Community engagement

Service Learning and Community Engagement 

The Faculty of Education is dedicated to sharing skills and experience with communities. Community engagement from the perspective of this faculty entails two main strands: 

1) service-learning and;

2) community-based research.

Service Learning

Service-learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning and critical reflection. Service-Learning is also an educational activity in which discipline specific knowledge acquisition is attained through practical exercises carried out in the community which involves the assessment of and reflection on attitudes and values held by students.

Service-learning integrates meaningful community service with reflection, providing university students with a community based context for their learning which allows them to make connections between their academic coursework and their roles as critical and engaged citizens.  

Service-learning courses or projects always have three objectives:

  • 1) contributing to local human and community development;
  • 2) improving the quality of academic learning within the discipline;
  • 3) extending the leadership/civic/character development of students.

Service-learning contributes to transformation in higher education at 3 levels:

  • transforming the relationship between universities and communities through collaboration;
  • transforming individuals and communities through the service activities;
  • transforming students by helping them to develop their personal values and interrelational skills in order to become responsible citizens.

Community-Based Research

This is research that is:

Community situated -begins with a research topic of practical relevance to the community (as opposed to individual scholars) and is carried out in community settings.

Collaborative -community members and researchers equitably share control of the research agenda through active and reciprocal involvement in the research design, implementation and dissemination of findings.

Action-oriented-the process and results are useful to community members in making positive social change and to promote social equity.

Community-based research has the following characteristics:

  • The relevance of the research topic is identified or verified by community members.
  • The resources of research (financial, expertise, etc.) are shared with community members, particularly those most affected by the research topic.
  • The research process recognizes and utilizes the expertise that community members have.
  • The research process recognizes and addresses power imbalances between researchers and community members.
  • The research process is driven by values, including: enablement, supportive relationships, social change, learning as an ongoing process and respect for diversity.
  • The research process and results are accessible and understandable to community members.
  • The research process and results consider and adapt to the context in which the research is conducted.
  • The research process leads to sustainable learning and development of community members.


Center for Education leadership development and Support (CELDS)

Prof Lloyd Conly

Centre in support of school leadership in practice and the building CoP's and networks.

Movement Education to pre-school learners

Dr Dorita Du Toit

Foundation phase students in the LSKP 311 module provide human body educational lesson to a pre-school (Assjassies Pre-school). The aim of the project is practical training of students as well as educating learners and educators regarding life orientation lessons

Support to learners with special needs

Prof Lukas Meyer

In line with the Partnerships of Hope agreement between the Faculty of Education Sciences and the Kenneth Kaunda District, Bed Hons students (EPSY611) in Educational Psychology render psychological counselling to learners at ES le Grange, Die Wilge schools and Seiphemelo Secondary School. These students work under the supervision of registered psychologists in the subject group Educational Psychology and their practical involvement at these schools forms part of the practical programme which is prescribed by the Professional Board of Psychology.

Holistic well-being support initiative in South African schools

Dr Ansie Kitching

The engagement is aimed at implementing an integrated, multi-level process to facilitate sustainable holistic well-being in six schools in Franschhoek and 3 schools in Delft in the Western Cape. Well-being support teams have been established in these school and are supported by the project team. The intention is to develop a basis for roll-out to other South African schools. The engagement is also part of an NRF funded research project.

Luniko: A collaboratively constructed program to promote parental involvement in the education of their primary school children

Prof Lesley Wood

Twenty-one years into democracy in South Africa, access to quality education still eludes those who cannot afford to pay for it. The socio-economic adversities facing the communities in which schools are situated play a large role in their dysfunction. Yet, within such communities there is also a wealth of human resources that can add real value to the quality of teaching and learning.  The purpose of this project is to develop community members as teaching assistants, who will work hand in hand with teachers to develop a culturally and contextually relevant programme to empower parents/guardians to partner with the school in the education of their children.  An action research design, using a qualitative approach to data generation and analysis, will ensure the participation of all stakeholders in the design, implementation and evaluation of the programme. The development of such a programme will help to improve parental involvement, as well as equip unemployed community members with skills that will improve their chance of formal employment and enhance personal development.

