A Grand Challenge: Facilitating Service-Learning for Social Justice

A Grand Challenge: Facilitating Service-Learning for Social Justice

Adam Moore (University of Rhode Island, USA) and Susan Trostle Brand (University of Rhode Island, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4041-0.ch023
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Teacher educators committed to social justice are charged with preparing future professionals with the knowledge and skills characteristic of change agents. This chapter explains how two university faculty members co-taught a general education course about education and social justice enlisting service-learning. This multidisciplinary course allowed teacher candidates to work with peers from other majors to select, plan, and implement a service-learning project. The structure and design of the course is described, along with examples of readings, film, media, and organizations that promote social justice. Qualitative reflections from former students are included, along with descriptions of service-learning projects. Recommendations and implications for teacher educators designing a similar course are provided.
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Teaching For Social Justice

Teacher educators committed to social justice have been tasked with ensuring that, in their teaching, candidates are culturally responsive, (i.e. Darling-Hammond, 2006), inclusive, (i.e. Hamilton-Jones & Moore, 2013; Vaccaro, August, & Kennedy, 2012; Rembis, 2010), and prepared to use language that promotes social justice (i.e. Tharp, 2012). In a world with grave injustices and disparities, educators have a tremendous responsibility to teach social justice. Historically, not all social identity groups have been given the same opportunities in the United States or in our schools. Race, ethnicity, gender, social class, ability, and sexual orientation exert an undeniable impact on one’s experiences.

Teachers face these societal injustices in the context of working with children and families within schools (Nieto, 2000); yet teachers are overwhelmingly White and middle class, suggesting that many teachers have limited experiences in working with marginalized groups outside of school-based situations (Boyd, Lankford, & Loeb, 2005; Villegas, 2007). Service-learning provides a unique opportunity for future educators to learn from individuals who have been marginalized in society within a context that is outside their classroom milieu. The authors designed a service-learning course so that students could experience the theories and concepts presented in the course content and “build a sense of civic responsibility as they address community-identified needs through course goals, objectives, and strategic experiences” (Sulentic Dowell & Meidl, 2017, p.190). Researchers have found that service-learning reduces teacher candidates’ stereotypes of urban students from poor backgrounds (Conner, 2010), helps candidates identify their own ethnocentric beliefs (Chang et al., 2011), and promotes identity development (Farnsworth, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Undergraduate: A student studying at a US post-secondary institution (college or university) toward completion of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Blended Learning: Incorporating online elements into a course that meets face-to-face.

Teacher Education: The pedagogies, skills, and theories taught to teacher candidates in both traditional university settings and alternative pathways to prepare them for entering the teaching profession.

Change Agents: A term used to describe professionals (or future professionals) who actively work to end marginalization in society through their chosen profession.

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