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Pitfalls of Community-Based Learning: How Power Dynamics Limit Adolescents’ Trajectories of Growth and Participation


by Kathleen Hogan — 2002

It is a popular contention that situating students’ academic learning in community settings provides opportunities for them to develop competencies in authentic disciplinary practices. This article examines that contention using results from an ethnographic study of 14 high school students’ experiences throughout a school year as they became involved in the work of an environmental management organization. Situated learning theory served as a lens through which to view the students’ learning as transformation of participation. Results focus on an underdeveloped aspect of that theory: the dynamics of power differentials between novices and experienced practitioners. These power dynamics ultimately limited students’ experiences and growth. This article presents a case of how community-based learning programs can fall short when held up to the standard of giving students entrée into a community of practice. A suggested avenue of remediation is to facilitate experienced participants’ reflection on and amelioration of the manifestations and consequences of power differentials.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 3, 2002, p. 586-624
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10844, Date Accessed: 10/1/2014 4:11:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Kathleen Hogan
    Institute of Ecosystem Studies
    E-mail Author
    KATHLEEN HOGAN is an educational psychologist and associate scientist at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, an ecological research and education facility located in Millbrook, New York. Dr. Hogan’s research focuses on school and community-based science learning as enculturation; the role of systems thinking in communicating and understanding ecological complexity; the relations among classroom discourse, collaborative reasoning, and the learning of science; and the roles of metacognitive and epistemological frameworks in ecological and scientific learning. Recent publications include:

    "Viewing Classrooms as Cultural Contexts for Fostering Scientific Literacy," in Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 32(2); and "Comparing the Epistemological Underpinnings of Students’ and Scientists’ Reasoning About Conclusions," in Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38.


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