When ACU students embark on community engagement programs in places like Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Timor-Leste they can undergo life-changing experiences but at the same time can take on the trauma of the people they work with in communities who experience extreme poverty.
This is one component of a special resource kit which ACU has developed that helps staff deliver transformational learning while supporting the wellbeing of the students before, during and after their international experience.
The Three-by-Three Student Learning Model: International Community Engagement Resource Kit prepares students before they take off on their trip and outlines methods of debriefing, reflecting and counselling during and after their international community engagement experience.
Through these exercises students can gain increased capacities to understand the world through the eyes of people they are working with as well as a genuine understanding of the principles of social justice. It can help develop a new way of thinking and acting that can stay with them for the rest of their lives.
The resource kit has become extremely important this year in light of the high number of ACU students who are taking up international community engagement. In 2016, the number will be double that of the previous year.
The Three-by-Three Student Learning Model was developed by staff in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Institute of Advancing Community Engagement (IACE). The model is based on extensive research into the literature and highlights three broad phases of transformational learning during international community engagement.
The first phase involves an experience that triggers disequilibrium as sights, sounds and situations challenge the person’s view of the world.
The second phase involves students critically assessing their frames of reference and what they thought they knew about the community, which have been challenged by their experiences. This phase can lead to new perspectives and learning.
The third and final phase is when real change occurs and students begin to think and act in a manner that reflects their new perspectives. This can have long-term effects in which the students will continue to develop as socially-minded individuals where community engagement becomes a way of life and supporting the dignity of each person becomes the core of their personal lives and future professional practice.
International community engagement and clinical placements may require students to deal with serious issues such as poverty, political instability, and poor health conditions which can challenge students emotionally and philosophically.
Vicarious trauma can disrupt a student’s overall view of the world and the people around them. The condition can accumulate over time through interactions with community members, and can be as debilitating as the primary trauma experienced by the people the students are working with.
That’s why it is important for ACU to look out for the wellbeing of students who visit developing countries, and support them before, during and after the project.
The resource kit contains structured activities and associated resources that support ACU staff in facilitating the learning and well-being of students involved with international community engagement. Each activity in the before, during, and after stages of the resource includes a clear rationale, facilitator instructions on how to run the activity, and information on how each activity supports the Three-by-Three model. It is envisioned that the Three-by-Three model will support ACU in developing students who have an understanding of social justice and the importance of serving the common good.