Part 1. Read the attached article WHY SERVICE LEARNING?
You should complete an Informative Review of the article read by providing your current knowledge, research on the Importance/Rewards of providing Service Learning in Higher Education and Servicing (giving back) your community. (There is no right or wrong answer) This is your thoughts after reading the article, research and applying your current knowledge.
Before engaging in service-learning, professors will
want to know what the impulses are behind service-
learning, what research says about the successes
and pitfalls of service-learning, and how they can
respond to major objections to it.
Bruce W. Speck
To ask the question, Why service-learning? in a volume designed to provide
professors with the nuts and bolts of implementing service-learning in their
classes might appear a bit odd. After all, does service-learning need any
rationale? Isn’t it a bit of common sense that the study of academic subjects
is linked in tangible ways to life outside the classroom? Isn’t it transparently
obvious that learning cannot be adequately defined by the mere amassing
of knowledge—of facts, figures, and theories so readily available in higher
The answer to those supposedly rhetorical questions is not a resound-
ing yes. In fact, service-learning needs a great deal of explanation. First,
there is no one impulse behind service-learning initiatives, and professors
should understand the reasoning behind the various impulses. Although
this chapter is not designed to provide a detailed explanation of theoreti-
cal assumptions that support service-learning, nevertheless, professors,
who are acutely aware of the theoretical underpinnings for practical
endeavors, will be curious about the assumptions that support service-
learning. Second, professors, quite reasonably, will want to know to what
extent service-learning initiatives have been successful. Indeed, studies can
provide insight into service-learning approaches that have shown success
in meeting particular service-learning goals and those that have shown
potential pitfalls in meeting those goals. Third, professors certainly will
want to know the answers to major objections regarding service-learning.
It would be naive to assume that professors, chief proponents of critical
thinking, would not be interested in reasoned responses to objections
brought against service-learning or would make a decision to engage in
service-learning without exploring answers to potential problems. My task,
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, no. 114, Summer 2001 © John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 3
therefore, is to provide information about all three of these issues so that
professors have an informed framework for making decisions about engag-
ing in service-learning.
Impulses for Service-Learning
To discuss the impulses that support service-learning, I begin with three def-
In their most limited sense, service learning courses unite in a single mission
the traditionally separate duties of research, teaching, and service. [Cushman,
1999, p. 331]
More than volunteerism, service-learning combines community work with
classroom instruction, emphasizing reflection as well as action. It empowers
students by making them responsible in a real world context, while giving
them the support, encouragement, information, and skills to be effective.
[Rosenberg, 2000, p. 8]
Service learning is a pedagogy that fosters the development of skills and
knowledge needed for participation in public life. [Forman and Wilkinson,
1997, p. 278]
These definitions have common threads: (1) separation and (2) integration
Concerning separation, Cushman (1999) says that the mission of
higher education comprises three duties that are not interrelated: research,
teaching, and service. Rosenberg (2000) assumes that students are not being
empowered in the traditional classroom; rather, they are actually separated
from the means of empowerment. The problem of empowerment appears
to be related to the separation of an “unreal” world of education from a real-
world context. Forman and Wilkinson (1997) also suggest that traditional
education separates students from participation in public life and in fact
does not give them the skills and knowledge they need for such participa-
tion. In all three cases, service-learning is a way to overcome separation
by integration and engagement. Concerning integration and engagement,
service-learning unites research, teaching, and service; combines commu-
nity work with classroom instruction; and prepares students to participate
in public life, thus integrating theory and practice.
These definitions faithfully represent a main intention of service-learning:
to ensure that academic study is integrated with the larger public life, gen-
erally conceived as life outside the classroom, although the classroom is a
place where students also develop community relationships. The definitions
also represent a negative critique of traditional education as ineffective in
fostering the skills and attitudes necessary for students to become active in
solving social problems.
The definitions, however, do not reveal two motives for service-learning,
which Battistoni (1997) defines as “philanthropic and civic” (p. 150), which
provide two very different impulses for service-learning. The philanthropic
position might also be considered an additive position. It holds that all that
needs to be done to the traditional classroom is to add a public service
component. Public service is integrated into the classroom by ensuring that
students consider the impact of service, but the impulse behind the phil-
anthropic or additive approach is helping others who are in need of help,
with the added benefit of honing students’ marketable skills and encourag-
ing students to feel good about themselves.
