Examining the Adult Learning in “Giving Back” Initiatives

Examining the Adult Learning in “Giving Back” Initiatives

Rochell R. McWhorter, Mark Owens, Joanna Neel, Jessica A. Rueter, Gina M. Doepker
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8598-6.ch052
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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).

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