Exploring students' experiences of an HIV/AIDS service learning module at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
This critical interpretivist case study explored students’ experiences of an HIV/AIDS service learning module run in the School of Psychology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The study was originally initiated in response to a request from CHESP to evaluate this module. It has since become an independent study with the purpose of exploring the kind of learning (HIV specific) that students gained from the module. A number of studies have attempted to explore students’ experiences of service learning through students’ evaluations, or have focused on the effects of the community intervention on the community. These are often of a quantitative nature and do not engage with students' experiences on a deeper level. They also tend to focus on measuring students’ knowledge and understandings of HIV/AIDS. The objective of this study was to qualitatively explore whether students had experienced a genuine engagement in the service learning module, focusing on their level of reflection on their identities, their understandings of self and other, and their understandings of their own location within the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Furthermore, there would need to be evidence of Freireian critical consciousness. Using the voicecentred relational method of analysis, reflective essays of the 20 students who completed the service learning module in 2006 were analysed. The findings of the study revealed that most of the students had engaged at this level and were able to reflect on a number of critical issues that are pertinent to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This study provides the impetus for further research to be conducted in the field of service learning, as it is a valuable educational tool for getting students to engage critically and openly with issues around sexuality and HIV. Moreover, the findings of this study should be used to promote service learning with a focus on HIV/AIDS in other degree programmes, as well as other tertiary institutions.