Service-Learning best way to engage, solve community issues

During this pandemic, the Department of Language Education in Universiti Selangor, had to think creatively to facilitate an online teaching practice for their final year students. - NSTP file pic, for illustration purposes onlyDuring this pandemic, the Department of Language Education in Universiti Selangor, had to think creatively to facilitate an online teaching practice for their final year students. – NSTP file pic, for illustration purposes only

SERVICE-LEARNING is an educational pedagogy that has been much talked and discussed but least implemented. We want to share our experience on how we revisited the idea of service-learning and immediately began executing it.

During this pandemic, the Department of Language Education in Universiti Selangor, had to think creatively to facilitate an online teaching practice for our final year students. In the beginning, the idea of incorporating the concept of service-learning into teaching practice was merely an alternative.

Later, we found that it is now the best time, to start giving back to the community through this means. It will be a worthwhile learning opportunity for us, especially the students, if they could gain knowledge and engage the community at the same time.

This is grounded on the assumption that university students are the ones who are equipped with progressive knowledge in their field; hence, they have the responsibility to help the community during this difficult time. Thus, for individuals who are frequently bogged down by the belief of “We don’t know how to help” which then hinders them to act, ’service-learning’ is the answer for them.

According to Vanderbilt University, service learning 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.”

This complex definition is simplified by Wolpert-Gawron, a teacher who writes on Edutopia, where she explains that “in service-learning, students learn educational standards through tackling real-life problems in their community.” Now that we know what it is, we ask “how do we execute it?”

A service-learning project is carried out to tackle a specific problem in a targeted community. Simultaneously, students involved in this project also gain academic related knowledge, go through assessments, and write reflections through project-based learning.

When enforced to resolve real-life problems via service-learning projects, students may find it a challenge which would then motivate them to be more involved as compared to sitting in a lecture hall. However, identifying a solvable real-life problem may be deemed difficult by some students. Here, the project supervisor, a lecturer, should guide the students by giving clear instructions and objectives.

Prior to engaging the community, students conduct a needs analysis to identify the issue. Data is collected through, first, a survey, and later an in-depth interview with the targeted community. Once they identify the problem, the students develop clear project objectives and a teaching blueprint, in the forms of teaching plan, modules, and assessments. The project can be split into five stages:

1. Research. Students conduct a needs analysis, analyse the results, and present the findings to the project supervisor. In this stage, students gain research knowledge and skills. Besides, students learn how to present data in graphs and charts and communicate them to others.

2. Blueprint development. Based on the findings, students devise a plan, materials, and strategies as well as instruments necessary to solving the identified problem.

3. Project execution. Students carry out the project in the targeted community and evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of the project.

4. Assessment. Assessing students in a service-learning project may be holistically done. All parties, including university and community, are involved in the assessment. Since the community can have their say on the student performance, it is suggested that they are given a rubric as a guide to evaluate.

The project supervisor evaluates the knowledge and skills that students apply in the execution of the project.

5. Reflection. The students can evaluate themselves through a reflection. They think back on what they gain throughout the project and examine what they have carried out.

The key idea of service-learning lies in the commitment to promote societal engagement via educational activities. Students will share their knowledge and expertise while working in partnership with local organisations and residents. At the same time, the students get the chance to experiment and evaluate the knowledge and skills learned in the university.

More importantly, service-learning approach offers a meaningful experience for the students. ‘Meaning’ is crucial for an effective learning. For this reason, more service-learning initiatives are urgently needed.

By Dr Astri YuliaDr Soo Ruey Shing

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/09/625579/service-learning-best-way-engage-solve-community-issues

Comments are closed.