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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Learning with Conviction: Service Learning, Social Documentary, and Transformative Research


This paper examines the efficacy of service learning in addressing issues of social inequality, lessening social distance between students and their partners in the community, and linking classroom learning with experiences in the wider community. Students at a small, liberal arts college for men who participated in a course titled Social Documentary: Image, Text, and Context developed and implemented a working group documentary project with inmates at the local jail. Student reflection papers indicated that they experienced firsthand the debunking of stereotypes about incarcerated people, the transformative power of art in giving voice to people in marginalized populations, and the rewards that come from civic engagement. Jill Dolan's (2004) Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance and Howard Zehr's (1996; 2001; 2003) work in restorative justice and transformative research provided the theoretical underpinnings for the project.

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