Service-Learning: Enhancing Student Learning Outcomes in a College-Level Lecture Course. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning ebook - epub
During the past decade, there has been a marked increase in interest in the pedagogy of service-learning. Perturbed by a lack of civic engagement on college campuses, frustrated by the ubiquitous "information-assimilation" style of teaching and learning (Coleman, 1976), and inspired by the Deweyan notion of experiential learning (1938), many educators have called for more "authentic" forms of instruction and assessment, wherein students might more readily see, act on and learn from connections between academic content and problems of real life (Conrad & Hedin, 1991). There is, to be sure, a great range in what passes for service-learning, creating real challenges to the construction of unifying, overarching principles and to the delineation of research questions that, once answered, will shed light on the advantages of this method of teaching and learning. Indeed, there would appear to be more than 147 definitions of service-learning in the literature (Kendall, 1990). Most specify that it must include high quality service; that is, the service must meet a goal defined by the community in which it is being performed. It must also afford the student an opportunity for high quality learning; that is, the experience must set the stage for the intellectual and personal growth of the student, and the learning outcomes assessment practices must reflect the contribution the service is intended to be making to the course (Service Learning 2000, 1999; Weigert, 1998). Furthermore, the service and learning components of the course should enrich each other (Furco, 1996)--that is, students should be able to learn more or better by providing the service in question, and the caliber of the service they are providing should be enhanced by what they are learning in the course. Finally, the service should be integrated into the fabric of the course by means of reflective and integrative assignments (Kendall, 1990; Troppe, 1995; Weigert, 1998). Thus, service-learning is distinct from "volunteerism" in that it is explicitly linked to curricular objectives, and in that it professes a certain degree of academic rigor, embedded in the reflection and integration students engage in before, during and/or after their service experiences. Participation in service-learning experiences has been demonstrated to benefit students in several important ways. Numerous studies have documented the effectiveness of service-learning as a tool for fostering students' civic responsibility, their acceptance of diversity, and their leadership skills as they move on to assuming roles in their communities as committed and engaged citizens (see, for example, Brandell & Hinck, 1997; Eyler & Giles, 1996; Giles & Eyler, 1994; Kendrick, 1996; Markus, Howard & King, 1993; Myers-Lipton, 1996; Shumer & Belbas, 1996). Service-learning has also been shown to have a powerful impact on students' moral, social-cognitive and emotional development (Batchelder & Root, 1994; Eyler & Giles, 1996; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Kendrick, 1996; Ostrow, 1995; Rhoads, 1997). Participation in service-learning has been identified as an important contributor to students' engagement in and commitment to school (Sax & Astin, 1997). Most studies of the cognitive impact of service-learning have focused on its effectiveness as a tool for helping students develop better critical thinking and problem-solving skills (see the review provided in Eyler & Giles, 1999).
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