Thursday, April 24, 2008

Service Learning: Description of the Theory


Service Learning is an elusive concept. There are so many definitions that it can be difficult to determine exactly what service learning means. For some, it is an excercise in civic virtue and patriotism- a sort of Boy Scouts in school. For others, it is an excercise in Critical Pedagogy. In some schools, service learning is simply a mandatory time of community service. In other schools, it is an entire program with a curriculum and classes.

In general, all service learning should include the following:

  1. A cycle of action and reflection. The reflection should lead to some type of inquiry that leads to more action. The reflection is critical, because without it, we fall into mindless activism. Yet, without action, we fall into meaningless intellectualism.
  2. Partnerships with organizations. Over the long term, service should lead to deeper partnerships within the community.
  3. A connection to the curriculum. Whether this is a separate class or a connection to social studies or language arts, service learning should be integrated into the curriculm in general.
  4. Studetns should be involved in all phases, including the intial planning and inquiry.

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