Repository logo

An analysis of the service-learning projects undertaken by Biology preservice teachers at a tertiary education institution: 2007-2011.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Service-Learning (SL) is an extension of an academic course, which does not only provide tangible and meaningful service to the community but is also connected to a course curriculum and gives students an opportunity for reflection during the duration of the course. Most SL programmes consist of SL projects. While some SL projects involve experiential learning that provides students with the opportunity to work directly with off-campus community groups, others are non-experiential SL projects which provide the opportunity for students to serve community groups without direct student/community contact. As a pedagogy, SL combines student learning with a commitment to addressing problems in partnership with communities. The principles of SL study: reciprocity, and reflections are intended to bolster student learning and civic responsibility which can yield positively in addressing community identified needs and support long-term mutually beneficial communityuniversity partnerships. Though the benefits of SL in various contexts are well documented in literature, there are gaps which indicate a need for further qualitative research on the experiences of students while implementing SL projects. The policy framework of South Africa has a number of documents that addresses community engagement in higher education. This study is a qualitative analysis of purposefully selected written reflective and project reports of a Service-Learning project in a Biology for Educators module at a South African university. The study provides insight into the SL aspect of the SL project, as well as a means of analysing the pre-service teachers’ experiences for their growth and change. The study used an interpretive paradigm and generated data from three sources which are reflection diaries, project reports and module outline to understand the pre-service teachers’ experiences while implementing the SL project. Five themes were used for the analysis; four were derived from the conceptual framework and one emerged from the data: Structure, Reciprocity, Relationship, Reflection and sustainability were the themes. Drawing from the theory of David Kolb’s experiential learning and using content analysis, these themes where used in analysing the data generated from this study. The findings support the influence of SL in the communities, and the benefits of reciprocal relationships and reflection during SL projects. The complexity of SL forces students out of their comfort zones and compels them to confront their ‘other side’, and thereafter integrate it vi | P a g e into their knowledge and experiences. While this experience was hard for some students, it was easy for others who found it easier to grasp the idea and running with it. This SL project although not without challenges has proven to be rewarding for all the parties involved. The findings add to the growing popularity of SL in Higher education and foster the community-university relationship. From the results of this analysis/study, SL projects provided students with knowledge and skills to gain opportunities. They were able to apply theory to practice, have a direct experience of reciprocal community engagement that fostered their personal growth, which would not have been possible in a traditional classroom context. Based on the findings, recommendations were made for future research on SL, and for higher education institutions and educators.