Applying a transformative learning framework to volunteer tourism
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This paper applies the educational theory of transformative learning to reconceptualising the practices of volunteer tourism. The theory of transformative learning posits a 10-step process to experience a radical shift in consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters how participants see their place in the world. Volunteer tourism has commonly been seen as a form of alternative tourism that provides a cathartic experience for the volunteer tourists and benefits to the hosting organisation and the natural and/or social environment of the project. Existing research suggests that these outcomes have not, as yet, been achieved by current practices in this sector. In referring to the theory of transformative learning we note that some, but not all, of the 10 steps have been applied and that we might therefore expect volunteer tourism to fall short of its promises. We conclude that the theory of transformative learning offers a useful framework for volunteer tourism, providing insights into the need to create opportunities for participants to complete the transformative process. We suggest that volunteer tourism organisations redesign their activities to include the remaining steps of transformative learning to improve their product for both the tourists and the sustainability outcomes of the projects.
Journal of Sustainable Tourism
© 2011 Taylor & Francis. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.
Tourism Resource Appraisal