The present study was inspired by Human-Vogel and Dippenaar’s (2013) research, which examined pre-service teachers’ commitment to community engagement in their second year of study. Human-Vogel and Dippenaar 2013 found that personal justice beliefs were independent of the pre-service teachers’ attitudes towards service learning. These puzzling findings necessitated further investigation and formed the basis of the rationale for my study. I was furthermore intrigued by the number of mentions made of social justice in connection with community engagement, evoking my interest in this concept and the role that social justice plays in service learning. In the present study I explored pre-service teachers’ experience with social justice during their service learning activities, examining the ways in which they dealt with social justice issues during their interactions in the different settings.
A qualitative research approach was applied guided by an interpretivist paradigm. I made use of an ex post facto instrumental case study design and four pre-service teachers were conveniently and purposively selected for the present the study. The criteria for selection was that the participants must have been involved in the Human-Vogel and Dippenaar’s (2013) research and were willing and available to participate in the present study. The data was collected through individual semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis was utilized during the data analysis.
In the present study five themes emerged as a result of the thematic analysis and interpretation. Firstly the pre-service teachers were able to provide their individual conceptualisation of justice. Under this theme they gave their individual definitions of personal and social justice and also provided examples of these concepts. Secondly, the pre-service teachers reported on their overall service learning experiences and these included the negative and positive aspects. Thirdly, there were barriers faced by the pre-service teachers during service learning activities. These included a lack of preparation and structure in the service learning activities, expectation versus reality of the service learning experiences, language barriers, lack of resources in the community, security concerns, and issues of stereo-types and assumptions. Fourthly, the pre-service teachers discussed issues of justice and social change. They were able to discuss issues related to social injustices experienced in the community, the availability and accessibility to justice structures as well as their being a voice to the voice-less. These aspects were discussed with the aim that such could be examined and used to bring about social change in the community. Lastly, the pre-service teachers provided recommendations in the form of Support structures needed by pre-service teachers in future service learning activities. They suggested that in future other pre-service teachers could benefit from preparation for the service learning module, monitoring of the service learning activities, guidelines and structure in the service learning and debriefing during and after the service learning.
Mini-dissertation (MEd)--University of Pretoria, 2015.