Online Professional Development in Academic Service-Learning: Promoting Community Engagement in Public Education

Online Professional Development in Academic Service-Learning: Promoting Community Engagement in Public Education

Geraldine E. Stirtz (University of Nebraska Kearney, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1851-8.ch004
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The overall purpose of this qualitative study was to describe how a 3 credit hour, web-based, graduate-level course in service-learning pedagogy supports the theory that service-learning as a pedagogy can be taught effectively in an online format. Service-learning integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities. Content analysis of the selected case studies and evaluation of the student's reflections concludes that the students enrolled in the online class in a Midwest University were, in fact, able to learn this teaching strategy and then effectively implement this strategy with their classroom of students in their local communities. The Literature Review discusses numerous research articles supporting the value of this teaching strategy of collaboration with community partners in citizenship training for youth, children and young adults.
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The National Commission on Service-Learning conducted a major research project on the use of service-learning as an educational tool for public schools. In the published report, Learning in Deed (2004) the report states that this strategy used for school based learning is …

  • A method of teaching that combines community service with curriculum-based learning, linked to academic content and standards.

  • About students helping to determine and meet real, community needs.

  • Reciprocal in nature, benefitting both the community and the student.

  • An effective way to encourage and foster active citizenship as part of a public education.

  • An approach to teaching and learning that can be used in any curriculum area

  • For all ages, even the youngest of children.

Our world is experiencing dramatic changes and the diversity in our population calls for major changes in how we see and treat our world in addition to the role we play as citizens in our country.

Wade (1997) quotes Pratt from his work, The civic imperative: Examining the need for civic education.

Civic attitudes taught in schools should affirm both individual rights and the common good. One of the goals of civic education should be to reduce ethnocentrism, citizens should develop tolerance if not appreciation for diversity and sincere empathy for others. Pratt (1988) described the development of a civic disposition as “...a willingness to act, in behalf of the public good while being attentive to and considerate of the feelings, needs, and attitudes of others. Civic virtue has an internal landscape reflected in the obligation or duty to be fair to others, to show kindness and tact, and above all to render agreeable service to the community” (p. 12).

These trends in our society indicate that we need to provide children, youth and adults with a better understanding of the role each must play in helping to strengthen our communities to sustain our democratic society. The way individuals mistreat others, show a lack of respect for those in authority, destroy or damage other’s property, indicates a high level of careless abandon and irresponsible interactions towards others. Helping to train young people in learning about “caring for the other” in our society, is becoming even more critical each year. One of the very effective tools currently being used to promote and encourage active citizenship in public schools is the high impact practice of academic service-learning. Training higher education faculty and/or teachers in the PK-12 field, in strategies for using academic service-learning as pedagogy, can be delivered within the classroom or in online delivery. Both instructional models require careful planning and a solid structure of course requirements and service based assignments.

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