Opportunities and challenges for service-learning experiences in informal urban settlements
Garcia Cervantes, Natalia
Hinojosa Hinojosa, Karen
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Purpose: The purpose of this article is the discussion of a service-learning experience in architecture pedagogy, based on two core courses at a private university in Mexico. The aim is to identify learning opportunities, challenges and implications arising from engaging with inhabitants of an informal urban settlement with limited digital resources in La Campana-Altamira in Monterrey, Mexico. Design/methodology/approach: The methodology selected is a case study approach, chosen for its effectiveness in architectural pedagogy to create knowledge through exposure to a particular phenomenon, as well as highlight positive teaching practices to facilitate replicability. Case-study methodology was also beneficial in this case because its openness and flexibility allowed for research of a variety of phenomena simultaneously, in this case, both the effects in the informal settlement community and in the academic one. Findings: Findings revealed that opportunities outweigh challenges, and meaningful service and learning are possible in an online context, even when the service aspects take longer than the course length if there are long-term relationships between communities and institutions. Originality/value: The value of the article lies in the need for flexible and sensitive approaches that put communities in the center, a critical path to identifying and understanding their needs and improving their contexts. This holds especially true given the rapid pace of worldwide urbanization and the ubiquity of informal urban settlements. Implementing service-learning approaches in informal settings using online tools, while sanitary restrictions are in place shows that meaningful experiences can be achieved, even when courses are short and resources are limited.
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