Service Learning: The Essence of Social Inclusivity Through Transformational Education

Service Learning: The Essence of Social Inclusivity Through Transformational Education

Ana Martins, Orlando Petiz Pereira, Isabel Martins
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6301-3.ch005
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The chapter highlights the endogenous strengths that humans have of exposing society to sustainable change. At birth, humans bring with them a triptych code including, the social, emotional and spiritual, that needs to be further developed. Those non-cognitive skills that schooling should instill are possible via service learning education. Through education, individual citizens are enthused with harmonious cognitive and non-cognitive skills which are positive, inclusive, humane, in harmony with life and circumstances. In the current complex and uncertain economy, this education model is directed at social responsibility, social innovation, citizenship, personal and social commitment. Being holistic, multi-focused and dynamic, it brings together learning, service and the economy. This learning- teaching model aligns with an intellectual and humanized society; entails two simultaneous objectives, pedagogical and community collaboration; focuses on real circumstances, deals with community-identified needs, solidarity, cooperation, harmony and commitment.
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Humans are currently living through changes which may give rise to a distressing, psychosocial loneliness despite the significant developments in Science, Technology and Information. However, notwithstanding these developments, this cruel and distressful loneliness arises from the individual’s self-relinquishment and not from other individuals (Cury, 2017). This assertion gives rise to the need for harnessing intellectual capital, especially emotional, social and spiritual capitals as well as the learning-teaching models that focus both on the integral development of the individual as well as part on social environment. There is a conscious awareness of the effects these capitals have on individual and professional performance of economic agents. This affirmation is also important towards the developing of society because it is based on the sensitivity, respect, trust and commitment towards the rebuilding of an economy focused on social wellbeing. It builds a holistic environment and motivates citizens to search for and provide alternative answers to everyday problems. This point of view, further leads individuals to develop environments that contribute to organizational and social innovation by engaging in initiatives that may produce beneficial results both at the performance level as well as final output. However, spiritual capital continues to be vague (Martsolf & Mickley, 1998) and is often confused with other domains despite its uniqueness as a belief system that adds meaning to human existence (Yang & Mao, 2007).

Spirituality is different from religion and its psychosocial aspects; spirituality is considered as distinctly important for personal and social development (Benko & Silva, 1996). This reality is viewed both as an obstacle for development and for the acceptance of spirituality as a natural process for personal and social development. Spirituality entails a qualitative development of the individual and unifies society. Furthermore, spirituality seeks to provide a more profound human existence as opposed to its longevity, regardless of religious belief (Hansen, 1993). Human beings are a whole, made up of body, mind and spirit (Ashmos & Duchon, 2000), a harmonious trilogy that supports life on earth and guides the mission towards the pursuit of noble social values, as opposed to dominant social structures that focus on the body and mind, individuality, the tangible, and the competitive environment.

The current research intends, against this backdrop, to discuss an alternative way of observing the individual’s worldly mission seeing s/he is imbued with endogenous forces that are capable of sustaining the transformation of society. This capability is not restricted to bodily force nor to cognitive capabilities. At birth, individuals bring with them a social, emotional and spiritual code, which during the lifetime is not used to its full capacity.

The current educational system needs to be reflected upon in order to invert the circle and to place the individual at the center of society’s concerns and not to condition it towards directions that are individualistic, materialistic and egotistical, which currently characterizes contemporary society. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to reflect both on non-cognitive skills that Schools need to provide and on that educational system, which best adapts to this accomplishment. Hence, the service-learning education system is explored; this is a model that fuses academic learning with community service. The model encompasses values based on democracy, autonomy, participation, social construction, social commitment and solidarity practices, making it a multifocal model with multiple intelligences.

