Service learning is

Prof. Priscilla Daniels
Director of Community Engagement Unit
University of the Western Cape
Why Transformation?
Transformation is required in higher education as this
provides the outputs in the form of graduates who need to
be equipped to engage with and respond to the changes
occurring in global society.
Education for citizenship vs education for a career
The current trend…
Forms of engagement exist at Higher Education Institutions for e.g.:
• Academic programs can also engage students in the
• Professional schools create a range of experiential learning
opportunities for their students
• (for example, clinicals, internships, co-op programs, field
experiences, practica, student teaching).
The learning objectives of these kinds of engagement activities
focus only on developing student's professional skills and do not
emphasize to the student the importance of service within the
community and lessons of civic responsibility.
Transformational Learning
Mezirow (2000) describes transformational learning as a
“process whereby learners make meaning of their experience
through critical reflection on assumptions and
engage in rational discourse in order to arrive at more
dependable and justifiable ‘meaning perspectives’ or ‘flames of
reference’ for guiding individual and social action.”
in Kiely, R (2005) Transformative international service learning Academic Exchange Quarterly
Elements of transformation
• Mode of knowledge
• Teaching
• Skills acquired / reflection
• Value: citizenship
• Learning creates channels and pathways for transformation as it involves a
sense of knowing oneself and the world.
• Higher education institutions – should therefore provide opportunities
where students feel repeatedly challenged to test and revise their points
of view.
• Learning activities designed to provide these challenges to students may
feel unsafe or intimidating however these are required in order to affect
and frame new attitudes and perceptions of students towards the world.
Adapted from Richard P. Keeling & Associates, Learning as transformation: resourcefulness and renewal in higher
education, Journal of College and Character, Volume X, no.3, Feb 2009
How do we learn?
Service-learning: A definition
• Service learning is a formal learning experience that
combines community service with structured academic
learning. Through direct experience with complex social
issues, students learn about the community, the
connection between service and their field of study, and
as community members and future professionals in
fostering positive social change.
-Service Learning Institute,
California State University Monterey Bay
courtesy of Prof. Seth Pollack
Aligning Service-learning in an
Educational theory Slide 1
Paulo Freire’s educational theory identifies the following
components that resonates with service-learning
– Theory of Value:
– Teaching students to think democratically and to continually question and
make meaning from (critically view) everything they learn
“. ...our relationship with the learners demands that we respect them and
demands equally that we be aware of the concrete conditions of their
world, the conditions that shape them. To try to know the reality that our
students live is a task that the educational practice imposes on us:
Without this, we have no access ' to the way they think, so only with great
difficulty can we perceive what and how they know.
Aligning Service-learning in an
Educational theory Slide 2
Theory of Knowledge:
Knowledge is a social construct.
... knowing is a social process, which, cannot be forgotten or even devalued.
Two types of knowledge according to Freire,
• unconscious, sometimes practical knowledge and
• critical, reflective or theory knowledge. Beliefs are shaped into knowledge by
discussion and critical reflection.
Aligning Service-learning in an
Educational theory Slide3
Theory of Learning:
Knowledge is not a set commodity passed from teachers to students
Students must construct knowledge in the context of the knowledge they
already possess
Teachers have to learn how students understand the world so that the
teacher understands how the student can learn
“Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us then shaped through
understanding, discussion and reflection”
Aligning Service-learning in an
Educational theory Slide 1
Theory of transmission
Teaching must be a democratic teaching
process to avoid dependence.
Co learning is therefore a prerequisite
Students become productive subjects of the meaning of knowledge.
Learning and re-learning
How to integrate service-learning into existing
courses? (1)
One-time group service projects:
• Some course objectives can be met when the entire class is
involved in a one-time service project.
• Arrangements for service projects can be made prior to the
semester and included in the syllabus.
Option within a course:
• Many faculty begin community engagement with a pilot project. In
this design, students have the option to become involved in the
community-based project.
• A portion of the normal coursework is substituted by the
community-based component. For e.g.: Reflective journal
How to integrate service-learning into existing
courses? (2)
Required within a course:
• If all students are involved in service, it is easier to design coursework
(i.e., class discussions, writing assignments, exam questions) that
integrates the service experience with course objectives.
• Class sessions can involve community representatives or service sector
staff and site visits.
Action research projects:
• This type of class involves students in research within the community. The
results of the research are communicated to the NGO / CB0 / Health
Centre etc so that it can be used to address community needs.
• Community research projects can support the ongoing
research of faculty.
How to integrate service-learning into existing
courses? (3)
Disciplinary capstone / final year placements
• Community engagement is an excellent way to build upon students’
cumulative knowledge in a specific discipline and to demonstrate the
integration of that knowledge with real life issues.
Multiple course projects:
• Community engagement projects with one or more partners may span
different courses in the same semester or multiple courses over a year or
• These projects must be broad enough to meet the learning goals of
multiple courses over time, and because of this they may have a
cumulative impact on both student learning and community development
that is robust.
Vanderbilt University
Course design questions to ask
1. What are some of your reasons for wanting to incorporate service-learning into your
2. Which of your reasons are most important to you? Why?
3. What changes would you like to see occur in your students by incorporating servicelearning instructional activities?
4. What specific learning outcome(s) do you want service-learning to fulfil?
5. To what extent are the objectives of service-learning compatible with the needs and
values of students in your course? How are they incompatible?
6. How will students be grouped in your service-learning plan (e.g., individually, in
small groups, pairs, a combination of these)?
7. What knowledge, skills and interests should students possess to be able to benefit
from service-learning?
8. Are there types of students for whom you would not recommend
participation in service-learning?
University of Maryland
Adapted from Morton, 1996.
"There is no reason for universities to feel uncomfortable in
taking account of society's needs, in fact, they have a clear
obligation to do so."
Derek Bok

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