Conceptualising service-learning in global times
Globalisation offers unique challenges to the field of service-learning. Todd (2009) notes varying references to globalisation including “rampant capitalism, vast international migration, ecological fragility, technological interconnectivity, cultural hybridity, and reconfiguration of political power” (p.23). Responding to such conceptions evoke varying possible service-learning approaches and multiple responses dependent upon context. The purpose of this article is to open up different ways of thinking about service-learning and to raise the level of debate about the implications of selecting varying theoretical approaches within university settings. Firstly, we will frame service-learning within a global context and consider the implications of this. Secondly, we will offer traditional, critical and post-critical conceptualisations of service-learning and provide a critique in order to promote debate about contributions and limitations. We began a journey toward understanding service-learning as a pedagogical tool while teaching teacher education students primarily through a critical theoretical paradigm. Service-learning is a pedagogical approach that combines community service with classroom based preparation and reflection. Seeking outlets for teaching students to take socio-critical action beyond the classroom, we found that service-learning had something practical and tangible to offer. It became clear to us that while the vast majority of service-learning projects drew upon traditional structural-functionalist approaches, a number of teacher educators were exploring a critical approach to service-learning and this reflected well with our own theoretical positioning. However, while participating in a recent research study exploring shifting conceptualisations of knowledge and learning, we began to critique critical service-learning approaches and to consider other possibilities through an exploration of post-structural and post-colonial theories. Consequently we have begun to conceptualise a post-critical approach to service-learning and are interested in exploring the contribution that this possibility could offer to the field of service-learning.