Service-Learning as Service to Teacher Candidates: A Pilot Study at a Midwestern University

Service-Learning as Service to Teacher Candidates: A Pilot Study at a Midwestern University

Antonina Lukenchuk (National Louis University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4041-0.ch019
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Since its first initiative in 2004, service-learning has become a bona fide hallmark of National Louis University that is embedded in its mission and strategic goals. In 2015, the university was recognized by the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification as an engaged campus. Unique to the context of its institutional practices, service-learning has received its widest implementation in the college of education. Those who have been integrating service-learning components into coursework have come to appreciate its practical benefits for teacher candidates. The purpose of this chapter is to report on the findings of a pilot case study conducted with teacher candidates who chose service-learning projects as part of the requirement in educational foundations and research courses. The findings of this study support research and scholarship on the benefits of service-learning for teacher education.
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The roots of our university date back to the late 19th century when a few women dedicated to service founded a school for training kindergarten teachers; at the time, this was an unprecedented endeavor. The school eventually grew into a private, non-denominational university with three colleges, the College of Education remaining the largest. Today, our university is “the outcome of and testament to the vision of our founders. It is a contemporary university committed to innovation and best practices in both undergraduate and graduate education” (university website). With several campuses scattered around a large midwestern, metropolitan city and its suburbs, the university offers more than 60 career-focused programs in fields such as education, business, and social services. The university is also a commuter school, with the majority of our students enrolled in graduate programs.

Unique to the context of our institutional practices, service-learning has received its widest implementation in the college of education. In fact, service-learning began at the college of education as a single-faculty initiative in 2004, the year I joined the ranks of full-time faculty in the college of education. Inspired by my colleague’s presentation on service-learning during one of the faculty development workshops, I ventured on the quest to know how this pedagogy can be of service to our teacher candidates. As our group of dedicated faculty grew, so did our awareness of the potential of service-learning to affect teaching and learning processes within various disciplines and areas of study. Those of us who have been advocating and integrating service-learning into coursework have come to appreciate its practical benefits for teacher candidates and these are reflected in several publications (e.g., Jagla & Lukenchuk, 2009; Jagla, Lukenchuk, & Price, 2010; Lukenchuk, 2009; Lukenchuk & Barber, 2011).

Within the past decade, the small beginnings of our service-learning endeavors have yielded big results evidenced by implementing several annual university-wide service-learning symposia; modeling service-learning to our faculty and students through project presentations, workshops, and civic reflection sessions; and ultimately, being recognized as an “engaged campus” by the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification (Indiana University for Postsecondary Research, 2015). The mission of our university underscores engagement as one of its enduring values along with excellence, respect, access, collaboration, passion, inquiry, and innovation (university website). Our accomplishments and goals for future ventures are reflected in the university’s civic engagement section of its website.

As a result of faithfulness to the vision of our university founders, the college of education prides itself on being recognized as a “leader in progressive education” (college website). Reflecting the story of our university, service-learning is a progressive tradition grounded in experience as a basis for learning. The roots of experiential learning date back to the works of John Dewey (1859–1952), Kurt Lewin (1890–1947), and David Kolb (b. 1939), among others, who believed that “we learn through combinations of action and reflection” (Jacoby et al., 1996, p. 4). Arguably, it was Dewey’s progressivism that engendered the progressive education movement in the 1880s in the United States. Although Dewey himself never created a system of community-based learning or mentioned the term service-learning, the pedagogical goals and methods of service-learning clearly find affinity with his philosophy.

We continue to stay true to the historical and philosophical traditions and best practices of our institution by forging successful relationships with community partners and enhancing high-quality civic engagement experiences for our students. Service-learning is a course-specific pedagogy that fits under the overarching umbrella of civic engagement. The definitions of civic engagement are “broad and multifaceted” (Jacoby & Associates, 2009, p. 7). One such definition is provided by the Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership at the University of Maryland: “Civic engagement is acting upon a heightened sense of responsibility to one’s communities” (Jacoby & Associates, 2009, p. 9).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Theory of Practice: A theory developed by Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). This theory presupposes that individuals in a competitive society act based on their historically developed dispositions and out of desire to maximize their social capital.

Relational Ethics: Philosophical concept that underpins egalitarian relationship between individuals based on care for and support of one another. This concept is based on educational philosophy by Nel Noddings (b. 1929) and Emmanuel Levinas’ (1906-1995) philosophy.

Engaged Campus: A recognition, by Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, of an institution of higher learning for its commitment to community engagement and service.

Heterotopia: A term coined by Michel Foucault (1926-1984), French postmodern philosopher, to designate nonhegemonic societal structures that allow individuals from historically oppressed groups to fight for social justice.

Service-Learning Habitus (SLH): A theoretical model developed by the author and her colleagues. SLH model is based on the theory of practice by Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), relational ethics by Nel Noddings (b. 1929) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and the concept of heterotopia by Michel Foucault (1926-1984).

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