“[We] have to be … interpreters to negotiate” : service learning and boundary workers

  • Janice McMillan University of Cape Town


Drawing on qualitative case study research of two service learning courses, this paper uses the framework of activity theory to present service learning as an activity system and form of ‘boundary work’ in higher education. To view service learning as an activity system requires one to locate the analysis in the ‘boundary zone’ at the nexus of the university and community, and to explore the roles of various actors in the system. In particular the paper argues that the role of the service learning educator needs to be explored and made visible. Using activity theory, the experiences of two educators’ playing the role of ‘boundary worker’ are explored. What activity theory makes clear is that this role is intimately tied up with issues of identity, authority and knowledge. Going forward it would be useful to explore activity theory as a framework in service learning curriculum and professional development of educators.
How to Cite
McMillan, Janice. 2016. “‘[We] Have to Be … Interpreters to negotiate’ : Service Learning and Boundary Workers”. South African Journal of Higher Education 29 (3). https://doi.org/10.20853/29-3-500.
Section B