Institutes of higher education around the world have increasingly adopted community-based experiential learning (EL) programs as pedagogy to equip their students with skills and values that make them more open to an increasingly unpredictable and ill-defined 21st-century world. Values of social justice, empathy, care, collaboration, creativity, and resilience have all been seen as potential benefits of community engagement through EL. In the field of teacher education, the goals of preparing teachers for the 21st century have undergone similar changes with the local community being positioned more and more as a knowledge space that is rich in learning opportunities for both preservice and in-service teachers. It is no longer enough for teacher educators to only focus on the teaching of classroom strategies and methods; beginning teachers’ must now move toward a critical interrogation of their role as a community-based teacher. Boundary-crossing projects established by teacher education institutes and that are embedded in local communities can complement more traditional pedagogies such as classroom-based lectures and teaching practicum. Such an approach to teacher education can allow for new teachers to draw on powerful community knowledge in order to become more inclusive and socially connected educators. In sum, community-based EL in teacher preparation programs can create a hybrid, nonhierarchical platform for academics, practitioners, and community partners who bring together different expertise that are all seen as being beneficial to teacher development in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. While research has shown that community-based EL projects can bring tangible benefits to students, universities, and community members, a number of contentious issues continue to surround the topic and need to be addressed. One concerns the very definition of community-based EL itself. There is still a need to better characterize what community-based EL is and what it involves, because too often it is seen in overly simplistic terms, such as voluntary work, or categorized loosely as another example of service-learning endeavors, including field studies and internship programs. There has also been a paucity of research on the degree to which community-based EL projects in teacher training actually help to promote subject matter teaching skills. Other ongoing issues about the case for community-based learning in teacher education today include the question of who the teacher educators are in today’s rapidly changing world and to what extent noneducation-related community partners should be positioned as co-creators of knowledge alongside teacher educators in the development of new teachers’ personal and professional development.
Nadine Petersen, Sarah Gravett, and Sarita Ramsaroop
Although teacher education actively promotes the ideals of social justice and care, finding ways of enculturating student teachers into what these values mean in education remains a challenge. Additionally, the literature abounds with the struggles of teacher educators to prepare student teachers with the knowledge and competencies required for the complex task of teaching. A way to address this is through the inclusion of service learning (SL) in initial teacher education programs. SL, as a form of experiential learning, with reflection at its core, serves as a means of deepening student learning about the practice of social justice and care and as a way of both drawing on, and informing, student teachers’ practical and situational learning of teaching. SL also holds potential for preparing teachers with the competencies required for the 21st century. The research on SL in teacher education draws on theoretical perspectives of experiential learning, democracy education, social transformation, multicultural education, critical reflection, and education for civic responsibility. A limitation is that the literature within developing contexts is underrepresented, limiting access to useful lessons from the research in these contexts and preventing wider theorization in the field.
Adult learning is described as learning undertaken by adults in natural educational settings as opposed to the experimental settings often undertaken in psychological research on learning. As such, the theory and research on adult learning referred to in this article primarily draws on applied educational research reported in adult education journals. Much of this research is informed by psychological and social research and theory, and this is acknowledged in each of six adult learning themes outlined in this article. These themes are self-directed learning, experience and learning, learning styles, the development of identity in the adult years, intellectual and cognitive development, and transformative learning. While these themes focus on adult learning in a general sense, our understanding of adult learning also needs to be seen in relation to the context in question; contexts such as health, the third age, indigenous knowledge, literacy and numeracy, the environment, disability, community education, gender equity, race, and migrant and refugee education. The literature on adult learning offers very few prescriptive bridges linking research, theory, and practice. This is partly because there are competing theories posing different questions and offering opposing interpretations of research findings, but it is also because the purpose and function of education and learning is a contested field. In these circumstances the best approach for practitioners is to interrogate and improve their practice through engaging with research findings, competing models, and competing theories. In this way they are aware of the variables at play and can formulate practices that are consistent with their educational aims and purposes. The link between research, theory and practice is conceptual rather than prescriptive, with practitioners interrogating and improving their practice by engaging with the issues and the competing claims of theory and research.
Lisiane Celia Palma, Marcelo Trevisan, and Nathália Rigui Trindade
Establishing a balance between the demands of the productive sectors and other societal spheres is one of the greatest challenges in the area of sustainability. Education for Sustainability (EfS) can help educational institutions (EIs), especially technical schools, to overcome this challenge. Therefore, it is important to explore how the theme of EfS is currently being addressed in technical education. Sustainability permeates discussions about technical education, yet it is not yet central to the education process. The integration of aspects of sustainability in education require the restructuring of didactic arrangements. In this vein, experiential learning theory (ELT) can help EIs to improve EfS. ELT is one of the most effective ways to promote positive change in individuals and organizations.