The transformative potential of international service-learning at a university with a Christian foundation in the UK

Bamber, Phil


Volume Issue Pages DOI / ISBN / ISSN
32 3 343-357 DOI: 10.1080/13617672.2011.627700


Language Country
English United Kingdom


This article draws upon the findings of a study at Liverpool Hope University (LHU) into the transformative nature of International Service-Learning (ISL) experiences for student participants. This research is concerned with the implications of these findings for professional practice, in particular how ISL is constructed in Higher Education policy and practice. Recognising the problematic nature of this endeavor, this article responds to a call for discussion around pedagogical approaches underpinning counter-cultural and critical service programmes aligned with the radical principles of the Catholic social teaching. This study is grounded in a holistic conceptualisation of transformative learning that demands looking beyond an epistemological process that involves shifts in worldview and habits of mind to an ontological process that accounts for changes to our being in the world. It investigated how LHU students describe their ongoing experience of ISL and explored the conditions for learning and the associated transformative processes and outcomes in this context. Data analysis involved phenomenological description, constant comparative thematic analysis followed by a critical, hermeneutical analysis. This article will explicate the themes of moral and spiritual learning that emerged as part of a broader framework. In particular, it was found that the development of authentic relationships between travelling companions, accompanying tutors and partners overseas is central to learning that is reciprocated and provides a model of the transformative process in this context. This article concludes that this presents a pedagogical approach grounded in social justice that enables ISL to reach its transformative potential.


transformative learning; Christian; higher education; moral education international volunteering; social justice

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