Does it need to change their life? Towards a better understanding of “transformative” learning in field based courses
I recently had the pleasure of being at a workshop at my alma mater, George Mason. The organizers brought together a group of us focused on field-based experiential courses. I was asked to share about my own leadership of my program’s field based peace building course to Morocco. My colleagues there significantly improved my thinking especially as regards to the idea of “being transformed” by these courses, something we as faculty and students involved in field-based courses often talk about. What does it mean to be transformed? Is this a reasonable expectation for a 10-16 week course, with perhaps 2-3 weeks in the field? Is "transformation" necessary pedagogically for such courses to be worthwhile learning and professional development? Why do we assume they as students require “transforming”?
I was inspired to sharpen my own thinking on what it means to “be transformed” by these sorts of courses. Here are a few specifications. I hope the field immersion component (FIC) in my field-based, experiential peace building courses will cause the student to
1. Think about the host country differently, especially with respect to destabilizing simplistic, sometimes even neocolonialist perceptions of the host country
2. Think differently about him or herself, especially with respect to that classic unpacking of one’s privilege
3. Think differently about the field of peace building,
a. to have their view of the field broadened beyond negotiation and mediation
b. to question much more rigorously and deeply what ethical practice in the field really means.
Is this transformative? Will it alter the course of a student’s life? There is scant data out there to say—but if a field-based course of mine can accomplish the three learning goals above, I will certainly call that a good day at (or nowhere near) the office.
|Mosque in Fes|