Critical Service-Learning: Vehicle to Social Justice Education

Critical Service-Learning: Vehicle to Social Justice Education

Shirley Mthethwa-Sommers
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5268-1.ch006
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Colleges and universities in the U.S. engage in service-learning in order to cultivate dispositions of empathy and civic engagement. This chapter draws from a Foundations of Education course in a historically and predominately White institution participating in service-learning in predominately Black and Latinx high schools. The purpose of the course was to teach about the legacy of state sponsored oppression, social justice education, and advocacy. The course provided theoretical frameworks to the practical knowledge and skills that students garnered from engagement in community schools. Data collected for research purposes were quantitative and qualitative. The results of the study show that service-learning can be a vehicle toward social justice education particularly in exposing oppressive structures and practices in urban schools.
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Theoretical Framework

The theory of social justice education was employed in the study. Social justice education entails the ability to reveal and transform structural and systemic injustices in educational policies and practices (Mthethwa-Sommers, 2014). Social justice education has an overarching goal of attainment of democracy wherein historically marginalized group are centered, valued and fully included in the curriculum, and school policies and practices. This form of education requires the unveiling of various ways that schools devalue, erase, distort and dismiss contributions and existence of people of color, women of all races, LGBTQI people and people with disabilities (Bell, Adams & Griffin, 2007). Service-learning was employed as a social justice education vehicle to crystallize the devaluing, erasure, distortion and dismissal of people who have-non-normative identities in the US for pre-service teachers. Considering that social justice education has two tenets, namely, unveiling and transforming oppressive policies and practices, critical service-learning as a teaching methodology perfectly aligned with its goals.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mirror-Form of Reflection: Using one’s positionality as a lens to reflect on experiences.

Service-Learning: A teaching and learning method that involves community engagement.

Telescope-Form of Reflection: Reflection on interconnectedness of micro- and macro-structures.

Critical Service Learning: A teaching and learning method that involves community engagement centered in understanding and transformation of power.

Positionality: One’s location in terms of gender, social class, race, religion, sexuality, and ability.

Binocular-Form of Reflection: Examination of immediate experiences.

Social Justice Education: A pedagogical method rooted in unveiling and transforming oppressive policies, practices, and structures.

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