Service-Learning: Options for Student Involvement

Service-Learning: Options for Student Involvement

Jacki Fitzpatrick (Texas Tech University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2208-0.ch010
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The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of service-learning (SL). It identifies the distinctions among SL, internship and volunteerism. A description of the key characteristics of service and learning is provided. In addition, three specific SL types (direct, indirect, advocacy) are delineated. Particular strengths and potential problems of each type are acknowledged. It should be noted that the types are not inherently exclusive. Across their time working with community partners, students can engage in multiple types simultaneously or sequentially. When SL is conducted successfully, it is a mutually beneficial experience for partners and students. Instructors can play a critical role in promoting such experiences.
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When the history of SL is addressed, it often focuses on John Dewey’s work in educational philosophy. In Experience and Education, Dewey (1938) addressed a fundamental debate between traditionalism and progressivism. Traditionalism emphasized that the purpose of education was the delivery of information to students. They were to learn extant facts and skills from faculty. College could also be an environment which guided young adults in moral growth and maturity. Students would carry the knowledge and maturity into adult endeavors. Thus, society would be improved by this critical mass of informed individuals. In contrast, progressivism emphasized that the purpose was to address (and perhaps eliminate) societal problems. Enlightenment was not sufficient; the proof of education’s value was in its positive impact on systems outside of academia. The emphasis on experiential education had its own risks of being too reactive to circumstances, unfocused and disorganized (Dewey, 1938, Eldeeb, 2013).

Dewey (1938) addressed this debate by arguing for an integrative approach. College should contribute to basic knowledge and understanding of humanity. Yet, knowledge (simply for its own sake) would likely be an incomplete education. Learning is intensified via engagement with the real world. Engaging interactions will broaden students’ horizons, challenge old assumptions and perhaps inspire new insights/actions (Hennes, 2002). However, interactions should not be conducted simply for evocative or entertaining value. Rather, experiences should have a direct relevance to students’ ethical and professional development. Dewey’s approach was succinctly summarized that learners “need concrete and experiential activities in order to create an awareness of how they can contribute to and change society for the better” (Lake, Winterbottom, Ethridge, & Kelly, 2015, p. 93). This approach became a foundation for the development of many service learning activities and courses (Giles & Eyler, 1994).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Members: Individuals (e.g., clients, customers, patients) who receive the outputs from providers.

Community Partners: Members and/or providers with whom students interact during SL.

Outputs: Products/services/information which are desired or needed by members.

Direct SL: Students interact (face-to-face) with community members.

Advocacy: Efforts to bring public attention and change laws about issues of importance to community partners.

Providers: Professionals (e.g., staff, elected officials, government appointees, workteams) who create and/or distribute outputs.

Indirect SL: Students interact with providers.

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