Tools vs. Textbooks: Comparing the Impact of Alternative Break Trips and Classroom-Based Learning
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Mixing and pouring concrete for the foundation of a house in Tijuana, Mexico is not your typical college spring break experience. Neither is hiking through fair trade coffee co-ops in Nicaragua or weatherproofing trailer homes on a Lakota American Indian reservation in South Dakota. However, students on college campuses across the country have increased opportunities to participate in and develop leadership skills on these Alternative Spring Break (ASB) programs.
While students often return home saying, “The trip changed my life!” there is a need to examine what elements make the experience transformational and if the same learning experience can be transferred to students in a classroom environment. The purpose of this study
is to examine the learning outcomes of student participants in a Providence College ASB program compared to students in classroom-based instruction with a focus on intercultural service and global citizenship. Interviews of pre- and post-trip participants were analyzed using
five different learning objectives defined in the course curriculum to identify what program elements were most effective in achieving student learning. Participants showed differences in cognitive and psychological outcomes, demonstrating the importance of both traditional
classroom-based and experiential learning as well as the benefit of developing students as coeducators both in and out of the classroom.