Teacher perspectives on community engagement in an international school context
Ann, Salter Jarrett
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This qualitative case study explores teacher perspectives on community engagement efforts at the International School of Dakar (ISD) in Dakar, Senegal. It examines how teachers define meaningful and reciprocal community engagement, as well as barriers to engagement and proposed solutions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six teachers, two from each of the elementary, middle and high school departments at the International School of Dakar. During the interviews, participants discussed their experiences with community engagement at ISD, defined meaningful and reciprocal community engagement, identified challenges, as well as posed ideas for improvements. The interview findings were triangulated with analysis of IBO and school policy documents, as well as a researcher reflective journal. Findings were analysed within a postcolonial theoretical framework. The research revealed that teachers defined meaningful and reciprocal community engagement as engagement that is long-lasting, mutually beneficial, and that results in student learning. Teachers largely defined community engagement as synonymous with community service. The service model they described is consistent with a traditional service-learning model. Teachers perceived the school’s community engagement efforts as largely lacking, identifying personal, professional and socio-economic barriers to engagement. They proposed solutions that involved educating teachers, fostering long-term partnerships and soliciting the expertise of the Senegalese staff members at the school. The case study also revealed that teachers were largely unsure or unaware of existing programs and resources available, as well as their own responsibilities with regards to community engagement. This case study advocates for a critical service-learning model at the International School of Dakar.