Liminal experience in international education : a study of experimental programming in a United World College
This thesis is a qualitative exploration of student experience with the international education offered at one often United World Colleges (UWC). The UWCs are a group of ideology-driven international schools (Matthews, 1989) offering a two-year residential International Baccalaureate Diploma program to students from over one hundred different countries. The focus of this study is a ten-day program which allows groups of students to participate in service or project based learning while backpacking through India. It explores student perspectives of international education, curriculum, the UWC movement and experiences with this 'project week'. It addresses the lack of research outside of formal learning situations in ideology-driven international education and explores the space between cultures in which international students are said to become suited for life in a global society (Bowman, 2001). The research sought insight into the place of project week in the broader experience of international education at a UWC through students' perceptions, accounts of lived experience, opinions and perspectives (Deegan and Hill, 1991). Instruments consisted of informal observations and semi-structured open-ended interviews with teachers and students as well as a journal based method which was discounted due to a low response rate. The study calls on literature addressing people who have spent their developmental years in culture(s) other than their own. These are discussed as 'third culture kids' (TCKs), 'mobile adolescents', 'global nomads' or 'international students'. Theories used to help understand these experiences include Simmel's 'stranger' (1950, c.1908) or socio-cultural outsider; Van Gennep's rites of passage (1960, c.1908); Turner's (1967) theory of luminal space; and Erikson (1968) and Marcia's (1980) theories of development and social moratoria. Following the suggestion that adolescence and globally mobile experiences are essentially liminal (Schaetti, 1999; Schaetti & Ramsey, 1999) the discussion frames UWC students as liminaries in anti-structural space. Theories of experiential education (Dewey, 1938; Kolb, 1984; Itin, 1999) are used to guide the enquiry into the pedagogy of the project week program. Results are suggestive of the UWC experience as one of liminality typified by the potential for creative adaptation - similar to that of the TCK - and having potential advantages if it can be oriented towards liminality itself or grounded in the local context by way of programs such as project week. Further research would be required to make substantive claims and generalized conclusions; however the study flags areas for such inquiry which should take a longitudinal qualitative approach.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsinternational education; study abroad; international exchanges; international students; third culture kids; mobile adolescents; global nomads; stranger; social moratoria; United World College; ideology-driven international schools; International Baccalaureate; rites of passage; liminality; experiential learning; experiential education; qualitative methods
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