Critical consciousness raising about global economic inequality through experiential and emotional learning
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Background: The ability to question global structures and analyze one’s own positionality in relation to economic, political, and social forces is essential for college graduates. Although study abroad programs claim to develop students into global citizens, most studies do not critically examine student learning about global inequalities. Purpose: This study analyzed the process of critical consciousness raising about economic inequalities through experiential and emotional learning. Methodology/Approach: It employed ethnographic observations, in-depth interviews, and written journals of 27 U.S. college students who participated in a Ghana study abroad program in years 2016-2018. Data were analyzed using an inductive thematic approach. Findings/Conclusions: Witnessing and being emotionally impacted by unjust global realities allowed students to question their actions and assumptions. Even though they seemed to have become more self-aware of their privilege and positionality, few of them questioned the global structures underlying economic injustice. Despite the limited analysis, they demonstrated inspiration to learn and do more. Implications: Moving beyond the education’s traditional focus on students’ cognitive domain is crucial for critical consciousness raising about social injustice and global interconnections of oppression. Higher education should ensure a critical analysis of economic inequalities both abroad and in their own country.