The civic approach is at odds with the philanthropic or additive
approach and constitutes a radical pedagogy. It assumes that (1) the
American social order is fragmented, lacking a sense of community, (2) lack
of community has produced injustices of various kinds, (3) higher educa-
tion is deeply implicated in the perpetuation of injustice, and (4) higher
education must be radically transformed to meet its obligation to produce
citizens who can promote justice in a democratic society.
The philanthropic-additive approach and the civic approach are very
different approaches to service-learning, and professors should investigate
each to make an informed decision about their philosophical commitment
to service-learning. In investigating the two basic impulses, they will find
in the service-learning literature degrees of commitment along a contin-
uum, with the philanthropic-additive approach near one end of the con-
tinuum and the civic approach near the other end. In fact, the literature
offers both models (Cleary, 1998; Cleary and Benson, 1998; Gordon, 1999;
Schaeffer and Peterson, 1998) and examples of classroom service-learning
(Althaus, 1997; Bush-Bacelis, 1998; Eddy and Carducci, 1997; Huckin,
1997; Mohan, 1995; Ogburn and Wallace, 1998) at different points along
the continuum. My purpose is to provide a discussion of the civic approach
because it appears to represent a highly powerful impulse in the developing
pedagogy of service-learning, and I assume that professors will want to
know more about a pedagogy that both threatens the status quo of higher
education and promises remarkable benefits once the status quo is replaced
by the structures necessary to sustain a long-term service-learning pedagogy.
Service-learning is not new in terms of its intellectual roots, which as
Morton and Saltmarsh (1997) show, go back to the Progressive era in U.S.
history, particularly the work of Jane Addams, John Dewey, and Dorothy
Day. At the same time, as Barber and Battistoni (1993) note, it “is [in] some
ways a rather new pedagogy” (p. ix). Its newness is quite obvious when its
literature is investigated. I did a search of the word service-learning using
the ERIC database and found six sources in 1990, five in 1991, two in 1992,
and then sixty in 1996, fifty-two in 1997, fifty-three in 1998, and forty-six
in 1999. Clearly, service-learning as a searchable term is relatively new, and
the literature about it has increased significantly in the past five or six years.
Another way that it is new is that it is a response to a perceived frag-
mentation of community and the ascendance of materialism, individual-
ism, and competitiveness. As Astin (1993) has pointed out, “During the
past forty or fifty years American universities have come to be dominated
by three powerful and interrelated values: materialism, individualism, and
competitiveness” (p. 4). One result of the ascendancy of these three values,
continues Astin, is that “we have the scholars, to be sure, but we lack the
community. One might more aptly characterize the modern university as
a ‘collection,’ rather than a community of scholars” (p. 7). Astin’s obser-
vations share kinship with Cushman’s minimalist definition already cited
of service-learning as the uniting of “the traditionally separate duties of
research, teaching, and service.”
Because the academy is intertwined with other institutions that com-
prise American culture, it is both a symptom and a cause of the problem of
community fractured by materialism, individualism, and competitiveness.
Hepburn (1997) traces the impact of this problem to the late 1980s, when
“individuals found themselves increasingly disconnected from public life
and civic discourse” (p. 140). Henson and Sutliff (1998) trace service-
learning to “the attempts of some institutions of higher education to revi-
talize their moral and intellectual leadership in a democratic society”
(p. 191). Thus, it seems fair to say that service-learning is a response to a
perceived crisis in community.
This crisis in community presents a dilemma for higher education
because higher education itself is one of the culprits that helped precipitate
the crisis. Therefore, it must itself be revitalized morally and intellectually
so that it can provide the education befitting citizens of a democracy.
Although Mattson (1998) is skeptical about whether higher education ever
really exerted the level of civic responsibility in the twentieth century that
many proponents of service-learning say it did, those who advocate the civic
approach to service-learning insist that the academy must be transformed
to fit the impulse that drove John Dewey to promote “knowledge as a tool
for creating a just society” (Hatcher, 1997, p. 24). Such knowledge will help
create a society in which all citizens participate fully in political decision
making. Only such full participation will eradicate the social evils—poverty
and racism, to name just two—that are unmistakable blemishes on the
national social landscape today.
