Service Learning Course
MUARIK as a branch of Makerere University is developing a service learning course which will be part of the students training coming at the research institute. This can be later adopted by other institutions .
* How do we live in relation to each other? * How can I contribute to the community? * How can I help others?
A wise goal is to prepare students for a life of active, responsible world citizenship, community service is the key part of the curriculum. Students will engage in numerous and wide-ranging service endeavors like environmental efforts in agriculture, to involvement with local and international service agencies worldwide by those having the same purpose to link students across boundaries with the same goals . Through these efforts, students gain insight into the problems faced by others less fortunate and the satisfaction of knowing they may have made a difference.
What is Service learning
Where a service is offered, Learning has to take place.
It is a learning and teaching strategy which combines service objectives with learning objectives thereby leading to change to both the providers of the service and the recipients of the service. It is transformative in nature and leads to meaningful community development.
Service learning combines service with learning and it engages students in reflection to enrich their learning experience. The exercise engages students in self-reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content.
Service learning is an evolving discipline having no shared vocabulary yet; hence many definitions have advanced depending on the different context in which it is being practiced.
Some have defined service learning as a pedagogical strategy that combines community service with classroom learning. It is believed to be a tool used widely by sociologists to encourage students to make connections between classroom learning and the larger community. Service learning enhances the educational experience for students, teachers, the institution and community at large. Service learning contributes to the personal and professional growth of professors/instructors, students, the university, and the broader community. For professors/instructors, it is an effective way of combining teaching, service, and activism. For students it is hands-on learning, which contributes to their seeing themselves as responsible citizens. The university benefits because often its goals are to make a positive impact on the community. The community benefits through community organizations by having interested "volunteers" that can be counted on. Hence in service learning every one benefits, none is cheated and team work is promoted.
Characteristics of service learning
It is reciprocal in nature, i.e. both the community and the provider of the service (through combining a service experience with a learning experience) benefit equally.
It is practicable in different fields as long as the activity has a learning goal.
It excludes no age group, i.e. both young and old can engage in service learning.
It links academic content with real life situation.
It involves reflection that leads to self discovery.
Advantages of service learning
It takes learning beyond classroom walls
It promotes a sense of care for others
It gives opportunities to students to apply their school knowledge and skills to real life situations.
Gives time to students to reflect, discuss and document their experiences in real life situations and these findings can be starting points for meaningful intervention.
It promotes learning through active participation in service experiences.
Service learning is different from voluntary community service, school community service programs required for one to graduate, or service offered by someone as punishment , e.g. that done by prisoners. In service learning, the community benefits through the service provided, but also having rich learning consequences for the students or those engaged in providing the service. Eyler & Giles, (1999), contend that; service-learning is a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students work with others through a process of applying what they are learning to community problems and, at the same time, reflecting upon their experience as they seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. According to them, in the service-learning model, "experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action." Genuine service learning experiences according to Eyler & Giles, (1999), have the following characteristics;
• They are positive, meaningful and real to the participants.
• They involve cooperative rather than competitive experiences and thus promote skills associated with teamwork and community involvement and citizenship.
• They address complex problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation.
• They offer opportunities to engage in problem-solving by requiring participants to gain knowledge of the specific context of their service-learning activity and community challenges, rather than only to draw upon generalized or abstract knowledge such as might come from a textbook. As a result, service-learning offers powerful opportunities to acquire the habits of critical thinking; i.e. the ability to identify the most important questions or issues within a real-world situation.
• They promote deeper learning because the results are immediate and uncontrived. There are no "right answers" in the back of the book.
• As a consequence of this immediacy of experience, service-learning is more likely to be personally meaningful to participants and to generate emotional consequences, to challenge values as well as ideas, and hence to support social, emotional and cognitive learning and development.
Therefore volunteer community service practices without a learning agenda are totally different from service learning since the two have different objectives though they may look quite similar in practice.