Mary Anne Purtzer University of Wyoming
  • Katie Miller University of Wyoming




Study abroad, transformative learning, place as text, embodied learning, qualitative descriptive


This project investigated the learning process and outcomes of a study abroad course in England and France that focused on dramatic social shifts in the world war eras. Well-established adult learning theories provided the course framework, and this study examines the characteristics and elements contributing to transformative learning. Eleven undergraduate students participated in this descriptive qualitative study. Three themes emerged from the research: students experienced a journey of intense emotion (Theme I) and meaning making (Theme II) sparking profound developmental changes (Theme III). Learning involved the whole body with students referring to visceral sensations stimulated by specific places visited during the course. Subsequent disorientation triggered the transformative learning process. Dialogue, journaling, and follow-up projects led to critical self-reflection whereby students questioned their perspectives and self-concepts. Post-travel focus groups revealed the impact of the course on validation and/or revision of student perspectives which led to informed decisions and actions. These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in transformative learning, especially through place-based and embodied learning practices. Implications include embracing holistic learning, fostering awareness of the learning environment including historical context, developing authentic relationships, and role-modeling critical thought and reflection.


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Author Biographies

Michelle Jarman, University of Wyoming

Michelle Jarman is Associate Professor of Disability Studies at the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) at the University of Wyoming where she directs the undergraduate minor in disability studies. Her broad research interests focus upon intersecting literary cultural representations of disability, gender, and ethnicity, as well as inclusive pedagogy. She is co-editor of Barriers and Belonging: Narratives of Disability, published in 2017 by Temple University Press, and her work has been published in literary and disability studies journals and anthologies.

Mary Burman, University of Wyoming

Mary Burman is an Emeritus Professor of Nursing, Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, University of Wyoming. She was Dean of the School for 11 years and taught undergraduate and graduate nursing courses. Her scholarship has focused on nursing education, rural health and health care, and advanced practice nursing.

Mary Anne Purtzer, University of Wyoming

Mary Anne Purtzer is an Emeritus Associate Professor of Nursing. She was Associate Dean and Director of the Master of Science nurse educator and nurse leader concentrations at the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, University of Wyoming. Her clinical passion is public health nursing and partnerships with underserved and vulnerable populations. The focus of her teaching and research is to foster personal growth and enhance decision-making through a transformative learning and leading process.

Katie Miller, University of Wyoming

Katie Miller is an adjunct instructor of nursing at Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, University of Wyoming. She teaches community and public health nursing courses at the undergraduate level. Her scholarship focuses on nursing education, global health, sustainable partnerships, and vulnerable populations.


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How to Cite

Jarman, M., Burman, M., Purtzer, M. A., & Miller, K. (2022). “Those lessons learned went right out the window once I was atop the soil where it all happened”: Transformative Learning in a Study Abroad Course. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 34(4), 26–52. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v34i4.546



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