Service-Oriented Education

I believe that there is definite value in service-oriented education, for it is part of educating the ‘whole’ individual.  A study by Astin, et al., followed college students who participated in service-learning, to determine how it affected them, and ‘why’ it affected the students.  The results were very promising.  The study analyzed 11 different performance measures, including academic performance, values, self-efficacy, leadership, choice of a service career, and plans to participate in service after college.  The results showed that service learning ‘adds significantly to the benefits associated with community service for all outcomes except interpersonal skills, self-efficacy and leadership’.

One observation of the study is that service learning is most beneficial when students are able to discuss and analyze the service project after completion.  I believe this is what truly sets apart ‘service learning’ and ‘community service’.  In college, when students participated in popular Habitat for Humanity trips or Alternative Spring Breaks, they would be required to meet as a cohort for roundtables after they returned, and publish a presentation for a group of professors or deans.  Many people initially saw this as an obstacle to ‘weed-out’ prospects who were looking for a budget-friendly trip without service-oriented convictions, but examining this requirement through the lens of an educator, it is a profoundly sound approach to allow the student to truly reap the maximum benefits of the experience.
This is certainly a strong argument for providing structured opportunities for students (versus merely suggesting students seek opportunities to enrich their high school resumes), because only through that intentional design are students guaranteed opportunities for self-reflection, learning through dialogue, and relating it back to academic goals.  Of course, the best experience are those that truly are viewed as relevant from the start, for initial enthusiasm sets the project on the path to success from the get-go.

Astin, A. W., Vogelgesang, L. J., Ikeda, E. K., & Yen, J. A. (2000, January).  How Service Learning Affects Students.  Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://heri.ucla.edu/pdfs/hslas.pdf

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