Last week, one of my previous students approach me to share the recent school project that he opted to work on in the summer holidays. The project was all about community engagement of how to volunteer your time and expertise to engage with the people surrounding you and improve their living who can’t afford to develop themselves during the height of the pandemic. Once the project completed, the student then reflects upon the change that he/she made after their volunteer engagement with that community or an individual. My student was very excited and wanted to share and discuss some basic ideas on how he can participate in community engagement. This idea fascinates me, especially when we are bound to stay away from each other physically. Community engagement can be one of the ways to engage our students to experience whatever they learn in the classroom
This project is an example of Service Learning. Service Learning is about making learning for your students authentic and embedded in a cause bigger than themselves. Researchers believe that if students engaged in determined and realistic work, their social, behavioural, emotional, and cognitive development can be enhanced. Most importantly, the work should have authentic goals and ideas that let students collaborate to learn the content at a deeper level. Therefore, it is good to know that schools have now initiated service learning or community service projects as a core part of their ongoing syllabus.
The Impact of Service-Learning on Students’ Critical Thinking Skills and Abilities
Research conducted by Queensborough Community College, USA, indicates that students who participate in service-learning projects and activities have more grip on academic content and displayed increased critical thinking skills when reflecting on their personal growth and civic engagement. Additionally, service-learning students achieved high grades and were retained at the institution. The faculty at an urban community college designed a survey tool to assess the impact of students’ participation in an academic service-learning project on their theoretical knowledge and critical thinking skills as applied to personal growth. Interestingly, the results highlighted a positive change in the survey’s educational learning sections after the service-learning project. On average, participants earned a more significant percentage of points on the post-survey (66%) when compared to the pre-survey (47%). This represents a 40% growth from pre-survey to post-survey.
Students were more likely to correctly answer questions about academic content after the content was reinforced during a service-learning project. Students enrolled in the service-learning course were more likely to receive grade A or A- in their course compared to students who did not participate in service-learning. According to the research paper, these findings suggest that service-learning may positively impact students’ acquisition of academic content knowledge.
What Could Be the Challenging Phase for Teachers and Students to Design and Implement Service-Learning Projects?
According to Ana Ruiz of Alvernia University, competence can be a significant ethical issue in service-learning. To promote positive benefits of service-learning, all the members (school management, teachers, and students) have essential role obligations that should be considered before the implementation of any service-learning project. This includes proper coaching and preparation opportunities provided by the school management to train the faculty, administrators, and students. It also contains resources to support faculty efforts, such as a dedicated office and staff, a database of community agencies and their needs, logistical support, policy and procedural guidance, transportation, and assessment tools.
Students also have responsibilities. They play a considerable role as representatives of the university. Thus, students must understand and comply with the roles and responsibilities assigned to them. Most importantly, they must fulfil their commitment to reflect on the goals of the project and the larger mission of civic engagement.
To Be A Better Citizen
Service-learning is all about allowing students to serve while they are learning specific content and skills in the classroom. Having a service component creates more inspired work. The pandemic has opened so many remote ways through which students can engage in service-learning to help them achieve realistic goals in their later lives. The results of that work have deeper groundings for students who know how to serve others.