Ethnographic Service Learning: An Approach for Transformational Learning

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Melanie A. Medeiros Jennifer Guzmán


Trends in higher education pedagogy increasingly point to the importance of transformational experiences as the capstone of liberal arts education. Practitioners of ethnography, the quintessential transformational experience of the social sciences, are well-positioned to take the lead in designing courses and term projects that afford undergraduate students opportunities to fundamentally reshape their understanding of the social world and their own involvement within it. Furthermore, in the United States, colleges and universities have become proponents of service learning as a critical component of a holistic educational experience. In this article, we describe how service learning can be incorporated into training students in ethnographic field methods as a means to transformational learning and to give them skills they can use beyond the classroom in a longer trajectory of civic participation. We discuss strategies, opportunities, and challenges associated with incorporating service learning into courses and programs training students in ethnographic field methods and propose five key components for successful ethnographic service learning projects. We share student insights about the transformational value of their experiences as well as introduce some ethical concerns that arise in ethnographic service-learning projects.

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How to Cite
MEDEIROS, Melanie A.; GUZMÁN, Jennifer. Ethnographic Service Learning: An Approach for Transformational Learning. Teaching Anthropology, [S.l.], v. 6, nov. 2016. ISSN 2053-9843. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 jan. 2020. doi:
Service-Learning, Ethnographic Methods, Transformational Learning
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