A Typology of Conscious Decision Making for Service-Learning Field Experiences: Labeling Practice and Identifying Praxis

A Typology of Conscious Decision Making for Service-Learning Field Experiences: Labeling Practice and Identifying Praxis

Tynisha D. Meidl (St. Norbert College, USA), Leah Katherine Saal (Loyola University Maryland, USA) and Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell (Louisiana State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4041-0.ch027


In this concluding chapter, the authors, who are service-learning and teacher education scholars, present a typology of service-learning field experiences as a means of considering how and why service-learning field experiences are included as teacher preparation. The typology is a way to examine and inform the critical decision-making process when planning, implementing, and assessing service-learning field experiences. This chapter is a departure from other chapters in this edited volume, but its purpose is to extend the conversations all chapters inspire, which is to include service-learning as a form of community-engaged pedagogy and scholarship that endorses, represents, and promotes culturally responsive practice. The authors presume it is impossible to create a complete and comprehensive taxonomy of service-learning as community-engaged work continues to evolve. The typological structure can be used to identify, define, and describe the nuanced applications salient in service-learning field experiences within teacher education.
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The chapters in this edited book utilize a critical lens to examine the intersections of service-learning, field experiences, and the development of teacher candidates. Each chapter addresses a variety of service-learning implementations. These various enactments of service-learning range from the perspective of service-learning as a critical foundation of teacher education to viewing service-learning as a pedagogical method to assist pre-service teachers in building the necessary knowledge to teach learners from families and communities whose first language is not the dominant language.

Within these chapters, readers have encountered distinctive and novel implementations of service-learning within teacher education including physical education courses, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, and courses that focus on students with exceptionalities. Further, this book positions all modes of teacher preparation including: (1) traditional teacher education and certification programs, (2) alternative certification programs, and (3) undergraduate pre-service programming, as well as (4) graduate in-service coursework. All areas are appropriate spaces for service-learning work. Within the chapters, differing sites have also been examined for the suitability of service-learning; readers encounter service-learning embedded in coursework and field experiences in conventional field sites and situated within community sites. While the majority of chapters engage service-learning in the US, several significant chapters offer perspectives of service-learning within teacher education in other nations and states. Central to all chapters is the notion that service-learning has the capacity to be a transformative practice, especially when functioning as a mechanism to shift dispositions and expand cultural frames of reference. A common thread throughout all chapters has been the notion of service-learning as enacting and representing culturally responsive teaching and inclusive teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1992; 1994, 1995a, 1995b, 2000).

This concluding chapter diverges from the discussion of service-learning as fostering and promoting culturally relevant and responsive practice. Service-learning as both a pedagogical approach and an epistemological method can be defined in a variety of ways. The final chapter offers thoughts regarding how teacher educators might begin to both conceptualize and classify service-learning field experiences. The typology presented in this chapter is intended to support the critical metacognitive processes that teacher educators may use to frame the service-learning field experience, deconstruct systematic inequities inherent in US educational practice, and ensure reciprocity and authentic partnerships. This conceptualization or series of choices around central features of service-learning field experiences will allow a framework from which teacher educators might proactively plan to better achieve their learning outcomes. And although this chapter closes this book, so to speak, it is the authors’ intention that it might spark further debate, thinking, and consideration of how teacher educators craft service-learning within teacher education and how teacher educators categorize service-learning field experiences.

Why a Typology?

Derived from the work of mixed method researchers and methodologists, Teddlie and Tashakkori (2006), typologies help community-engaged scholars decide how to proceed when defining, designing, and assessing their service-learning field experiences and disseminating their work to a broader audience. A typology acknowledges the non-linear nature of community-engaged work generally. As a result, the typology provides “a variety of paths, or ideal design types, that may be chosen to accomplish the goals” (Teddlie and Tashakkori, 2006, p.12) of the service-learning project. In addition, Teddlie and Tashakkori posit that typologies “are useful in helping to establish a common language for the field” and “provide the field with an organizational structure” (2006, p. 12). This typology serves as a framework for the conscious decision-making process regarding service-learning field experience within teacher education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Conscious Decision-Making: The intentional considerations and thought processes that one utilizes when constructing a service-learning field experiences.

Locales: The situated aspect of the service-learning field experiences.

Continuous Service-Learning Field Experiences: Field experiences which are part of an ongoing and uninterrupted service partnership between the institution, and usually a specific program, and the partner.

Interval Service-Learning Field Experiences: Field-experiences that are not ongoing throughout the academic year but instead are attached to specific coursework.

Sporadic Service-Learning Field Experiences: These are considered “one off” service-learning field experiences where participants meet a genuine need of the partner, but the duration is not consistent or even ongoing.

Dimension: The levels in the presented typology that signify the various aspect of service-learning field experiences, typically shaped around some kind of qualifier.

Duration: The length of time of the service-learning field experiences.

Praxis: The intersectionality of teaching and learning.

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