Service-Learning Colloquium

  Colloquium Programme  

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Service-learning (SL) and work-integrated learning as models for academically-based community engagement (CE) have gained considerable ground in the last decade.  Much of the early initiation and proliferation of SL in the South African higher education context was facilitated by the Community-Higher Education-Service Partnerships (CHESP) initiative that introduced theoretical frameworks and practice models for SL developed in the United States of America (USA) (Lazarus, 2007).  As a result most of the higher education institutions (HEIs) who participated in the CHESP projects used such frameworks and models in their practice of SL. In the last decade, however, as SL research and practice have become more established in the South African higher education landscape, researchers and scholars in this country who work in the field have begun to interrogate the applicability of these frames and models for the South African context.  Globally, more versions of SL have developed that connects to the context and culture of the particular country as in the case of SA and which could be useful to us and other African countries. These innovations have the potential to contribute to the re-territorialisation of SL in South Africa and (other) non-Western contexts (Le Grange, 2007).

With the formation of the South African Higher Education Community Engagement Forum (SAHECEF) in 2009, and in light of its emphasis on the important role of higher education in communities, it seems prudent to to take stock of what has been achieved in the last decade and to examine innovations in the practice and research of SL that can contribute to the advancement of both theory and practice in the field in South African higher education. The colloquium also aims to propose the establishment of a nationwide SL community of practice who can drive robust discussions in the field and advance a research agenda for the next decade. Therefore the colloquium is planned and endorsed by the SAHECEF executive committee as an activity of the teaching and learning work group.

Colloquium Aims

This colloquium aims to provide a forum, where established scholars, practitioners and/or researchers in the field of SL can come together to share innovations in the areas of research, theory and practice. Questions such as: Where did we come from?  What are the dynamics influencing SL trends at the different institutions? Where are we heading with SL practice and research and how do we chart a trajectory for this agenda? are part of the envisaged debate and discussion. Below is a graphical depiction of what is envisaged.

The aims of the colloquium are:

  1. Communicating the current status and positioning of SL at the different HEIs in South Africa

  2. Innovations for the next decade: establishing a new vibrant debate that broadens discussion on theory and practice regarding SL

  3. Envisioning a more robust agenda for SL research.

The outcomes of the colloquium are:

  1. A model for the establishment of a sustainable community of practice for Service Learning in South Africa

  2. Contribution to the body of Service Learning knowledge (epistemological positioning of SL possibly within Community Engagement in Higher Education Studies)

  3. Investigating the possibility of establishing a South African Service Learning journal

  4. Accreditation of international Service Learning journals.

The suggested scholarly values which the colloquium embraces are:

  • Inclusive participation

  • Opportunity to showcase research

  • Open discursive culture

  • Non-judgemental approach

  • Self-critical stances

  • Research focus

Call for Contributions

All public and private HEIs in South Africa who embrace SL at an institutional level are invited to share their theoretical frameworks and research.  SL innovation may be framed against the broader field of higher education studies, but could also be embedded within Development Studies or other disciplines.  However the core of the contribution should focus on SL. The abstracts should be based on theoretical innovation and demonstrate the link to practice in the context of a particular institution substantiated by research in the field. The abstracts may cover one or more of the following themes:

  1. Innovations in the theoretical grounding of SL

  2. Innovations in curriculum design for SL

  3. Innovations for building institutional capacity in SL

  4. Innovations in fostering collaborative relationships with communities on curricular and/or community-based level

  5. Innovations in inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary work in SL

  6. Innovations in the research approaches conducive to the advancement of SL research

The abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation at the colloquium based on the academic rigor displayed and solid theoretical grounding of the research on which it is based. Download a format template for contributions.
The final date for abstracts is February 28, 2011 and participants will be informed of the outcome by March 15, 2011. Unfortunately no late submissions will be accepted.


Concurrent to this call for contributions, we aim to submit a proposal for a special edition of an accredited education journal.  When and if successful, authors of a selection of articles from the colloquium will be invited to revise their inputs for this publication.
Furthermore, the proceedings will be published electronically on the Stellenbosch website under e-publications. A hard copy version is to be printed and will be available at the SAHECEF conference in November 2011. The purpose of proceedings is to:

    • Function as a reference point
    • Inform SAHECEF’s SL agenda
    • Provide a manifesto for a Community of Practice in SL

    Colloquium Logistics

    Participants will arrive on April 20, in the morning before 12:00 to start 12:30.  After a keynote address lunch will be served at 13:00.  The proceedings are to take place in the afternoon of 20 and the whole day of 21 to conclude at ± 16:00. This will enable participants to return home on the same evening or spend the weekend in Cape Town (at own cost).

    An inter-university committee, the Service-Learning Colloquium committee (SLCC), will take responsibility for the organisation of the colloquium and review of the abstracts. Three universities namely Stellenbosch University, University of the Free State and University of Johannesburg took the initiative to do the preliminary conceptualisation of the event.  The organising committee is to be expanded to include at least 6 universities in the different regional of SA based on their expression of interest.

    The Division for Community Interaction, Stellenbosch University, will host and solicit funding for the event. The colloquium chair is Dr Antoinette Smith-Tolken from Stellenbosch University.  Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs. Accommodation at a reduced cost has been secured with the Stellenbosch Lodge. Transport will be provided between the hotel and the colloquium venue for the duration of the event.

    The number of participants to the colloquium is capped on 60-70 to ensure maximum participation.  Institutions are requested to nominate two representatives of their institution who are responsible for or practicing SL. The nomination should preferably be endorsed by the vice-chancellor or deputy vice-chancellor responsible for SL of the particular university who can make the resources toward transport and accommodation available.

    Additional delegates can be accommodated at R500 per head, payable at registration of the delegate. Please see details on the registration form.

    The deadline for registration is April 8, 2011.

    Compiled by
    Dr Antoinette Smith-Tolken
    Deputy Director: Community Interaction
    Division for Community Interaction
    Stellenbosch University


    Prof Mabel Erasmus, University of the Free State
    Dr Nadine Petersen, University of Johannesburg