Service learning is a strategy that incorporates community service into the curriculum. In service learning students prepare for the activities they will perform during community service through studying it theoretically.
Afterwards the students get an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in class in real life. For example students may get involved in activities such as clean ups or visiting the sick in hospitals. The activities have a relationship with the curriculum because teachers are involved in planning them and arrange for the ones that revolve around the curriculum.
The teachers also put a follow-up plan in action. They help the students in appreciating some of the activities that take place in the community as they learn. The students receive credit for participating in community service. Students are awarded according to their participation and knowledge of the activity. At the end of a community serve activity students evaluate their participation and get to know if they did the activity well as the weaknesses they exhibited.
Moreover, the students learn how important the activities are and in the process they learn their civic responsibilities. Students can get started in service learning from kindergarten to university (Anderson and Murphy 5). Service learning is important for the students because it teaches them their civic duty and thus prepares them to become good citizens in the future. Thus service learning helps students by making them responsible citizens in the future.
Service learning brings about positive outcomes to the youths. They are given an opportunity to engage in civic duty. The opportunity gives the youths a chance to develop positive civic attitudes and this brings about a sense of belonging to the community (Chi 6).
As students learn through service learning they get to work with different people in the community and thus learn about diversity. Some students may have come from neighborhoods where only people from their race or ethnicity live and might not have had a chance to interact with other people.
Service learning gives them that opportunity and they learn that people even though they are different have common needs. This is important in making students realize the true nature of the society and prepare them to discharge their civic duty in the future without discrimination (Anderson and Murphy 6).
A study shows that students who engage in service learning have an improved understanding and appreciation of volunteering their time to help those in need. In a society that is increasing individualistic students get a chance to learn how to serve others and thus “orientation toward others and away from yourself” (Markus, Howard and King 413).
Moreover, service learning helps to increase students overall academic performance. The students are engaged in the identifying problems in the society and coming up with ways of solving them. Through such involvement, the students have a say in what they learn outside the classroom and it increases their self-esteem because they feel useful for contributing ideas towards solving the problems that exist in the community.
Not only does service learning give students an opportunity to improve their academic performance, but also become active planners and decision makers. Thus, the students become empowered and build their competence which is very important in their career paths as it may help them to succeed by coming up with ideas to solve the problems they might experience at work and make proper decisions.
Participating in service learning gives students an opportunity to identify careers that may give them an opportunity to serve the community and be useful at the same time such as in the area of science (Markus, Howard and King 413; What is Service Learning? 1). Thus, students not only learn, but also help to address the problems in the society (What is Service Learning? 1; Peters, McHugh and Sendell 131).
For example, students in Florida in elementary school look at the outcomes of natural disasters and later designed kits that the families living in the community could use to pick their valuable papers in the even of an evacuation. The students give the kits to the families (What is Service Learning? 1). In this situation, the students got a chance to study about the natural disasters and critically thought about a solution in form of the kits.
Thus, the community benefited from the students as they benefited from the community by getting a chance to come up with a solution to a problem. The creative minds of the students’ were stimulated and the result visible and such students will be able to come up with solutions to solve future societal problems
Furthermore, students become active learners by doing because service learning because it is a form of experiential learning (Anderson and Murphy 6). Thus from a pedagogical perspective students learn directly through participation unlike in traditional methods of learning where students primarily learn theoretically by deductive reasoning.
In experiential learning students learn by drawing lessons from observation as well as personal experiences. The method has a greater impact than the traditional methods because students remember what they are learn more by doing rather than through telling.
The approach helps to overcome the challenge of abstractness that comes with traditional methods and motivates learners by giving them concrete examples of the things learnt in class thus “providing connections between academic content and the problems of real life” (Conrad and Hedin 745). Service learning gives the learners the opportunity to bring lessons learnt in class into the community and take lessons learnt from the community into the classroom; this enriches learning and makes it meaningful.
For instance, one political science student in the study conducted said that the idea of community service was good as it made the issues learnt in the classroom real. It also made them realize the social problems that are in the society and that they can be solves. Furthermore, felt that they had gained direct knowledge of classroom issues and thought the experience would make them a better citizen.
Another one liked the idea of community service and was even volunteering to work in a shelter in extra time because they had understood the problem of homelessness better (Markus, Howard and King 413). Thus service learning encourages students to render services to the needy in the community not necessarily because they had to do it as part of their course but out of their own will after learning of the needs in the society that require their participation to bring about solutions.
They are able to continue volunteering s after completion of their courses because service learning prepares them for the activities unlike where students are only required to give a few hours of service to the community. The students have an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the services they render to the community and thus they have a higher degree of observing their civic duty for the rest of their lives (Anderson and Murphy 7).
