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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