Our Transformative Learning Journeys
At EDU Africa, we see every journey with us to Africa as an opportunity for students to learn and transform.
Our founders experienced transformation first-hand during their travels through Africa nearly 20 years ago and wanted to help others have similar experiences. That’s where EDU Africa’s vision for student transformation through journeys in Africa started. We’ve worked hard to figure out what transformation (which can be subjective and elusive) looks like on our programs; what we can do to encourage it; and how we can go about measuring it.
We are committed to ensuring our Faculty-led, Virtual Exchange, School, and Study Abroad programs are meaningful, impactful, and most importantly, educational for the students who journey with us, and our Transformative Learning Journey approach reflects this commitment.
So, what is transformation?
Transformation for EDU Africa, simply put, is a deepening of perspective that can result from venturing outside of one’s comfort zone (whether in-country or virtually). Jack Mezirow, a well-known theorist on transformative adult learning, argues that a “disorienting dilemma” – that is, an experience that does not currently fit into a person’s views on the world – is needed to cause people to reconsider their worldviews, and meaningfully transform.1 We believe that, for many students, our programs provide the catalyst(s) to do so.
We see transformation as a holistic process that is achieved when we mark movement (whether growth or regression) across our goal areas.
For higher education programs, these are Intercultural Competence, Global Citizenship, Personal Growth, Intellectual Growth, and Professional Development. We chose these goals in particular (you can read more about the meaning of each one by clicking on its name above) because they reflect the multifaceted changes we have already seen in students (the ways they have grown on past journeys), as well as the far-reaching aspirations of our programming (ways we want to support students and see them grow in the future).
For school programs, our goals are slightly different. We chose Leadership and Collaboration in place of Professional Development and Intellectual Growth as we felt these were more relevant to school students.
How do we encourage transformation?
Transformation is not a happenstance process; we are very intentional about encouraging it through every phase of our programs. This intentionality is woven into four major phases of our Transformative Learning Journey as explained below.
Program Development: Each of our programs is constructed with learning outcomes that are informed by our transformation goals. We work collaboratively with educators and use our goals to complement the learning objectives we are given. These learning outcomes are then carefully outworked in the daily program to ensure all outcomes are met. It is also worth mentioning that the types of activities we include in the daily program are dictated by our transformation goals. Furthermore, our program designs prioritize reflection sessions by formalizing them throughout the program, thereby earmarking space for critical self-evaluation and perspective-probing with the students. Critical reflection is a key requirement for transformation to occur.
Program Preparation: Once a program is set to run, we send students pre-departure material outlining all the information they need to participate in the program, including level-appropriate outlines of our Transformation Goals. There is also an opportunity to do this in a virtual session if a group is willing. Additionally, we will often send students a pre-departure questionnaire to get to know them better, assess the frame of reference they will be traveling with, and better prepare for reflection sessions.
Program Implementation: Throughout the program, students will be joined by an experienced program facilitator who is able to host both formal and informal reflection sessions. The facilitator will be present at all stages of the program, and as such will be a primary encourager of student transformation during program implementation. The facilitator will be aware of the learning outcomes to be achieved in the program and will curate reflection questions and activities based on these outcomes.
Re-Entry: Higher education students will be encouraged to sign up for our re-entry program. This consists of three emails that we send out at different times over the three months following their program. The emails are aimed at helping students process their journey and continue to reflect, thereby continuing the process of transformation. We can also host a post-program reflection session to discuss the re-entry process and transformation results.
How do we measure transformation?
In order to demonstrate (to our students, our clients, and ourselves) that growth indeed happens during our programs, we designed questionnaires that are administered to students at different stages of their programs as appropriate. The questionnaires cover questions relating to our transformation goals and also include space for level-appropriate open reflection to help us interpret the results. We calculate the data from these self-assessments once a program has run and share graphical representations and insights of the results with the faculty leader (in the case of faculty-led), teacher (for school students), or directly with students, in the case of our individual programs.
Our Transformative Learning Journeys might be short-term, but we do believe that the transformation process is not. After participating in our programs, our sincere hope is that students will continue to transform and, ultimately, become global agents of the change they experience. The world could really do with some change agents right about now!