This chapter is divided into four areas; it reflects on unveiling intelligence from a new lens to reveal the importance of spiritual, social and emotional intelligences. The next area embraces the educational model, which is aligned with an economy focused on intangibles. The latter is linked with ethical and moral values, human norms and virtues. The new school of knowledge is reflected on, as well as the service-learning model is a School model focusing on human and social development wherein the individual learns by dealing with real community problems. A discussion ensues about the need to implement a new educational model. Conclusions are presented and future research ideas included.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Academic Learning: This type of learning enables individuals to become skilled at knowledge that is educational, scholastic and theoretical. In the dominant system academic learning has underlined the tangible characteristics and values of individuality and competition. It has not enabled students to become aware of social issues, nor has it favored the development of a commitment to social justice, social rights, democracy and peace. Its main concern has been the development of specific, instrumental and technical skills. However, given the current economic, social, political and cultural reality, the academic system seems to need a change in order to meet a more inclusive, fairer and more communal society. To achieve such values, it is imperative to implement learning based on the principles of holistic education. It is a return to education that is more responsible, more sustainable, greener, friendlier and more harmonious

Social Skills: These abilities are related to being capable to interact in the collective, it may be a group, a team, informal and formal. These skills include listening, greeting, thanking, asking please, expressing thanks, apologizing, waiting one’s turn, cooperating, maintaining an attitude open to dialogue. These skills are the infrastructure of social intelligence and allow to manage, understand and balance the social system. It develops the person and his relationship with others, balancing the relational and social systems and becomes an immaterial social capital, sometimes referred to as social intelligence. This intelligence is a mechanism for improving social problems. Social skills are structuring for the new economy that is concerned with social issues and with the attunement of life as a “whole.” They are based on axioms of harmony and cooperation and consider that the processes of formation do not serve the principles of accumulation of information, but rather the development of life skills and their sustainability. They capitalize on individual, group and organizational performance, because they aim at unity and synchronicity. They seek to give life to the characteristics of acceptance and respect for the person as a whole. It also seeks to integrate people's knowledge into the processes of relationships and productive processes, not forgetting the environment and the community where it is inserted. With social skills, people are more empathic, more flexible, more caring and more responsible. They combine personal responsibility with social responsibility and aim to improve well-being, active, participatory, critical, responsible and committed citizenship. They help achieve balance, make better decisions, respect efficiency and raise emotional, social and personal well-being. In this sense, the social skills deliver deeply felt experiences for human existence, because it gives life to the spiritual realm, which considers that man is composed of body, mind, spirit and transcendence.

Spiritual Skills: These are capabilities associated with well-being, contentment, success, peacefulness, satisfaction, enabling the individual to achieve a state of being that is holistic in nature. are skills that make a difference in the human being, which mirror their conduct and performance. They are competences that connect the parts in a single whole and spiritual capital is considered as the most sublime capital for personal and social development because it allows to see reality without ‘eyes’ and allows to feel the society with the domain of the soul. Spirituality is a path for the humanization of the economy and a strategic variable for the diffusion of humanizing values in society. Here, solidarity, love, respect for others, joy, harmony, humanity, among others, are spiritual values and dynamic skills for the new economy. Spirituality is a window of opportunity for the differentiation of performances and organizations in the competitive market. It allows to identify the purposes of the organizations and makes the citizen and the institutions aware of the fact that they do not live in isolation. It also emphasizes that the human factor is composed simultaneously of the body, spirit and soul, regardless of function and geographical location. Therefore, spirituality is a feeling that unites the universe in its totality. It is a sentiment that comes from within the individual and goes far beyond the survival instincts of the mind. Therefore, as spirituality is connection and interactivity, it is a way for the transformation of organizations through feelings. Thus, in the business world, spirituality translates into improvements in integrity, motivation, and satisfaction. It considers it imperative that a set of values, such as honesty, interiority and creativity be a constant in corporate governance. It allows to raise the degrees of freedom of the worker and makes him surrender with a feeling of authenticity, commitment and joy to the work, which improves the individual, group and organizational performance.

Humanized Education System: This is a schooling, instruction scheme that has its principles based on humane, empathetic elements. To humanize is to penetrate and be penetrated by the consciousness of the other, because the solid and deep bonds between people are built with solid and transparent personal relationships. But societal humanitarian values are not confused with personal values. Therefore, it is up to the human being to know how to bet on Humanization and the recalibration of economic-social systems. Knowing what the human being wants and knowing the path that s/he must follow, according to the new social energy, is an imperative to humanize the educational systems and make them an instrument of socio-economic humanization. Here, education contributes to putting people at the center of society's concerns. When this happens, the construction of society will be more humane, more social, and more solidary than the present, because it is based on the materiality and immediate benefits of the application of resources.

