Examining the Adult Learning in “Giving Back” Initiatives

Examining the Adult Learning in “Giving Back” Initiatives

Rochell R. McWhorter (The University of Texas at Tyler, USA), Mark Owens (The University of Texas at Tyler, USA), Joanna Neel (The University of Texas at Tyler, USA), Jessica A. Rueter (The University of Texas at Tyler, USA) and Gina M. Doepker (The University of Texas at Tyler, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1306-4.ch018


Service-learning has been identified as a high-impact, experiential teaching practice by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. This chapter examines how service-learning (SL) initiatives at one public institution of higher education allowed students opportunities to give back to their community while gaining valuable adult learning experiences. Three cases are presented describing how graduate and undergraduate students (N=229) enrolled in one of four courses (Political Science, Special Education, Early Elementary Education, and Business) incorporated a service-learning component for relevant and purposeful adult learning outcomes. Following the presentation of each of these cases of service-learning, a cross-case analysis and key terms and definitions are offered.
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Adult learning is concerned with experiential learning, creating meaning, and formal as well as informal learning (Bennett & McWhorter, 2020; De Vito, 2009; Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2005; Merriam & Bierema, 2014; Okojie, Okojie-Boulder, & Boulder, 2008). Because Service-Learning as an instructional method is “growing in popularity for giving back to the community while connecting the experience to course content” (McWhorter, Delello & Roberts, 2016, p. 80), it is ripe as an adult learning pedagogy since it allows for students to customize their own learning while experiencing and applying knowledge from higher education courses to a community context. Experiential learning “is one of the central concepts of andragogy” (Sato, Haegele, & Foot, 2017, p. 455). Also, experiential learning has been described as a “process of using life experience to internalize knowledge. Learning by experience works cyclically: one gains external experience, reflects on observations of that experience, forms new abstract concepts from that reflection, and reapplies what is learned to new experiences” (LeBaron, Runyan, Jorgensen, Marks, Li, & Hill, 2019, p. 436; see also Kolb, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Affidavit: A legal document swearing that an individual is a registered voter. These are to be completed and signed by the voter and witnessed by a poll worker. In states that require photo identification to vote, a voter who cannot produce photo documentation can submit a sworn affidavit to confirm their identity and voter registration status.

Transition Services: A coordinated set of activities for a student with a disability that is designed to be within a results oriented process that is focused on improving academic and functional achievement of the student with a disability to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including: post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment, supported employment, continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation. It is based on the student’s needs and takes into account the student’s strengths, preferences, and interests and includes instruction, related services, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational assessment [300.43(a)(2)].

Andragogy: A concept of helping adults learn. ( Storey & Wang, 2017 , p. 108)

Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA): PCEA was established in 2013 by President Barack Obama to identify best practices in election administration and to make recommendations to improve the voting experience. The PCEA is no longer active, but the report is available to the public by the U.S. Election Administration Commission.

501(c)(3) organization: A specific nonprofit organization as designated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for tax exemption status.

Service-Learning Log: A report of Service-Learning hours completed by student and verified by supervisor at an organization to document time spent in service assignment.

Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA): A law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children (Retrieved from https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/ ).

Street Level Bureaucrat: Individuals that interact with citizens every day to implement programs on behalf of the government. Examples include teachers, police officers, poll workers, and clerks at the Department of Public Safety.

Educational Diagnosticians: Assessment personnel who diagnose the learning problems of children (Council for Exceptional Children [CEC], 2015).

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