“A Spirit of Service:” Conceptualizing Service in Learning ...· ii “A Spirit of Service:”

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  • A Spirit of Service: Conceptualizing Service in Learning through the Preparation for Social Action

    (PSA) Program in Uganda


    Elena VanderDussen

    A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts

    Graduate Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

    University of Toronto

    Copyright by Elena VanderDussen 2009

  • ii

    A Spirit of Service: Conceptualizing Service in Learning through the Preparation for Social Action

    (PSA) Program in Uganda

    Elena VanderDussen Master of Arts

    Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning University of Toronto



    This research explores implications of service in learning for social change through an

    investigation of the Preparation for Social Action (PSA) Program in Uganda against the

    backdrop of the literature on service learning. Employing critical pedagogy as a

    theoretical framework, I approach questions regarding the conceptualization of self and

    society in service as a relational process, the conceptualization of service as praxis, and

    the conceptualization of social change within an orientation towards service. Through

    this analysis I present a case for conceptualizing service in learning within a dialogical

    framework oriented towards change.

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    Acknowledgements In many ways, this thesis represents the remarkable spirit of service exemplified

    by so many along the way who contributed tremendously to this document, which I still

    consider to a work in progress as we continue to learn.

    My first acknowledgement must go to the staff and volunteers at the Kimanya-

    Ngeyo Foundation for Science and Education in Uganda, especially the PSA tutors and

    coordinators. Their generous contributions of time, thoughtful responses, conversations,

    questions, their hospitality, and their patience throughout my visit were tremendous gifts.

    Through the friendships that blossomed during that time I continue to learn from them

    and the diligent work that they carry out every day in a spirit of service. I must also

    acknowledge the significant contributions of so many people at FUNDAEC in Colombia,

    with whom this educational journey began for me two years ago in parallel to my

    educational journey at OISE.

    Rubn Gaztambide-Fernndez approached his supervisory duties as teacher,

    learner, mentor, and fellow scholar. Discussions from his classroom continue to ripen in

    my thoughts, and often provided the stimuli for a new chapter outline or an important

    analytic point when it came time to write my thesis. Under his supervision, I learned

    quickly that hard work is rewarded with opportunities to work even harder, to probe

    difficult questions more deeply, and to find myself in the process. Kathy Bickmore

    offered substantial feedback to enrich the nuance, complexity, and thoughtfulness of this

    thesis. Erin Murphy-Graham not only contributed crucial feedback since the beginning

    stages of this study, but also provided early inspiration for this work through her

    exemplary research on the SAT program in Honduras. Meetings with these three

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    incredible scholars to discuss this work are among the richest experiences I have had

    throughout my graduate studies, and together they formed an incredible committee.

    Colleagues and collaborators in and outside of OISE walked with me at different

    points in this journey, helping me to see the path ahead more clearly as we learned from

    each other. In particular, Sarah Switzer deserves special thanks for sharing her feedback

    and experiences of the thesis process, dispelling the potential isolation of scholarly work.

    Duncan Hanks has provided ongoing encouragement and guidance in helping me to

    determine my path of studies, research, work and service since my year of service in

    Bolivia several years ago.

    My parents are the ones who first impressed upon me the importance of service in

    spirit and in action, both through their conscious principles and their lived example. My

    siblings read through numerous chapter drafts and took care of me through the most

    grueling stages of this process. My close and dear friends in Toronto and in virtually

    every continent showered me with love and support as they walk their own paths of

    service, and throughout this process I have felt their presence bolstering my spirits and

    helping me to remain ever joyful in carrying out this work.

    To everyone mentioned here and to many others who supported this work in other

    but no less essential ways, I offer my most humble and profound gratitude. If it is in

    the spirit of service of so many that this thesis came to light, then I am further inspired

    and humbled in knowing that this is a path we walk in the company of so many who

    dedicate their hours, days, and lives in a spirit of service to the vision of a better world.

