International Service Learning: Catalyst for transformation in language learner identity?
Keywords:International Service Learning, Language Learning, Learner Identity, Transformative Learning
An ever increasing number of North American universities offer International Service Learning (ISL) programs to meet the interests of civic minded students hoping to gain international experience and develop cultural awareness while, at the same time, “making a difference” to a community in need. While there is an abundance of anecdotal accounts to support the claims that combining study abroad experiences with service-learning pedagogy has great transformative learning potential, there is a lack of reliable evidence (Grusky, 2000). This paper will present the theoretical framework of the author’s doctoral research; a qualitative study exploring the link between cultural sensitivity and student investment in language acquisition by following Spanish language learners participating in a short term international service learning program. I focus on the transformation (Kiely, 2004) in students’ cultural sensitivity due to the interactions with host communities during the “service” portion of the ISL component and how this cultural awakening in turn transforms the students’ social identities and their investment in acquiring the target language (Norton, 1995).
Grusky, S. (2000). International service learning: A critical guide from an impassioned advocate. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(5), 858-867.
Kiely, R. (2004). A Chameleon with a complex: Searching for transformation in international service-learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 10(2), 5-20.
Norton Peirce, B. (1995). Social identity, investment, and language learning. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1), 9-31.
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