“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
Keywords: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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