  • v

    Table of Contents Abstract ii Acknowledgments iii Table of Contents v List of Tables vii List of Figures viii List of Appendices ix Chapter 1: Service in Learning as Practice, Pedagogy, Problem and Possibility 1 Unpacking Service in Learning: Representations of the Field 3 Mobilizing Service in Learning: Framing the Research Context 7 Investigating Service in Learning: Theoretical Framework for Inquiry 12 Outlining the Thesis 15 Chapter 2: Literature of Service Learning through Concepts and Contexts 18 The Field of Service Learning 19 Origins and Definitions 20 The Individual Service Learner 21 Social Contexts of Service 27 Theoretical Frameworks for Service Learning 32 The Preparation for Social Action (PSA) Program in Uganda 37 FUNDAEC, SAT, and PSA: Development and Origins 37 External Recognition, Research, and Awards 41 Service Learning and PSA in Uganda: Framing the Research 44 Chapter 3: A Methodology of Learning from Action 46 Towards a Research Praxis of Collaboration 47 Identification, Identity, and Insider/Outsider Explorations 49 Subjectivity, Subject Positioning and Methodological Collaboration53 Methods and Tools of Research Design, Data Collection and Analysis 56 Tools and Frameworks of Analysis 61 The Research Site and Participants 62 Study Sessions 62 Tutors and Coordinators 63 Curriculum Materials 65 Sequence of Study 66 Chapter 4: Conceptualizing the Dialectic of Self and Society in Service 70 Self as Agent of and Subject to Social Change 73 Navigating Personal Benefit within Conceptions of Service 78

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    Drawing on Social and Spiritual Values 84 Navigating the Social Space of Service 92

    Chapter 5: Conceptualizing Praxis in Service for Social Change 94 The field of learning and action 95 Physical maintenance or improvement in the community 95 Aiding vulnerable community members 96 Agricultural service 96 Environmental promotion 97 Human health promotion 98 Educating children 99 Small commercial and local economic development 99 The scope of learning and action 102

    The role of content and knowledge 105 The context of learning and action 109 Chapter 6: Conceptualizing Processes of Change in an Orientation towards Service116 Language, Expression and Dialogue 117 Self-Reliance and Economic Relationships 122 The Future is Bright! Contingency and Hope 130 Chapter 7: Towards a Dialogical Framework of Service, Learning, and Change 135 Summary of Findings from PSA in Uganda 136 Towards Conceptual Frameworks for Service in Learning 141 Learning, Action, and Change 142 Towards Future Research and Inquiry 146 References 150 Appendices 162

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    List of Tables Table 3.1: Research Participants 64

    Table 3.2: Preparation for Social Action Texts and Units 66

    Table 3.3: PSA Study Sequence 67

    Table 3.4: Study Sequence of the PSA Groups in Uganda 68

  • viii

    List of Figures Figure 7.1: Service as a Dialogical Process of Learning, Action, and Change 142

  • ix

    List of Appendices

    Appendix 3.1: Introductory script for observation of PSA activities 162

    Appendix 3.2: Interview prompts for PSA tutors 163

    Appendix 3.3: Interview prompts for PSA coordinators 165

    Appendix 3.4: Information/permission letter to participants 167

    Appendix 3.5: Focus group protocol 170

    Appendix 5.1: Curriculum excerpt from Planting Crops 172

    Appendix 5.2: Curriculum excerpt from Environmental Issues 177

    Appendix 5.3: Curriculum excerpt from Classification 182

    Appendix 5.4: Curriculum excerpt from Addition and Subtraction 187

  • 1

    Chapter 1

    Service in Learning as Practice, Pedagogy, Problem, and Possibility

    Small mud houses surrounded by broad-leaved trees whizzed past us as we drove

    along the bright red dirt road on our motorcycle. After every few dozen houses we would

    pass a small school, each swarming with children of all ages clad in different coloured

    uniforms, a virtual rainbow of burgundy, navy blue, bright pink, and neon orange. After

    only a few minutes we came to a stop in front of a small secondary school, which

    consisted of five rooms arranged side by side. Ou