Community Service Learning: Preparing Female Students in the United Arab Emirates for the Workplace

Community Service Learning: Preparing Female Students in the United Arab Emirates for the Workplace

Sandra Poirier, Deborah Wooldridge, Gloysis Mayers, Nancy Sonleitner, Chris Coughlin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch038
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A learning community where students develop the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for meaningful and successful 21st century work and life is the vision for higher education programs in the Middle East. A successful learning community of faculty members, students, and site supervisors in a variety of community programs are working together to achieve this objective, and are jointly engaged in the pursuit of excellence and the development of human potential. It is Zayed University’s goal to assure that students develop the higher-order intellectual capacities and technological skills they will need to succeed in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world. This paper describes the model used to meet the challenges faced by first generation female college graduates in the United Arab Emirates, a model that emphasizes community service learning placements and undergraduate research projects. These first generation graduates are also those who are expected to transition into a very conservative work environment. For the majority, community placements provided through this model is the first opportunity through which they are able to have any level of workplace experience. In this paper we will report on this innovative community service program model experienced by students and will address challenges and successes of this program model which utilizes undergraduate student research, community involvement and the integration of female graduates into the workforce. We will share how this model provided insights into the work experience, as reported in students’ journal reflections. An effective service learning program and undergraduate research involvement allowed these graduates to put theory into practice, develop habits of self analysis and reflective thinking, and contribute towards a greater understanding of organizational structures.
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Service learning has been around for many years, however it was not until the mid 1980’s that the term “service learning” established its roots (Stanton, Giles, & Cruz, 1999). To label a learning activity service learning, it must be associated with a learning goal or objective that pertains to the curriculum. This type of educational activity incorporates an interdisciplinary, student-centered, collaborative focus, and is integrated with real-world issues and practices (Bradford, 2005). Service learning is closely associated with experiential learning, hands-on learning, or active learning (Dewey, 1938; Kolb, 1984). Students collaborate with others through a process of applying what they are learning to community problems while, at the same time, reflecting upon their experience as they seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves (Eyler & Giles, 1999). Service learning research in the last decades has demonstrated the effectiveness of this pedagogical tool for enhanced academic learning as well as civic responsibility (Rockquemore & Schaffer, 2000).

Dwight Glass, Ellen Porter Honnet and Sally Migloire (1991) offer a comprehensive service-learning definition in Research Agenda for Combining Service and Learning in the 1990’s:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Experiential Education: A philosophy of education that focuses on the interactive process between teacher and student involved in direct learning experience with the environment and content.

Internship: One who works in a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training rather than merely employment, making it similar to an apprenticeship.

The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation: Fosters academic service-learning in higher education with awards and grants to students/faculty and their 501(c) (3) community partners who demonstrate best practices or innovative approaches in the field. These programs can be found at The Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur grant program seeks to motivate students to develop innovative service-learning projects by providing $1,000 grants to the community organization partner of the student with the most innovative proposal in a state-wide or school-wide competition. Service Book sponsored and maintained by JRCPF, is the online community for academic service learning. JRCPF programs have been held in 16 U.S. states, India and the United Kingdom.

National Service-Learning Partnership: A national network of members dedicated to advancing service-learning as a core part of every young person’s education. Service-learning is a teaching method that engages young people in solving problems within their schools and communities as part of their academic studies or other type of intentional learning activity. The Partnership concentrates on strengthening the impact of service-learning on young people’s learning and development, especially their academic and civic preparation.

Community Service Learning: A teaching and learning pedagogy which fosters civic responsibility and applies classroom learning through meaningful service to the community.

Reflection: The process of looking back on the implications of actions taken - good and bad - determining what has been gained, lost, or achieved, and connecting these conclusions to future actions and larger societal contexts. Through this process there is examination and interpretation which promotes cognitive learning.

Learn and Serve America’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (NSLC): Provides the world’s largest database of Service-Learning materials, electronic resources, and job listings. It supports and encourages service-learning throughout the United States, and enables over one million students to contribute to their community while building their academic and civic skills. This organization instills an ethic of lifelong community service; supports and encourages service-learning throughout the United States, and enables over one million students to contribute to their community while building their academic and civic skills. By engaging our nation’s young people in service-learning, Learn and Serve America instills an ethic of lifelong community service.

Learning Community: Individuals working together to expand learning and personal growth.

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