From Service Learning to Engaged Learning:
European Innovations in Study Abroad

April 26-27, 2018 
University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Final Report (.pdf) 

The AIEA Thematic Forum, From Service Learning to Engaged Learning—European Innovations in Study Abroad, was dedicated to exploring ways that the international study abroad programmes can provide credit bearing engaged learning experiences to students which also have reciprocal benefits for communities involved. 

Many students appreciate being involved in community-engaged projects that give them real-world experiences and allow them to integrate theory with practice. Using the University of Limerick’s Practicum programme, unique in Ireland, as a case study and template, the forum aimed to present the innovative pedagogies and strategies used, including lessons learned from a university-community partnership model to enable a critical approach to service learning in international settings. 

Forum Outcomes: 

  • Participants left with a more comprehensive understanding of how community engaged learning can be facilitated for international students within an Irish University. 
  • The Forum examined the benefits and challenges for international students undertaking an accredited community engaged learning module in an Irish campus. 
  • In terms of community needs, the case studies presented shared their perspectives on hosting US students into community partnerships and illustrated the two-way learning that was achieved. The practicum students gained insights into Irish communities and culture, but were also enabled to recognise their own expertise in terms of sharing the knowledge that they brought from their own culture and experience to help respond to the societal needs identified in their practicum projects. 
  • In terms of student needs, testimonials and evaluations illustrated how US students were facilitated through Practicum projects to develop their academic, career and personal interests in real-life contexts in collaboration with Irish community partners. 
  • A website was set up to communicate the proceedings of the Forum and to share tools and resources created by UL Engage to support community engaged learning: 
Lessons Learned: 
  • Exploration of the ways that the international study abroad programme can provide academic and credit bearing, engaged learning experiences underpinned by relevant supports to students and communities in order to deliver maximum impact for participating communities and learning outcomes for students. 
  • It is necessary to examine and learn from the experiences of other countries regarding the provision of community engaged learning opportunities for international students. 
  • Students should be encouraged to undertake accredited community engaged learning opportunities abroad to develop their intercultural knowledge and critical attributes in areas such as creativity, innovation, collaboration and leadership. 
  • There is a need to facilitate fora which explore the ways that the interests and needs of education abroad administrators and academic faculty can be combined to create mutually advantageous structures and supports for innovative intercultural accredited learning experiences for US students in Europe. 

It is intended that the thematic forum will enable participants to focus on the critical elements necessary to improve the quality of European education abroad experiences for US students and in doing so, will:

  • Provide an inclusive and reflective space for dialogue and discussion
  • Create an on-going forum to share best practice, information and resources
  • Establish a network that will sustain the connections and links developed in the panel
  • Enable panel participants to continue discussion on the issues and concerns identified in the panel