Action research for community engagement by tertiary institutions: Beyond Service Learning

Prof Lesley Wood

Community engagement is a core function of the university in South Africa. In the field of education, this imperative obliges academics to work with school communities to address the many social challenges that impact negatively on teaching and learning. Although poverty and inequality are important determinants for lack of educational success, little is known about how such barriers to learning should and could be addressed by academics. There is thus a need to develop both capacity among academics for community engagement and to generate knowledge on how this could be done in a way that meets both research and community development needs. Participatory action research is a creative, innovative, collaborative and self-developed way to work with communities, based on democratic values that promote the taking of responsibility for outcomes that benefit mutual interests. This study proposes to explore the usefulness of participatory action research, as a methodology for community engagement, by conducting a meta-analysis of the process to develop grounded theory about the practices and dynamics of community engagement by tertiary researchers. The outputs of this research will describe how relevant and contextualised knowledge can be created in collaboration with communities and provide grounded theory that will contribute to the emerging field of community engagement at tertiary level

Environmental education for sustainable development (EE for SD) within South African schools

Dr Luiza De Sousa

The purpose of the project remains the same as the initial project in that it aims to:

  • Empower teaching staff to facilitate and educate learners and the greater community about climate change resilience so as to sustainably conserve the school and community resources.
  • Facilitate schools to develop a strategy and to raise awareness about the need of environmental preservation amongst teachers, learners and the community.
  • Promote academic discourses and research opportunities on sustainable development in higher education through the research projects and to publish original research pertaining to the climate change resilience project.
  • To develop a body of scholarship in this research domain.

Potchefstroom Hospital Student Counsellor Project

Dr Lynn Preston

BEd Honours students provide psycho-educational counselling support and general counselling services to hospital patients in order to promote mental health at the district hospital

AFRD students teach Afrikaans as additional language to Setswana learners

Dr Ronel van Oort

WIL training does not provide adequate exposure for the Afrikaans methodology student with regard to the teaching Afrikaans as second additional language. This project provides students with the opportunity for more practical teaching outside the classroom.

AFRD methodology students teach learners at a local farm school on Friday afternoons around various themes of Afrikaans. This partnership provides equal satisfaction to both parties identified needs. The project extends beyond just the teaching of Afrikaans as additional language as the students also provide stationary and applicable study material to the learners.

Practical Research for English BEdHons students

Dr Kotie Kaiser

The English Department would like to expose their BEd Hons class to practical community-based research for the module RSPR 671. The aim of this project is to:

  • build a corpus of general English academic, domain-specific and technical vocabulary in Mathematics and Science for Grade 4;
  • design materials to aid Grade 4 English Second Language (ESL) learners in the acquisition of vocabulary in Mathematics and Science classrooms;
  • teach English vocabulary, reading and writing across the curriculum to Grade 4 learners

Ikageng School Mentoring Project

Me Susan Greyling / Distance Learning academic staff

This project aims to mentor teachers at five different schools in Potchefstroom and Ikageng. It comprises of three components: Teaching and Learning, Professional Development and Research. The first component of Teaching and Learning is tuition via Interactive Whiteboard in Mathematics and Geography. Professional Development is the second component, and the focus here is on mentorship. Up to now this has been dealt with on a one-on-one basis, but the focus will now move to a workshop approach. Research is the third focus and will be executed on the managing of the data into academic outputs.

This project has been coordinated by Prof Willem van Vollenhoven with staff from the Unit for Open Distance Learning. They will continue with this project which is now under coordination of Ms Susan Greyling.

The purpose of the project is to:

  • reach out to the school community;
  • to implement and share expertise by extending the production, dissemination, integration and application of knowledge and technology;
  • to refine teaching, learning and leadership capacity within the five identified schools;
  • to have an impact on whole school development;
  • to create and maintain good relationships between the NWU as higher education institution and basic education providers;
  • to conduct action research and embark on other research possibilities and publications thereof, and to put structures in place for the sustainability of effective processes.

Exploring Children’s Narratives of HIV/AIDS through Creative and Expressive Arts

Dr Tarsisio Nyatsanza

The aim of this projects is:

  • To encourage anti-discriminatory, anti-racist, anti-colonial and anti-stigma attitudes regarding HIV/AIDS in South African communities
  • To develop critical research skills that engage learners, teachers and teacher educators in order for them to develop a deeper, broader, emancipatory and nuanced understanding of HIV/AIDS beyond a bio-medical approach that takes cognisance of the complexity and intersectionality of the discourses that underpin HIV/AIDS.
  • To influence best policy and practice of HIV education on local and national levels by disseminating the outcomes of the study to appropriate target audiences
  • To co-produce sustainable and contextually relevant curriculum resources for HIV education in South Africa
  • To share research findings with local and international academics, communities and other stakeholders through the dissemination of scholarly work.