Becoming learners across contexts: Kosovo postgraduate students’ transformative study abroad experiences in the UK
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This study examines transformative learning dimensions in the context of study abroad. The research uses an integrative approach of transformative learning theory to explore the learner identity transformations of 16 participants from conflict-affected Kosovo as they participated in postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom and subsequently, on their return to Kosovo, as they integrated their experiences in their workplaces. The study adopts the narrative inquiry strategy and the active interviewing method to capture participants’ experiences in three phases: prior experience in Kosovo, experience in the UK and re-integration experience in Kosovo. The research employs the narrative analysis approach (Braun and Clarke, 2006) consisting of seven steps: 1) open coding; 2) categorisation of codes; 3) coding on; 4) data reduction; 5) generating analytical memos and writing; 6) data validation; and 7) data synthesising. Identity transformation is theorised as a process of ‘becoming learners across contexts’ involving: 1) learner identity construction dynamics of entanglement; and 2) internal and external tensions in identity conflict, maintenance, negotiation and projection, when engaging with Kosovo and UK communities of practices. Findings suggest that changing learning contexts creates possibilities for engaging with similarities and differences between contexts and identity transformations through: Shaping Learner Identity, Transforming Learner Identities at the Boundaries and Integrating Identity Transformations across Contexts. For learning to be transformative, it needs to involve changes in three dimensions: ways of knowing, of being and of interacting. Its outcomes may be positive or negative representing ongoing struggles, resilience and strategies between forces of continuity and change and interaction between the individual and the social environment. Institutions receiving international students ought to consider the cultural background, academic skill mismatch and language on student epistemology and learner identity.
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