Around the Field: Useful Resource Complements Upcoming 2020 Forum Conference Theme

By Dane S. Claussen, Ph.D., MBA
Manager of University Relations
Athena Study Abroad


As study abroad professionals start thinking about and preparing for the Forum on Education Abroad conference in Kansas City in March 2020, the theme of which is “Education Abroad at a Crossroads: Actions for a Sustainable Future,” a recent book may be helpful and inspirational.

Community-Based Global Learning: The Theory and Practice of Ethical Engagement at Home and Abroad, by Eric Hartman, Richard Kiely, Christopher Boettcher, and Jessica Friedrichs (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2018) is a comprehensive guide to ethical and educational community-based global learning.

As the Forum’s theme description reads, “education abroad impacts much more than the participants: home and host communities and institutions, local economies, partners, faculty and program leaders, and the environment all feel the effects of our growing global industry.” The Forum further describes the 2020 conference theme with several questions:

  • How do we ensure that we are honoring the communities in which we are operating over time?
  • How do we value reciprocity and build sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships?
  • How do we sustain the deep and emotional impact of the experience on students in order to enact positive change on their home campuses and communities?”

The book, Community-Based Global Learning, was already a primary resource for the University of Dayton’s First Midwest Institute on Ethical Community-University Partnerships in May 2019, where its first co-author, Eric Hartman of Haverford College, was one of the primary speakers and discussion leaders. (More information on the Dayton conference). In fact, the Institute was co-organized by the University of Dayton, Hartman and Nora Reynolds (also of Haverford). Among many other topics, community-university partnerships and study abroad were discussed in the context of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The book, starts with a brief Foreword and a lengthy, tone-setting Introduction, which makes it clear the book is about best practices (and philosophy thereof) without being unaware of problematic global learning. For instance, the Introduction states (citations omitted here), “International education, volunteerism, service-learning, and CBGL programs are robust with potential. They can positively affect communities, achieve broad community support for partnerships, grow civil society networks and advance human rights norms, and have a transformative effects for students who become more globally aware and more engage in global civil society. Yet they are also packed with peril.  Some efforts to engage in GSL—or at least international volunteering—have been reckless, harmful, and rightly criticized.” This last sentence is followed by citations of articles that have documented such instances, and a couple of pages later, by a section, “Real risks: Cementing stereotypes and harming vulnerable populations.”

Chapter 1, “Defining Community-Based Global Learning,” grapples with various definitions and presents one agreed upon by the authors. They argue that components of community-based global learning are: community-driven learning/service; development of intercultural learning and cultural diversity; seeking global citizenship; critically reflective practice; interrogating power, privilege and positionality; deliberate and demonstrable learning; and health and safety. The remainder of the book fleshes out each and all of these. The first chapter also compares and contrasts international education, civic engagement, and critical global citizenship.

Chapter 2, “Seeking Global Citizenship,” explains “diverse rationales” for it: secular essentialism (example: UN Declaration of Human Rights); faith-based essentialism (ex. World Vision); utilitarianism; Kantian categorical imperatives; particularistic approaches (self-interested or group-centric); skeptical postmodernism (global thinking/ethics are impossible, but communities can still cooperate); and affirmative postmodernism and critical traditions (local experiences/expertise can inform global human rights). These are not all mutually exclusive and the authors say their definition of global citizenship “draws on several of these strands and our own experiences in university-community engagement around the world.”

Chapter 3, “Advancing Reflection and Critical Reflection,” is a detailed argument for doing critical reflection on global learning and an extensive guide about how to do it. (As in all other chapters, key useful information is summarized in tables that the authors call “toolboxes.”)

Chapter 4, “Power, Self as a Cultural Being, Cultural Humility,” is a deep dive into intercultural learning, intercultural competence, the self’s identity, rigorously analyzing power relationships, what connecting is, learning outside one’s comfort zone, and connecting all of this to disciplinary goals.

Chapter 5, “Community-Driven Partnerships,” explores the concepts of community, charity, projects, social change, community development (Korten’s “Four Generations of Development Thinking”), community engagement, collaboration, commitment, economic inequities, and describes Fair Trade Learning. Toolbox 5.3, “Twelve Queries for All Partnership Stakeholders Advancing Ethical Global Learning or FTL,” includes, for example, “Do stakeholders, including several and diverse community members, agree on long-term mutuality of goals and aspirations?” and “Do all stakeholders have access to information regarding financial commitments and disbursements that support the partnership, along with opportunities to openly and critically discuss those commitments with the other stakeholders?”

Chapters 6 and 7 are immersive community-based global learning, including short-term programs. “Factors” are location, time frame, type of course/program, type/purpose of partnership, level of immersion, and critically reflective experiential learning, and Toolbox 6.6 presents long lists of stakeholders and allies at education institutions, off-campus partners, and “supraorganizations” (U.S. State Department, foundations, accreditors, etc.). Toolbox 6.1 explains the benefits of universities working with third-party providers. Chapter 6 also includes steps for program evaluation.

Chapter 7 covers planning for community-based global learning, Chapter 8 covers “Staying Safe, Healthy, and Happy,”and Chapter 9, “The Journey Continues,” describes communicating learning (including in public presentations), learning more as follow-up to the global learning experience, and examples of what universities are doing (or could do) to facilitate and encourage all of this.

The book is available at various online and retail outlets.

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