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Students in service-learning courses often make well-intended but deficit-oriented comments about the communities with whom they are working. While service provides opportunities for student learning (e.g., developing civic commitments and academic skills and increasing awareness of discrimination), service can also reinforce deficit-oriented thinking. Further, students from marginalized backgrounds in service-learning classrooms can be negatively affected by deficit-oriented comments. Possible theories to confront such challenges include asset-based models of community development, critical service learning, and structural explanations for inequities. Teaching cases are a pedagogical device for supporting students in putting complex theories like these into practice. This article presents a teaching case—grounded in these critical theories—that can foster students’ abilities to develop responses to typical scenarios they might encounter at service-learning sites that are informed by structural understandings of social and racial inequities. Further, the case can be part of a classroom environment conducive to the learning of all students.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
134 kB



  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 10

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022