From Leader to Experiential Educator: Professionalizing Facilitation of International Service-Learning Programs through Effective Leader Training

Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Linda Gobbo

Second Advisor

Richard Rodman


Leaders of international service-learning programs are the catalysts of participant experience. This paper describes a leader training designed for Global Student Embassy’s (GSE) Ecuador team, that serves as a model for other organizations seeking improved leader training. GSE is a small, California-based nonprofit that operates high school and college winter and spring break environmental service-learning programs in Ecuador and Nicaragua. This paper presents the rationale for maximizing the impact of short-term international service-learning by cultivating effective experiential educators as program leaders. Following an experiential learning model (Kolb, 2008), the pre-departure training, in-country training, and ongoing professional development serve to establish high standards of accountability within a growing program (Thomas, 2008). It is not enough for program leaders to simply facilitate a program for participants. Program leaders will be skilled educators able to recognize learning opportunities; adept group managers able to cultivate and engage students; and professional facilitators primed to administer all that is required on such programs (Spencer & Tuma, 2007). As it cannot be assumed that students will decipher their own meaning from experiences without reflective practice, it likewise, cannot be assumed that leaders know how to be effective without structured training. The training described in this paper professionalizes the leader role, builds educational integrity within the program, creates necessary accountability and structure within the leader team, and deepens the learning experience for participants.

Keywords: international service-learning, experiential education, leadership development, training, short-term, program leader


Educational Leadership | International and Comparative Education | Leadership Studies | Nonprofit Administration and Management | Other Education | Secondary Education and Teaching | Special Education and Teaching | Teacher Education and Professional Development | Tourism and Travel

This document is currently not available here.