Original Research

Teacher education students’ struggles with group work in service learning

Nadine Petersen, Gadija Petker
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 7, No 1 | a479 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v7i1.479 | © 2017 Nadine Petersen, Gadija Petker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 July 2016 | Published: 19 May 2017

About the author(s)

Nadine Petersen, Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Gadija Petker, Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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This article reports on students’ experiences of learning to work together in a childhood teacher education programme at a university in South Africa. We were interested in how students from diverse backgrounds, with little shared understanding of a model or framework for collaborative working, would find their footing and learn how to operationalise care, accountability and reflexivity through engaging in group work as part of their service learning activities. A cross section of student data, from first year to third year, was analysed using qualitative methods of data analysis. The main findings were that the incremental integration of service learning, with fixed student groupings over three years, was a catalyst for the gradual formation of professional student learning communities. The student struggles with group relationships helped them address their cultural, linguistic and gendered assumptions about each other. Lastly, we found that relatively fixed nature of the student groupings over a three year period encouraged deep reflection about ideas of care, community and social responsibility.


Service learning; Communities of practice; Student learning; Foundation phase teacher education; Teaching school


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