Critical Service-Learning and the Ethical Considerations of Community Partnerships

We, scholar-practitioners of Color, have been intentionally integrating Critical Service-Learning (CSL) into university course curriculum over the past two academic years to provide students with meaningful community-engaged experiences aimed at disrupting deficit-driven perceptions of the community members with whom we collaborate. CSL, as a framework, centers on three tenets: building authentic relationships, working from a social change framework, and redistributing power (Mitchell, 2008). In this deep dive session, we describe CSL as both a philosophy and mechanism through which each tenet is operationalized and differentiated to address issues in our respective fields: Criminology and Special Education. We are engaged scholar-practitioners, one African American mother/scholar, focusing on changing the mindsets of future law enforcement officers who may carry negative understandings of Black community members; while the other, a Latina mother/scholar/ is interested in transforming pre-service teachers’ deficit perspectives of families of children with disabilities, specifically Latinx immigrant families. Both of these engaged scholar-practitioners grapple with ethical considerations of working with (not on) community partners who are integral stakeholders in both research and curriculum (or praxis) projects. Participants in this deep dive will walk away with: a) a comprehensive perspective of CSL, b) a deeper sense of positionality, power, and privilege in relation to community-engaged work, and c) explicit understandings of the challenges and ethics embedded in community-engaged partnerships.


Cristina Santamaría Graff, Assistant Professor of Special Education, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis




Kiesha Warren-Gordon, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ball State University