Riffing on a Theme: Faculty Experiences With Service-Learning in a Food Security Research Network in Ontario
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While service-learning is often said to be beneficial for all those involved—students, community members, higher education institutions, and faculty members—there are relatively few studies of the attraction to, and effect of, service-learning on faculty members. Existing studies have tended to use a survey design, and to be based in the United States. There is a lack of information on faculty experiences with service-learning in Ontario or Canada. This qualitative case study of faculty experiences with service-learning was framed through an Appreciative Inquiry social constructionist approach. The data were drawn from interviews with 18 faculty members who belong to a Food Security Research Network (FSRN) at a university in northern Ontario, reports submitted by the network, and personal observation of a selection of network-related events. This dissertation study revealed how involvement with service-learning created opportunities for faculty learning and growth. The focus on food security and a commitment to the sustainability of local food production was found to be an ongoing attraction to service-learning and a means to engage in and integrate research and teaching on matters of personal and professional importance to these faculty members. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the FSRN’s model and the perceived value of a themed, transdisciplinary approach to service-learning. This study highlights promising practices for involving faculty in service-learning and, in keeping with an Appreciative Inquiry approach, depicts a view of faculty work at its best.