A Whole New World
: A mixed-method study to investigate the relevance of international service learning to Hong Kong university students’ perspectives on ethnic diversity

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This study is framed in the context of multicultural education in Hong Kong's higher education sector. In the past two decades, increasing investments have been made in various internationalisation initiatives including international service learning (ISL) programmes where students travel abroad to engage in learning through community service. Using a mixed-method approach, this study aims to explore the potential influence of ISL on university students’ perspectives on ethnic diversity in a society. A cross-sectional survey was conducted to test whether ISL experience is related to the social dominance orientation (SDO) of university students in Hong Kong. This was followed by semi-structured interviews to investigate the factors in ISL that are related to perspective transformation on ethnic diversity. The quantitative data suggested that students with ISL experience have a lower SDO score, indicating less preference for group-based hierarchy in a society, and thus greater support for ethnic equality. The qualitative data emerged to show that participants became more appreciative of ethnic diversity, and that four major areas of factors contributed to the transformative learning in ISL. As most participants had their last ISL trip around 2 years or more before the time of data collection due to the pandemic, the significant results demonstrate the sustainability of the ISL impact. This study provides unique insights on the application of transformative learning theory and SDO in ISL in the context of higher education in Hong Kong. It sheds light on the connection between Confucian philosophy, transformative learning in ISL, and perspectives on social hierarchy. It also suggests that intercultural relationship developed in ISL trips is a powerful source to facilitate and sustain perspective transformation towards appreciation of ethnic diversity and support for ethnic equality.
Date of Award23 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorE V Washbrook (Supervisor) & Janet L Orchard (Supervisor)


  • International service learning
  • ethnic diversity
  • social dominance orientation
  • Transformative Learning
  • Hong Kong

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