Service learning helps to mend a broken society. Newman says the problems in the society are associated with the lack of proper education aimed at making students better members of the society (16). Through the linking of issues taught in the classroom with participation in the community, students get to learn about the society.
Therefore, teachers and professors can help to bring a remedy to the society by teaching learners their expectations in the society and showing them how to behave in order to fulfill those expectations (Speck viii). Service learning can bring about
National remedy because service and learning are symbiotic. The students benefit from participating in community activities just as the community benefits from the service of the students. Students who participate in service learning have a high likely hood of becoming the kind of citizens that restore their communities.
This means that service learning will fulfill the theoretical aspirations of education of preparing students to become good citizens in the future. Plato and Aristotle also shared the viewpoint that education should produce good citizens and thus service learning serves as a preparation ground for better citizenship (Speck 3).
The classical philosophers in education urge “education should include not only facts and scientific theories but also knowledge of fundamental moral principles and development of a character with a disposition to act on these principles” (Speck 4). Service learning helps learners to act with disposition to the principles they learn through community service because they feel compelled to act with compassion towards those in need.
Conversely, some people do not support service learning because they do not see its benefits. They say that it diverts educational institutions from their core academic mission. The time used in service learning should be devoted entirely on academic learning.
Moreover, some urge that service learning is only for feel good because it does not make a difference in students’ achievements and thus teachers should concentrate on giving students the basics needed to attain academic success. Service learning can interfere with classroom learning and this may have a negative effect on students who might not give their class work the seriousness it deserves (Anderson and Murphy 7)
The cost of implementing service learning is high. School administrators question its relevance due to the additional costs associated with it. In addition, it is an increased burden to educators and administrators because they are involved in formulating plans for service learning. They also have to get involved in follow- ups to ensure that the service learning projects achieve the desired effects (Markus, Howard and King 411). Students also get an additional load because they have to perform community service besides class work.
Service learning may fail to serve it purpose if the relationship between the students and the people they offer services to becomes unhealthy. The relationship may become unhealthy if the students become proud and see themselves as “liberal saviors” (). They might see themselves as such in case if they serve people who are less fortunate or from a less popular culture. The students might see the people as less important and must depend on their help in order to succeed.
Service learning loses it meaning in such a scenario because the students may consider themselves better than the people and become manipulative. On the other hand, the people might feel manipulated by the students who are after a grade in school after the completion of the service. Thus, the two may develop negative perceptions of each other and fail to benefit from serving learning, which is supposed to benefit the community and gives students an opportunity to practice the theory learnt in class (Nielsen 2).
Finally, service learning is important for the students and the community. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages and thus each student should be required to participate in service learning. Students who participate in the program develop and improve their interpersonal skills. They get invaluable first hand experience on jobs or activities that they would not get from traditional classroom learning.
The students must be given an opportunity to participate actively in serving learning as they get a sense of ownership and belonging for being allowed to identify and come up with solutions for the problems in their communities.
Policy makers should ensure that service learning strikes a balance between the needs of the students and the community to come out with meaningful outcomes. Therefore, research should be done to identify the most suitable learning activities for specific subjects. If a balance is struck, the purpose of incorporating community service will be achieved and students learn about good citizenship and develop character that will foster acceptance of diversity in the society.
Thus, students will understand their world better and learn about cultures that they are not familiar with through interactions. The students gain an idea and skills of operating in a multicultural society. In other words, they are equipped to become global citizens who can work in any society. Service learning makes students better citizens and benefits the community. Educational institutions cannot afford to miss integrating service learning into their curriculum for its immense benefits.
Anderson, Susan and Nancy Murphy. Mandatory Community Service: Citizenship Education or Involuntary Servitude? 1999. Web. 8 Dec. 2010.
Chi, Bernadette. Service Learning as citizenship Education: The Promise and the Puzzles. Oct. 2000. Web. 8 Dec. 2010.
Conrad, Denis and Douglass Hedin. “School based community service: what we know from research and theory.” Phi delta Kappan, 72 (1991):743-749. Print.
Markus, Gregory, Jeffrey Howard and David King. “Integrating Community Service and Classroom Instruction.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15. 4 (1993) : 410-419. Print.
Newman, Frank. Higher education and the American resurgence. Princeton, NJ: Carnegie. Nielsen, Danielle. Service Learning Pedagogy. n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2010.
Peters, Theodore, Mary Ann McHugh and Patricia Sendell. “The Benefits of Service learning in a Down-Turned Economy.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18.2 (2006): 131-141. Web. 8 Dec. 2010.
Speck, Bruce. Service learning. History theory and issues. New York: Greenwood Publishing, 2009. What is Service Learning? n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2010.