Service Learning in Higher Education: Results of an Economics and Business School Experience in Chile

Service Learning in Higher Education: Results of an Economics and Business School Experience in Chile

Beatriz A. Hasbún (Universidad de Chile, Chile), Verónica Pizarro (Universidad de Chile, Chile), Tomás I. González (Universidad de Chile, Chile) and Oscar Jerez Yañez (Universidad de Chile, Chile)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9953-3.ch020
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This chapter presents the experience of the Faculty of Economics and Business of the Universidad de Chile implementing Service Learning as part of Methodology. First, it is described the process of development and then the institutionalization of the methodology and the various emphasis provided by academics. Second, the results of a questionnaire designed to assess motivation, development of generic competencies, social commitment, and students' satisfaction with the methodology are presented.
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Higher education has undergone a widespread paradigm shift in the last decade, resulting in the transition from a content-based curriculum to a competencies-based one (Tobón, 2006; Jerez et al, 2014). In a post-subprime mortgage crisis world, business and economics schools have reflected about the type of professionals they are looking to train. This debate has highlighted the need to develop leaders with a long-term vision, who are capable of considering in their decision making not only economic, but also social and environmental consequences. Thus, teaching and learning processes should be planned with a focus on a sustainable development, as an answer to the country's need of professionals who are active agents in the transformation of their social environment and who reflect on the consequences of their professional practices.

This poses the need for training professionals who are not only prepared to face the current challenges of the Chilean society, but that are also capable of adapting to future ones.

The competences approach is an attempt to adjust training models to the demands of the present time, because ensuring mastery of the learning goals of the discipline is not enough. It highlights the necessity of developing a set of generic competences to enable professionals to perform adequately in an ever dynamic and changing world (Jerez et al, 2014).

An example of the competences of this model is the Competence of Social Responsibility and Civic Engagement, which is defined by the School of Economics and Business (2014) as:

The use of a set of criteria for decision making, considering the responsibility of the various stakeholders of society and the balance of economic, social and environmental development, both to understand the context of a problem in an organization or community, and to develop ways of solution, within the framework of sustainable development.

The curriculum reform incorporates two major actions to promote the development of this competence. First, the addition of a social internship, which aims to integrate the lessons of the first cycle of training to their social environment, and serves as an opportunity for students to develop a critical view of these issues. Second, the incorporation of the Service Learning methodology to a set of core courses in the four majors of the school.

This chapter aims to serve as a contribution towards the systematization of experiences and knowledge production based on the results of the use of Service Learning in an economics and business school in the Chilean context.


Competence Based Curriculum

Currently, the higher education system in Chile faces various challenges, being the more prominent, the necessity to be placed in a context of immense national and international competitiveness at the level of quality and capacity of change with regard to the processes of training professionals, along with the expectations that higher education organizations position themselves as an engine of local development in every scope that has to do with a society, with the cultural, social and economic knowledge (Zabalza, 2002; GUNI, 2008).

During the last years, the Universidad de Chile has been leading a deep process of modernization at the undergraduate level, inspired by national and international trends in higher education and forced by the emerging needs of society and the market. The principles that guided these modernization processes were systematized in the Educational Model of the University (2010), which states:

Promoting a pedagogy focused in the student, valuing the time of the student and adopting the Transferable Credits System (SCT-Chile), giving priority to active-participative methods, adopting generic competences, this, including the communication through a second language, and promoting strategic methodologies and proper assessing devices to the competences to be developed, all the above, guided by the graduate profile as a referent.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Active Learning Methodologies: Set of methodologies that change the participation balance between professors and students, making the latter co-responsible of its own learning process.

Reflective Milestones: Meetings that have the purpose of socializing the Service Learning methodology among professors, students, organizations; it also works as a follow-up activity that allows students to receive feedback and make the necessary adjustments to the consultancy process before the end of the course. In a closing reflective milestone, professors, students, and companies’ representatives evaluate both the experience and the consultancy products.

Center for Teaching and Learning: Office that supports professors in implementing innovations in teaching and learning processes, with the final goal to enhance students’ learning.

Competence-Based Curriculum: Curriculum that organizes its activities in such a way that allows the development of both the generic and specific competences declared in the graduate profile of each major.

Professional Rigor Competence: Competence that defines people’s capacity to reach certain expected goals related to a task, considering consistency, precision, and efficacy criteria.

University’s Social Responsibility: A way in which universities relate to the environment of which they are part of, attending to its needs, and taking responsibility of the consequences of its actions.

Generic Competences: Set of skills, knowledge, and attitudes that allow to complete a task in a given context, when mobilized in an integrated manner.

Professional Development Emphasis: Way of implementation of the Service Learning methodology, characterized by the involvement of medium to large enterprises, with either a for-profit or non-profit status, having several years of existence, and up to hundreds of branches nationally and overseas.

Social Service Emphasis: Way of implementation of the Service Learning methodology, characterized by the involvement of micro and small companies, some of which have not yet started legally their activities, and their for-profit status.

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