At the cross-roads of dissonance: Border pedagogy and meaning-makingof service-learning in India
Dilafruz Williams, Professor, Portland State University []
Thomas Van Cleave, Program Director, International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership []


Keywords: Border crossing, meaning-making, dissonance, international service-learning, India

Track: Student development and learning

Format: Research paper

Date & time: Friday 9:30-10:40

Location: Wilson

This paper uses the frameworks of border crossing and border pedagogy (Anzaldúa, 1987; Giroux, 1992; Taylor, 2002) to identify ways in which students construct understandings after a service-learning experience in India. Data are drawn from 24 Portland State University students in two cohorts (2010 and 2011): Daily written reflections and oral discussions in India; evaluative feedback given to host institution on final day; and students’ written papers after re-entering their home context. Using thematic content analysis, the study reveals a complex meaning-making process for students, one that integrates cognitive and emotional dissonance along with intercultural understanding and questioning of taken-for-granted assumptions.

Experiences of serving abroad create dissonance for students at the host site and on re-entry into their American context/life. It is at the cross-roads of dissonance that significant learning occurs. For this, space must be given to students to make meaning of what appears to be a life-transforming experience. Given the growth in international service-learning programs, it is critical that instructors recognize no matter how much they might “prepare” students for a foreign context, it is through structured and open reflection, sharing of feelings, and critical engagement, that students process their learning and experience and develop depth of cross-cultural understandings.

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