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Recognizing the Complexity of Service-learning and Community Engagement Efforts: Facilitator Standpoints from International Baccalaureate Organization Secondary Schools in Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa

  • Author(s): Lillo, Sarah Ruth
  • Advisor(s): Omwami, Edith M.
  • et al.
Abstract

Schools are increasingly tasked with the cultivation of global citizenship in their students. This is especially the case in international schools and in International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) contexts, as both institutions tend to stress ideals of global-mindedness and engaged participation in communities. Rhetoric hailing service-learning pedagogies abounds in these settings, and yet educators and students that try to organize community engagement efforts often face a host of challenges. This disconnect, between rhetoric and practice, is one that teachers and institutions alike seem interested in narrowing. Accordingly, this study focuses on pragmatic elements that can support and promote community engagement efforts.

This study is based on six months of fieldwork in three international IBO high schools that were recognized in the African region for their developed service-learning programs: the International School of Kenya, the International Community School of Addis Ababa, and the American International School of Johannesburg. Through document analysis, interviews, surveys, and participant observation, I focused on the perceptions of facilitators within these settings. As I explored facilitators’ standpoints, the follow questions guided my inquiry: 1) How do teachers and students perceive community engagement? 2) What are the perceived barriers to community engagement? 3) How do school communities approach these barriers? 4) What are the perceived supports that enable or promote community engagement? 5) How do school communities approach these supports? Ultimately, I was interested in understanding the pragmatics of service-learning efforts and on identifying strategies that might support their development.

Across all three settings, facilitators consistently alluded to a wide range of skills and understandings involved in community engagement efforts. This dissertation argues that projects are enhanced when team members develop proficiencies related to the following domains of knowledge: service-learning pedagogy, global issues awareness, familiarity with the school context, familiarity with the local context, leadership/organizational development, and communication/public relations. By recognizing the wide scope of competencies involved service-learning efforts, teams can be attentive to their collective proficiencies. They can solicit experts and refine skills in each respective area.

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