Towards a critical service learning in geography education: exploring challenges and possibilities through testimonio

Madelaine C. Cahuas, Charles Z. Levkoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


There has been an increasing interest in exploring the transformational possibilities of experiential learning approaches like service learning, across post-secondary education, including geography. At the same time, scholars caution that such initiatives can entrench neoliberalism, white supremacy and other power structures and call for implementing a critical service learning (CSL) approach that is rooted in action against injustice. In response, this paper uses testimonio methodology to explore the experiences of a student and instructor engaging in a graduate geography course that implements CSL. We demonstrate how CSL is a complex process that is mired in the very power structures and institutional barriers it attempts to disrupt. Nonetheless, CSL creates opportunities for social change in the classroom and community, which make it a promising pedagogical strategy for geographers aiming to create alternative teaching approaches in their classrooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-263
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geography in Higher Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We gratefully acknowledge the tireless work of Amrita Daniere, our community partners, the dedicated students and the Department of Geography & Planning at the University of Toronto for supporting the Planning for Change: Community Development in Practice course and making this work possible. We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to Fran Rawlings Quintero and MUJER for welcoming this opportunity for partnership and their relentless efforts to end gender-based violence. Lastly, we give thanks to Latin American communities across Ontario for inspiring the stories shared here.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Critical service learning
  • human geography education
  • social justice
  • testimonio


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