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Impacts of service learning on tourism students’ sustainability competencies in conflict-affected Bamyan, Afghanistan

Kelly Franklin (Department of Geography, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA and Writing and Public Speaking Center, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA)
Sarah J. Halvorson (Department of Geography, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA)
Fletcher Brown (Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA and Environmental Studies Program, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 9 February 2023

Issue publication date: 26 June 2023

179

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate the impacts of service learning (SL) on teaching sustainability competencies in an undergraduate tourism program at Bamyan University, Afghanistan. This study reports on tourism students’ experiences in the SL course which taught five key sustainability competencies (collaboration, values thinking, action-oriented, systems thinking and integrated problem-solving).

Design/methodology/approach

This paper assessed students’ perceptions of their sustainability competencies gained during the implementation of the course in 2016 and 2017 through focus groups, reflective essays and participant observation.

Findings

The results demonstrate how the SL experience led students to self-discovery, strong conceptualizations of sustainability and working relationships with community stakeholders.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to assess the impacts of a SL course in Afghanistan. The analysis provides valuable information for developing effective higher education programs, relationships of trust between students and community stakeholders and the empowerment of students to contribute to local solutions which serve a role in stabilization efforts in conflict-affected contexts.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the field assistance and translator support of Fatima Ahmadi, Jawad Mosavi and Rauf Rahimi. The authors acknowledge the valuable guidance and feedback made by Dr Gretchen McCaffrey and Dr Catherine Filardi. The authors appreciate the logistical support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the suggestions by the faculty of the Department of Tourism, Bamyan University during the planning and development of this research. Gratitude is expressed to the University of Montana’s Department of Geography and Systems Ecology Graduate Program.

Citation

Franklin, K., Halvorson, S.J. and Brown, F. (2023), "Impacts of service learning on tourism students’ sustainability competencies in conflict-affected Bamyan, Afghanistan", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 1328-1346. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-04-2022-0112

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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