Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Amira Proweller

Second Advisor

Karen Monkman

Third Advisor

Helen Damon-Moore


In a society where school has become an institution of routine, international service learning provides an engaging method to impact and transform students through experience, reciprocity, and reflection. While the new pedagogy shows promise, there are also challenges when putting international service learning into practice. Current literature informs readers on the need for more intentional research to understand how students process their international experience and the role it plays in student transformation. Using a case study method of research, my study focused on the international service learning experience of four relatively privileged secondary education students who traveled to a remote mountain community. My findings showed that first, much of what the students came to understand about their international service learning experience came from acknowledging the gap between their expectations to create change within the community and the reality of community needs. Second, as students experienced moments of dissonance, they reflected on their previously held misconceptions, showing signs of transformation into a global citizen. I believe that my study can offer insight as to how practitioners of international service learning prepare secondary education students for their own service learning trip. Additionally, I believe that my study exemplifies how students can benefit from an international service learning experience outside of the traditional high school community service experience. Lastly, my study shows that a service learning experience can create sensemaking events, causing students to pause and reflect on their current understanding of critical topics such as happiness, power, and the meaning of service.