Getting closer to the community voice in curriculum development: exploring the possibilities

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Education as Change

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Taylor & Francis


University of Cape Town

Policy in Higher Education in South Africa is urging tertiary institutions to become socially responsive in regard to community development, to produce new knowledge and to produce graduates who are critical and responsive citizens. One method of achieving this is through service-learning initiatives. Community-based service-learning values the principle of institutions of higher education working in partnership with communities to develop education programmes for students. Through collaborative engagement in developing the programmes, the assumption is that not only will academic, discipline or professional needs be met, but that community members will benefit and gain new knowledge. There is an assumption that there will be mutual benefit and learning. Most research on service-learning has focused on student learning, course outcomes and issues surrounding faculty or university. Very little research has been conducted regarding what communities or community services bring, or could bring to health sciences education. This paper will focus on health sciences community-based service-learning for medical students and will explore (a) to what extent, and through which mechanisms community members are able to express their knowledge and skills in the design of the community based courses and curriculum development. (b) Whether there is mutual learning and benefit and if so, what these are. The paper is based on piloting an in-depth interview with a community organisation that has hosted various students over a number of years. The paper illuminates the overt and tacit knowledge of the community organisation, which helps guide the university staff and students and could impact on curriculum development. The paper discusses the ways in which community knowledge and skills are acknowledged or disregarded in curricula and suggests ways in which this knowledge could enhance health professional education.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Education as Change on 25 September 2009. Available online: