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Transformative learning through service‐learning: no passport required

Phil Bamber (Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK)
Les Hankin (Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 15 March 2011




This paper aims to explore student learning within a local service‐learning initiative that forms part of an Education Studies undergraduate programme at an HEI in the UK with a history of international service‐learning programmes.


This paper outlines the context for this form of community engagement in the UK and reflects on the experiences of student participants and the nature of their learning. Ethnographic research into the student experience of international service‐learning (ISL) provides a useful framework for this study.


This research draws on transformational learning theory to describe how students experience a shifting of their world‐view through service‐learning locally. It reveals that challenges to stereotypes and personal values, as well as other previously accepted presuppositions, in a domestic context, are not dissimilar from those experienced by students involved in international service‐learning initiatives.

Research limitations/implications

The framework presented here is used to explore the dynamic relationship between local and international volunteering and student learning. This particular case study has the potential to add to our understanding of critical pedagogy theory in practice.


This article presents evidence of the complexity of identifying transformative learning. In order to elevate the outcomes of service‐learning towards their transformative potential, the opportunities for learning that are afforded by such ventures must be pursued with vigour. The authors advocate a model of community engagement that embeds local service‐learning within the curriculum.



Bamber, P. and Hankin, L. (2011), "Transformative learning through service‐learning: no passport required", Education + Training, Vol. 53 No. 2/3, pp. 190-206.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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