Music and visual arts service learning in Sydney schools: school and university partnerships to widen participation in higher education

28 June 2016

This paper presents findings on university students’ perceptions of an undergraduate service learning unit of study designed to engage university and school students in collaborative music and drawing workshops in six primary and high schools in Sydney, Australia. It is based on a two-year project in an Australian university in 2012 and 2013 that offered first year university music and visual arts students the opportunity to partner with identified low socio economic schools (LSES) in Sydney. As each of the schools involved in this project has different types of music and visual arts programs, and different policies and uses for service learning work, ways that engaging in the partnership differs between them. To explain this, the perceptions of the university music and art students working with each of the schools are reported and are derived from survey and focus group interviews (n=35). In addition, school and university staff members’ comments (n=9) on their perceptions of the university students’ response to the workshops conducted in the schools is reported. No school students were interviewed or surveyed in this project’s investigation. The results of this mixed-method exploratory study indicate benefit to university students’ understanding of widening participation and the justification of service learning programs in university undergraduate degree programs as part of their learning.