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The Pedagogy Behind Service Learning

At the end of February, CISAK sent four Year 8 students on a collaborative service-learning project in Tanzania. The students spent a full week working on building safety for a local school and orphanage. 

Among the many ways CISAK prepares students to be 21st century leaders is a methodology called "service-learning", also known as "community engagement" or "theory practice". Top universities around the world employ this strategy as a way of preparing students for leadership roles in every field of study.

What is service-learning, and why is it an effective method of learning?

According to Vanderbilt University’s Janet S. Eyler (winner of the 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning) and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., it is “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students. . . seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves.” 

The service learning process actively engages students in applying knowledge, skills and theory to real world problems, thereby enhancing personal and academic development whilst benefiting the community in meaningful, targeted ways. Its usual format is a cycle of three distinct steps. In the first step, students in the classroom analyse theories, ideas, knowledge, histories and current events. In the second step, students leave the classroom and apply their knowledge and skills to assist in solving real world problems. This is the "service" aspect. Research has proven that this sort of real world application of knowledge and skills helps consolidate learning. While engaged in community service, students have a chance to interact with students from other countries and cultures, developing group and communication skills they will need in university and the workplace. In the final step, students engage in structured reflection tying service experience back to specific learning goals.

Public administration professor Thomas H. Jeavons identifies several ways in which service-learning is more effective than traditional presentation methods.

He says, "As an experiential and collaborative mode, service-learning:

  • enhances critical thinking skills such as analysis and synthesis by involving students in identifying and framing problems in settings that transcend disciplinary boundaries.
  • involves students in assessing outcomes in a way that reveals the practical implications of chosen theories, research tools, analysis techniques, and presentation modes.
  • prepares students for life-long learning by connecting formal education more fully with real-world experience.
  • prepares students for citizenship by engaging them in dealing directly with community problems, challenging their assumptions and requiring them to integrate multiple points of view."

Through methods such as service-learning, CISAK students are prepared to not merely succeed in the workplace of the 21st century, but to lead others in creating and applying solutions to its problems.

We are excited to bring you more news of our Year 8 students' achievements and reflections of the expedition.  Throughout their stay, the girls spent time creating a VideoBlog, to record their experience. This Vlog can be found below.

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