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Module 5 Ethical Challenges

This raises a potentially paralyzing question. If the most experienced researchers and
development workers in the world can still rue their ethical gaffes in the field and can still
demonstrate confusion over responsibilities and obligations, then how can even worse gaffes
and confusion be avoided or minimized among the neophytes we dispatch into work-study

Epprecht, 2004 p. 693 in Work-study abroad courses in international development

studies: Some ethical and pedagogical issues

What are the Ethical Challenges of Volunteer/Study Abroad?

What are some of the ethical issues you might encounter while learning/volunteering abroad?
What are some of the ethical dilemmas to be considered when reflecting on the practice of
volunteer/study abroad? How can the desire to learn another culture while providing your
assistance to an organization be unethical? What ethical dilemmas do you think you (or a
volunteer/student) might be faced with in working/volunteering/studying overseas? How do we
make sense of ethical dilemmas in relation to cultural relativism? The topic of ethics in
international experiential learning is complex and involves a wide array of issues as the readings
and discussion for this week address.
The readings in this module will introduce you to various ethical debates and dilemmas
associated with the practice of volunteering and studying abroad. They also analyze ethics from
various perspectives such as those of the student/volunteer, what they perceive is unethical and
how they might act in such a situation; what consequences host communities and organizations
might face as a result of perceived unethical situations; the unequal distribution of benefits
within the practice of volunteer/study abroad (as discussed in the critical reflections module)
and how this is unethical; as well as, the ethics in terms of the global power structures in
development and the Global North versus the Global South. This module of ethics also
complements previous modules. When reading the required chapters and articles think back to
cosmopolitanism and global citizenship. What does it mean to do no harm? How should
students (re)act in situations they perceive to be unethical? If for example you report corporal
punishment of a child as child abuse what does this mean for the local disciplining the child?
What does this mean for the child? What consequences (good or bad) does the community deal
with as a result of a volunteer/students (re)actions?
The readings also provide recommendations for more ethically-minded volunteer/study abroad
including ethics trainings to students prior to departure. Preparation, reflection and debriefing
are discussed by all the authors as crucial to the students learning and their experience in the
field. But does this training alone ensure a student/volunteer will know how to act appropriately
in difficult situations?
For some, an ethical decision translates into not going abroad. As Huish suggests in his discussion on
international health electives, if the objective is to help then perhaps there are better alternatives to
travelling abroad, which is both costly and largely benefits the affluent student/volunteer more than the
hosts. This module on ethics is complex, as the quote by Epprecht above suggests, but it is also crucial
that it gets discussed, debated and reflected upon if we are to move towards a more ethical approach to
cross-cultural international learning experiences.

Please complete all the readings and activities prior to proceeding to the discussion board where
you are expected to contribute your thoughts on the modules subject matter.
Module 5 Required Readings:
In Globetrotting or Global Citizenship? Perils and Potential of International Experiential Learning
edited by Rebecca Tiessen and Robert Huish, 2014, University of Toronto Press.
Chapter 7 by Desrosiers and Thomson Experiential learning in challenging settings: Lessons from postgenocide Rwanda.
Chapter 8 by Huish Would Flexner close the door on this? The ethical dilemmas of international health
electives in medical education.

Additional readings: You can find the PDFs for these readings through the uOttawa library
Epprecht, M. (2004). Work-study abroad courses in international development studies: Some
ethical and pedagogical issues. Canadian Journal of Development Studies. 25(4). 687-706.
Tiessen, R., Kumar, P. (2013). Ethical challenges encountered on learning/volunteer abroad
programmes for students in international development studies in Canada: Youth perspectives and
educator insights. Canadian Journal of Development Studies. 34(3). 416-430.

Suggested Readings:
Abedini, N., Gruppen, L., Kolars, J., and Kumagai, A. (2012). Understanding the effects of short- term
international service-learning trips on medical students. Academic Medicine. 87(6). 820-828.
Gammonley, D., Rotabi, K., Gamble, D. (2007). Enhancing global understanding with study abroad:
Ethically grounded approaches to international learning. Journal of Teaching in Social Work.
27(3/4). 115-135.
Mostafanezhad, M. and Kontogeorgopoulos, N. (2014). Volunteer tourism policy in Thailand. Journal of
Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events. DOI:
Ong, F., Pearlman, M. Lockstone-Binney, L., King, B. (2013). Virtuous volunteer tourism:
Towards a uniform code of conduct. Annals of Leisure Research. 16(1). 72-86.

Watch the two videos by Desrosiers and Thomson and Huish available on Blackboard Learn.

Discussion Questions:
Should students interested in and international experiential learning opportunity have to go through some
sort of ethics review board similar to that of research ethics?

What are the differences and/or similarities between cultural relativism and unethical? The readings gave
example of students perceptions of unethical situations such as corruption, sexual orientation, child
discipline, gender roles, and others. Where is the line between cultural differences and unethical?
Do you think pre-departure training that focuses on ethics can adequately prepare you for the various
situations you will encounter abroad and how to appropriately deal with them? If you had pre-departure
training or workshops, reflect on the nature of the ethics-related information and training received.
Desrosiers and Thomson discuss the importance of reflection throughout the students time abroad as a
way for them to think through situations and better understand them. Have you used reflection as a
method of dealing with and learning from unsettling situations? Do you feel it can help mitigate
potentially unethical responses?
What do you think of Huishs suggestion that the way in which international health electives are
conducted are in themselves unethical? Do you think there are similarities with general volunteer/study
abroad? Is it ethical to travel to the Global South to benefit ourselves and our education and career goals?
Take time to think through these questions. You may have come up with your own questions
throughout the readings and video. Please answer one or more of these questions on the discussion
board. Please also post at least one question you have from the readings. To earn your full
participation marks you must answer one of the questions above and one of the questions posted by
your classmates. As well, you must comment on one of your classmates answers to a question. In
total you should have three separate discussion board posts for this module. It is highly
recommended, to keep a dialogue going, which you also respond to questions and comments from
your classmates who reply to your own comments and questions.