Publication Details

Hammersley, L. (2012). Community based service-learning: Partnerships of reciprocal exchange?. In M. Campbell (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2012 Australian Collaborative Education Network National Conference (pp. 103-108). Melbourne: Australian Collaborative Education Network.


Community based service-learning (CBSL) integrates experiential learning and academic goals with organised service activities designed to meet the objectives of community partners (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995). Although research remains inconclusive regarding the benefits of student outcomes, CBSL has been endowed with the potential to enhance (1) academic learning, (2) foster civic responsibility, (3) develop life skills and (4) transform student attitudes (Eyler, 2002). However, there is little research to support claims that benefits are mutual amongst host counterparts (Edwards et al., 2001; Ward & Wolf-Wendell, 2000). A lack of empirical research into community partner conceptualisations of best practice approaches, outcomes and impacts, not only reflects a uni-dimensional understanding of the mutuality of programs, but fails to challenge dominant power relations embedded in traditionally uneven partnerships. It remains problematic to engage with service-learning without considering underlying neo-colonialist ideologies that continue to permeate the ways community service, international development, and volunteering are defined and practiced. If CBSL builds upon reciprocity and collaborative partnerships, it follows that research practice should adopt similar principles. Drawing on development discourse and practice, this paper provides a critical review of the CBSL literature. First, this paper will demonstrate how closely intertwined CBSL is with contemporary development agendas; second, bring attention to the absence of partner perspectives and partner involvement within CBSL studies; and third, outline a CBSL research agenda.