AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

International school trips: A critical analysis of multiple stakeholder perspectives

by Margaret Alison (Margie) Campbell-Price

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: International school trips; School-led tourism; Informal learning; Multiple stakeholders
Record ID: 1303480
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5464


For many decades school groups have actively engaged in experiences outside the classroom. More recently, school-led tourism has expanded to include international school trips especially undertaken by schools in developed, (Western), neoliberal nations. Whilst these trips traditionally focused on foreign language and cultural learning they have diversified to include a wide range of curriculum-related subjects and extra-curricular activities. However, the growth in participation in these trips has not been matched by academic attention or analysis. This thesis addresses the dearth of research by exploring the justifications, motivations and experiences behind international school trips and how learning is perceived and positioned within these trips. The inclusion of the active voice of multiple stakeholders (i.e., young people, their parents and school leaders) is a new way of appraising international school trip experiences. This qualitative study involved twenty-three focus group interviews (six with parents, nine with young people and eight with school leaders), carried out in six New Zealand secondary schools that had groups either preparing for or recently returned from an international trip. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data and three global themes relating to the aim of the thesis were identified. The findings corroborate the existing literature that learning is an integral part of international field trips and illustrate a detailed understanding of the nature of learning within these experiences. All three stakeholder groups used learning, at least in part, to justify taking part in these experiences. The thesis goes beyond the current literature by suggesting that it is through the formal and informal structures, along with the relationships that evolve in the social spaces of these trips that young people are empowered to personalise their learning. Although each stakeholder group referred to the prescribed learning that was expected through an international school trip, the learning that was gained was attributed to the ‘sum of the parts’ of the whole experience. The findings have enhanced understandings of what rewarding international school trip experiences look like. This thesis concludes by highlighting three main points. Firstly, there are similarities between the motivations for school-led trips and the wider tourism phenomenon. Secondly, it is extremely important to capture a multiple stakeholder perspective when undertaking research that involves the active engagement of young people, their parents and school leaders with an international school trip. This thesis has shown that there is considerable overlap of perspectives between stakeholders even though they might express it differently. Finally, the thesis suggests that the longer term impacts of the formal and informal learning experienced on these types of trips has been overlooked and needs further attention.