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The Long-Term Effects of Immersion Experiences on Development Activism in Ireland – A Case Study of the Belvedere College Calcutta Exchange Programme

Immersion programmes have grown in popularity over the last decade. They represent an approach to development education which is relatively unproven and at one end of the spectrum of experiential learning. This study is an examination of the effectiveness of such programmes at creating a lasting engagement with development issues by the participants into their later lives. It focuses on one case, an immersion programme run by Belvedere College over the last 15 years. It aims to analyse the impact of the immersion on former participants’ knowledge and attitudes around development, as well as levels of social participation, between 5 and 15 years after they participated.

The findings indicate that the experience can have many positive and lasting effects. However, the impacts on the participants are not universal. Effects vary from profound, influencing career choices, to almost never thinking about the experience again. Critical reflection and sustained social participation are areas particularly discussed in the analysis. The conclusions to this research draw attention to the structural and global aspects of development education objectives which require further exploration on the part of programmer coordinators and development education practitioners.


Graham Woodcock 2010

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