Monday, October 31, 2016

The Characteristics of Service Learning


At ASD there is an ever-developing understanding of service learning. Anecdotal evidence indicates that most members of our community recognize that service learning goes beyond basic elements of charity (e.g. fundraising) and volunteering. What is a bit more difficult is putting one's finger on what, exactly, service learning looks like. The core competencies of service learning were shared in an earlier blog post (here) but service learning is also defined by practical characteristics.   

The diagram above is currently being developed to support the understanding of service learning and what our children are involved in when they participate in it. The process is informally split into "internal" and "external" elements, meaning simply whether or not they are dealt with within a group of people (i.e. organization, class) or addressed by others (i.e. facilities and administration).   At the very center of the internal component of the diagram one will notice the learning objective. It is important that, no matter what the service is about, learning is at the forefront. 

The elements of investigation, planning and action imply a continuous cycle of action as it pertains to an authentic need, no matter whether that is dealing with waste on campus or dealing with poverty half way around the world.  Reflection and demonstration are, critically, an explicit part of the process as well.  

The external components are merely administrative necessities if students identify ways of addressing authentic needs through the use of events and/or fundraising. This extra level of accountability is used to ensure that events are appropriate and continue to make explicit connections to the learning. 

So why tell this to our non-student, non-teacher community?  Well, in building a communal "critical consciousness" it's important for us all to share common understanding and common vocabulary. In so doing we are able to move in unison in making our children and our entire community better able to contribute to a rapidly changing world.   

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