ERG SES C 01, ICT and Education
This research project is intended to contribute to two fields of knowledge; firstly, it
involves an original participatory, democratic research methodology in the field of
service learning in an international school, focusing on the issue of student voice.
Secondly, it is a further contribution to transformative learning theories. The project
is an attempt to work towards a dialogic approach for service learning, where the
students think critically about reality beyond their ‘ivory tower isolation’ (Freire, 1970, p.
58); in this case, as students of an international school in Central Switzerland. It is
hoped that the students involved in the project will begin to question their relationship
with others in the world that surrounds them, and become inspired to take action, or
inspire others to make a positive change.
The methodology of the project intends to raise questions and to blur the boundaries of
the role of student and researcher by involving students as researchers in the research
process and giving them voice. This falls in line with Freire’s vision of ‘authentic’
education, where the teachers and students work together with each other, mediated by
a world ‘which impresses and challenges both parties, giving rise to views or opinions
about it’ (Freire, 1970, p. 74). The research process in this project will explore what a
pedagogy for service learning could look like and how involving students as researchers
can empower and engage them as active participants in their school and wider
communities; the aim is that they can become ambassadors for change.
The central research question of the study is as follows; How does meaningful student
involvement in research about service learning contribute to perspective transformation
about themselves and others?
Further sub-questions that will guide the process are:
What does meaningful student involvement look like?
What does perspective transformation look like?
How can service learning improve student understanding of our place in the world?
In their role as researchers, students may also open doors for educators at their own
institution to move towards a modification of their approach to service learning and how
student experiences with authentic dialogue and participation can become a
springboard for critical reflection and activism.
It is hoped through this study that new knowledge will arise that can complement and
add to theories of transformational learning. Mezirow’s (1978, 1991, 2000, 2006)
theories will be used as a starting point for a consideration of what perspective
transformation can look like, combined with the transformative element in Meyer &
Land’s (2003) Threshold Concepts. In Mezirow’s paper on perspective transformation
(1978), he describes it as a ‘structural change in the way we see ourselves and our
relationships’ (1978, p. 100), and that we move from ‘uncritical, organic relationships’
with others, institutions and society to ‘contractual relationships’ with them (1978, p.
100). In the context of service learning, this concept is highly relevant; students’
relationships with the communities they ‘serve’ are indeed often uncritical rather than
Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin Meyer, J.H.F. & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines. In C. Rust (Ed), Improving Student Learning.Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice – 10 years on (pp. 412-424). Oxford: OCSLD Mezirow, J. (1978) Perspective transformation. Adult Learning, 28, 100-110. Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass Mezirow, J. (2000) Learning to think like an adult. In J. Mezirow & Associates (Eds.), Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress (pp.3-34). San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass Mezirow, J (2006) An Overview on Transformative Learning. In Peter Sutherland & Jim Crowther (Eds.) Lifelong Learning: concepts and contexts. (pp.24-38) London: Routledge
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