Education abroad generally has no overarching curriculum outside the formal study component. This paper presents the Reflective Inquiry Protocol for Surfacing Significant Learning (RIPSSL), a new approach for understanding and articulating significant learning from education abroad. Tests of RIPSSL show education abroad students use it to move beyond “it was great” when considering learning from their experiences. Our findings are important for educators and students as they work to recognize and articulate the value of education abroad. RIPSSL provides a reflective educational approach to evidence learning from life experiences by surfacing students’ significant learning in their own words.


Significant Learning, International Study, Meaning-Making, Mind Mapping, Reflective Prompt Questions, Case Study

Author Bio(s)

Andrea Reid has 23 years’ experience in academic development and curriculum and learning design. Andrea led the development of the University of Queensland's (UQ) employability strategy and Massive Open Online Course, Unlocking your employability. Andrea is currently an academic lead in digital curriculum and pedagogy at the University of Southern Queensland. Her doctoral thesis on investigating the significance of life-experience learning in the context of international study is currently under examination. Andrea is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK (HEA). Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Andrea.Reid@usq.edu.au.

Dr Christine Slade is a Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation (ITaLI), at UQ, where she is the academic lead in assessment and academic integrity. Christine was previously responsible for the university-wide implementation of ePortfolios at the University of the Sunshine Coast and is a recipient of a national Platinum LearnX Impact Award. She holds a PhD in institutional capacity to address complex problems and is a Principal Fellow of the HEA. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: c.slade@uq.edu.au.

Professor Susan Rowland teaches biochemistry and molecular biology in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and is Deputy Associate Dean Academic (Future Students and Employability) for the Faculty of Science at UQ. She is also responsible for developing and helping deliver UQ Science activities around employability and the student experience. Susan is a winner of the Australian Awards for University Teaching Award for Teaching Excellence (2014) and a Principal Fellow of the HEA. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: s.rowland1@uq.edu.au.


We thank the students who participated in the trial of our interview protocol.

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