Experiential Learning in Humanitarian Studies: Ethics and Discomfort of Student research visits to Uganda

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


This paper considers the ethics and discomfort experienced when taking students of humanitarian studies on research visits to Uganda, a post-conflict country of protracted displacement. For those students studying this and related topics, they are faced with the prospect in their future careers of possibly having to engage with people who have experienced some form of conflict. Through working on location in the aid sector, or careers in academic research or working in advocacy, whether in the Global South or North, these students need to be better prepared to meet the demands and needs of these populations. The general literature on field visits demonstrates their potential for positive impact, yet rarely do they discuss those visits which are deemed necessary for students of conflict and humanitarianism.Through an application of Kolb’s (2015) experiential learning cycle to the process of teaching, the paper argues that student research visits, when carefully organized, planned and executed, bring pedagogical benefits to the complexity of teaching humanitarianism. The cycle enables educators to provide students with teaching which enhances their theoretical knowledge whilst ensuring these academic programmes instill the ethical consideration of working in these sectors. Boler’s (1999) pedagogy of discomfort is deployed as a conceptual tool at all stages of the cycle to prepare students and faculty for the research visit. Through a four stage process, the experiential learning cycle further helps to overcome the pitfalls of conflict tourism or voluntourism which many academics and students in the field wish to avoid.
Period5 Apr 2023
Held atUniversity of Wisconsin Madison, United States, Wisconsin
Degree of RecognitionInternational