Reshaping educational experience by volunteering in the community: language learners in the real world

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Andrew, Martin (2011) Reshaping educational experience by volunteering in the community: language learners in the real world. Journal of Intercultural Communication (25). pp. 1-17. ISSN 1404-1634


This paper views tertiary language learners’ gaining a sense of cultural belonging and an awareness of intercultural communication through three prisms: (i) the metaphor of "investment", (ii) the notion of "community of practice" and (iii) the concept of "imagined community". Applied to environments of real world learning, specifically the volunteer sector, the notion of "community" holds a key to reshaping the cultural education experiences for participants in language learning programs, including learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL). This paper examines facets of "community" to contextualise the experiences of learners in a project where advanced EAL learners undertook volunteer work as part of a cultural learning curriculum within a Bachelor of Arts in EAL at a tertiary institute in New Zealand. This project gave learners access to "communities of practice" (Lave & Wenger 1992; Wenger 1998), providing contexts where instructors can reshape learners’ higher education experiences by identifying cultural learning opportunities within the volunteer sector of the community. In educational research, the properties of community include insider support, common goals, shared discourse and membership (Rovai 2002a). The occurrence of such features in a student’s volunteer placement depends on the degree of "investment" (Norton 2000; Pittaway 2004) participants have in individual and community goals. In the project, the journalised reflections of the participating migrants, refugees and international students reveal the cultural and ontological value of community work. This paper uses the concepts of real and imagined communities to theorise the participants’ investments in their learning, presents qualitative findings from the project, and describes a range of benefits for EAL learners’ learning in community. The paper concludes that investing in community can prepare learners for their future and imagined communities while reshaping significant aspects of cultural learning.

Item type Article
Official URL
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Education
Historical > FOR Classification > 2004 Linguistics
Keywords ResPubID24819, volunteering, imagined communities, communities of practice, investment
Citations in Scopus 5 - View on Scopus
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