A participatory approach to service-learning in creative arts education: a win-win learning opportunity for campus and community?
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Service-learning has been shown to be effective in preparing students to live and work in a diverse and rapidly changing society, especially when it is based on a democratic partnership between university students and community participants, resulting in mutuallybeneficial learning. Yet, in cases where the community is often regarded as less equal due to debilitating socio-economic circumstances, there is a real danger the engagement turns into more of a charity rendering experience, rather than promoting deep learning for all involved. This article reports on our attempts to create a service-learning experience that allowed students and community youth to learn with and from each other. Data were generated in four cycles of a participatory action research design, using visual, art and text-based strategies. The thematic analysis indicated that the process gave participants a better understanding of each other's lived realities; that it helped to level out unequal power relations; and that the reciprocal learning boosted development on personal and professional levels. The knowledge we share in this article will help others to know how to design and implement a valuable and mutually beneficial service learning experience not only in Creative Arts education; but in any discipline where students engage with community.