Integrating design concepts learned in the classroom with real-life issues: A case study



Design Education Strategy


  • community engagement, community service learning, real-life situations


Community service learning (CSL), generally known as service learning, is a method of teaching and learning in which specific needs in the community are combined with learning objectives and goals to stimulate meaningful learning experiences. CSL provides students with opportunities to relate and channel what they have learned in the classroom to real-life situations in the community. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in integrating CSL into higher education training programmes.

This paper aims to discuss the research on CSL in art and design higher education. Even though this approach is accepted and already being employed in some South African art and design higher educational programmes, not much has been done to analyse its impact on the curriculum compared to other fields, such as teacher education. As such, this method of teaching and learning has yet to be fully explored in the art and design sector. Some of the challenges for integrating CSL into the curriculum include the placement of community engagement within the academic structures and the limited time available at universities.

For the current study, a project brief was developed to assess selected university students’ academic and personal experiences towards integrating a community engagement project as part of the curriculum in “a leading South African design education institution”. Purposive sampling was used to select 12 students at both the 4th and 5th levels and who were at their exit levels in 2021. Data was collected by means of an online questionnaire that included multiple-choice, open-ended, and Likert scale questions. Feedback from participants shows that integrating CSL in real-life situations enriched and deepened their learning experience. The findings of this study suggest that CSL has potential for exploration and can be an effective tool for personal and academic development for university students.

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