The Tamaula Project: Service Learning in Central Mexico – A Report on the Service-Learning Approach at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Irapuato Campus

The Tamaula Project: Service Learning in Central Mexico – A Report on the Service-Learning Approach at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Irapuato Campus

Cynthia M. Montaudon Tomas (Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP), Mexico) and Eliseo L. Vilalta-Perdomo (University of Lincoln, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0871-7.ch008
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Abstract

This chapter discusses an experience in service learning in a rural community in central Mexico, developed by students from a private university located in the area. The aim is to identify if this educational approach builds on interactions that support individual and collective improvement simultaneously. Service learning was introduced and tested at this institution to enhance the academics' educational tool box. This development was embedded in a core (not elective) module focused on developing students writing and research skills. Problems emerged when students were asked to organize and execute a project. They started planning based on preconceived ideas before visiting the place. As a result, the project initially involved a top-down design for restructuring a community. Even though this might be useful, the project required incorporating service learning principles. These consider issues such as capacity building that may start from community needs or aspirations; a bottom-up approach that was not recognized initially by students. The expectation was to develop something ‘different' in a community that had been receiving aid from different sources and had not yet thrived.
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Background

Before analyzing how the project at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Tamaula community took place, the terms related to service learning needs to be contextualized. Although there is no common agreement on what service learning means, nor on its precise methodology, it can be related to community engagement, community based research, social project development, and community learning.

Service learning is mostly perceived as a positive educational activity that favors engagement and development, although some theorist suggest that the general public does not recognize the term nor understand fully what service learning means (Furco & Billig, 2002). This has led to confusions, due to the lack of substantial research to fully comprehend the impact of these types of projects in communities (Stoecker & Tryon, 2009).

For the purpose of this project, service learning can be considered as a response to the many needs of our faltering democracy (Wade, 1997); a non political or apolitical form of engagement with the community, which entails civic learning and democratic engagement (Finley, 2011), and as a form of experiential learning (Giles & Eyler, 1994) beyond the classroom (EPA, 2000) from the point of view of chaos and complexity theories in open systems (Fleener et al. 2011).

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