Anthropologist Tackles ‘Anti-Foundational’ Learning in Vietnam

Anthropologist Tackles ‘Anti-Foundational’ Learning in Vietnam

An Anthropology professor of Silliman University facilitated a workshop on service-learning at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities – Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City on June 2 to 5 and discussed the value of questioning lessons learned in the classroom in achieving knowledge production.

Dr. Enrique Oracion, who concurrently serves as Director of Research and Development, shared with around 35 professors and researchers from universities in Vietnam and Cambodia how to undertake needs assessment and impact evaluation in service-learning.

Service-learning is a teaching pedagogy that allows for students to be immersed in community activities, familiarizing themselves with the people’s culture and way of life. It is an academic initiative that monitors, processes and grades the realizations of students from their community experiences through tools such as journals and focus group discussions.

A fellow of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (UBCHEA) who is fresh from his fellowship program at Baylor University in Texas, United States, Dr. Oracion tackled “anti-foundational” learning as among key indicators of impact of service-learning on the students. He said “anti-foundational” learning empowers students to seek answers to questions on theories and principles learned in class arising from their reflections and experiences in the communities. This, he said, facilitates knowledge production as there is a continuing process of making lessons in the classroom more relevant and realistic to the students.

Anti-foundational learning is one of at least four impact indicators that Dr. Oracion shared. The other three are technical (skills development), cultural (appreciation of one’s way of life) and political (power relations).

Another workshop he facilitated is on needs assessment for service-learning. He said researchers and teachers embarking on service-learning need first to identify priority problems of the community, alongside students' potential contributions and expectations in terms of learning. Critical to this process though is a realistic evaluation of the resources of the school and the capacity of its student-participants vis-a-vis the priorities of the partner community or agency that will serve as host.

The workshops conducted by Dr. Oracion also took reference to his experience as among the lead people and experts in Silliman in the area of service-learning. He has published studies on the impact of service-learning and intercultural service-learning. Among his research interests are human dimensions of natural resource management, ecotourism, gender issues, heritage, and service-learning.

Dr. Oracion’s trip was sponsored by UBCHEA, the international organization that also supported the workshop.