Emotional Skills: These are abilities that are associated with feelings, sentiment, mood. emotional intelligence helps the individual to make more concerted and more balanced decisions because it combines the emotional and the rational aspects, being, in this way, a complement of the cognitive development. Being emotionally intelligent, the person is more assertive, more empathetic, more cheerful, more positive and acts with more dignity and elegance, namely in the level of his behavior, decision-making and conflict resolution. These skills help the individual communicate more effectively, to respect diversity and adversity, and enable cooperative work to develop. They help to disseminate and socialize knowledge, a special incidence for the uncoded, because society has codified knowledge and tacit knowledge. The coding is easy to access, interpretation and application. The tacit, as it is not yet a marketable product due to the absence of a code of reading, interpretation and application, needs other values, some of which are housed in emotional capitals. Therefore, emotional intelligence helps develop the integral individual. It develops the skills that underlie the increase of well-being and the internalization of the person's responsibility, making them more assertive, more cooperative, more tolerant and more committed. It is a process of continuous improvement of people's quality of life, and helps to develop the bonds of cooperation. With such a development, people become more cooperative and more tolerant, which gives them a competitive advantage. Simultaneously, these skills develop altruistic competence and ties of cooperation.

Service-Learning: Knowledge acquired to the advantage of the community. It is a pedagogical proposal that is based on solidarity and active citizenship. It is a school model focused on the development of human and social formation. SL is an added value for society because it is a holistic, multifocal, dynamic educational proposal that combines learning with community service. It is an excellent exercise for citizenship, and an appropriate instrument for an autonomous, conscious, responsible and supportive way of life. It translates into passionate intelligence for life and social causes. Democracy works and active, responsible and collaborative participation. The SL presents, simultaneously, two objectives: the pedagogical one and the one of collaboration with the community. Therefore, it combines academic learning with community service and its main axes are: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. SL is a pedagogical proposal based on solidarity and active citizenship. It is a school model focused on the development of human and social formation. It values solidarity, cooperation and altruism. Therefore, in applying the SL model, society would use socio-emotional education to improve self-knowledge and cooperation.

Inclusivity: This concept is associated with the all-encompassing, undivided, across-the-board embracing tolerance to all and is unbiased as to gender, creed, ethnicity. Inclusion reinforces the bonds of friendship within and outside the labor market and is the basis of gains in productivity and better performance. At the same time, it reforms social sustainability and helps to solve the problems and desires, both personal and organizational. But, in the current economic and social environment, the labor market signals cross-sectoral and non-specific competences as strategic for the performance of a function and to strengthen the relationships between individuals. By humanizing the educational processes, the economy and society, the values of solidarity, cooperation, tolerance and respect are underlined and highly appreciated. These lead to intrapersonal and interpersonal development, which facilitates the integration of people into groups and into society. Respecting the “other” and demonstrating “solidarity” produces a sense of acceptance. Therefore, if society and the education system educate for and in values will be fighting against exclusion. This translates into a structuring instrument of inclusion because it promotes social cohesion, spatial development, employability, personal and social stability. To be a more inclusive society, humanizing society is an obligation, because people talk about their feelings, their concerns, difficulties, successes and joys. A more inclusive society is more sensitive to defend the most vulnerable and the most. At the same time, it reduces social asymmetries and economic inequalities. Therefore, educating with sensitivity and sensitivity is to educate for inclusion in order to obtain a more social, cooperative, more dialogical and more fraternal economy.

Learning Organization: A business that is committed to discovering how to improve its services and/or products, is devoted to a culture of learning. This culture nurtures team learning, where all employees are tuned into the shared vision; individuals can pursue and develop their expertise to enhance their personal mastery; the organization follows the systems thinking approach. The assumptions that employees have are considered as mental models which influence the way individuals react and behave.

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