It is not enough merely to add service to the curriculum, proponents of
the civic approach affirm; they believe the philanthropic-additive approach
does not go far enough to solve social problems and promote justice. Rather,
the whole approach to education must be radically reformed. As Howard
(1998) says, “Over time I have come to realize that to create a classroom that
is consistent with the goals and values of service learning, it is absolutely nec-
essary to deprogram or desocialize students and instructors away from tra-
ditional classroom roles, relationships, and norms, and then resocialize them
around a new set of classroom behaviors” (p. 25). This program of resocial-
ization, however, is inimical to the ethos of the academy as it now functions,
for, as Harkavy and Benson (1998) note, the goal of service-learning should
be to “overthrow the aristocratic Platonic theory of ‘liberal education’ and
institute a democratic Deweyan theory of ‘instrumental education’” (p. 19).
Morrill (1982) makes a similar point: “The task of civic education is, then,
especially difficult and ambitious for it involves the empowerment of per-
sons as well as the cultivation of minds. This is not an undertaking for which
contemporary colleges and universities are especially well equipped because
many of the well-known features of modern collegiate education create seri-
ous barriers to a powerful civic education” (p. 365).
Marullo (n.d.) agrees with Morrill: “I will argue that service learning
programs, if implemented properly, should be critical of the status quo and
should ultimately challenge unjust structures and oppressive institutional
operations” (p. 2). One implication of this criticism of the status quo is the
“discrediting of the political economy that results from students discover-
ing that it is the overt operations of market forces, aided by the political-
economic system designed to generate inequality, that is responsible for the
misery they see” (p. 13). Indeed, Rice and Brown (1998) affirm “the need
to link service learning pedagogy with curriculum that introduces students to
issues of personal and institutional power and oppression, in order to fos-
ter the development of self-reflective, culturally aware, and responsive com-
munity participants” (p. 146).
The focus on empowerment is not limited to students, who, propo-
nents of the civic approach note, surely must be enabled to be change agents
in a democratic society and oppose oppression of every sort. Professors also
must change. They must come to see that a collaborative teaching style,
which puts them in the place of learners so that they can identify with stu-
dents, is critical if the pedagogy of service-learning is to transform the
academy and, concomitantly, American culture at large. Neither the voca-
tionalism that the academy has embraced nor the purist model of learning
for learning’s sake will meet this goal (Barber, 1993). There cannot be “large
and impersonal classes, lack of context relevance, and lack of direct contact
between students and faculty” (Cleary and Benson, 1998, p. 125). Instead,
the classroom should become a place where equals meet and form commu-
nities based on mutual respect to support each other as they identify with
communities outside the classroom—communities broken and bleeding
because they have been oppressed and treated unjustly. In meeting in the
classroom to provide a staging area for the offense against injustice, students
and professors create a community that practices the values they will pro-
mote in the new society.
I have tried to represent the civic approach accurately, knowing that
the continuum I spoke of earlier allows for various points of agreement
closer to and further from the authors I have quoted. Nevertheless, in
aggregate, the civic approach represents a significant voice in the service-
learning movement, and professors will want to know not only what that
approach offers to and requires of them, but also will want to know
whether the service-learning movement as a whole has been successful in
implementing its vision of a just academy that produces citizens ready to
be change agents for justice. I now turn to evidence from those who have
been implementing service-learning courses to provide information that
professors can use to begin gauging the success of the service-learning
movement to date and to gain insight into the issues that face those who
implement a service-learning course.
The Success of Service-Learning Initiatives
Because service-learning is a relatively new pedagogy, we should not expect
definitive answers about its effectiveness. In fact, Astin and Sax (1998) note,
“To date, empirical studies on the impact of service are quite scarce”
(p. 251). In addition, Eyler, Giles, and Braxton (1997) say, “There is very
little empirical research to go along with the social and theoretical justifi-
cation for service-learning, and what research there is has been mixed”
(p. 5). Giles and Eyler (1998) affirm, “Faculty and administrators are
intensely interested in this issue [of the relationship between service-learning
and subject matter learning], but convincing evidence of the importance of
service learning to subject matter learning is still lacking” (p. 67). These
assertions about lack of definitive research to confirm the impulses that
motivate service-learning and attest to the claims of those who support it
do not mean that no research exists to give indications of service-learning’s
effectiveness or lack thereof.
In fact, Astin and Sax (1998), in reporting on a study they conducted,
say, “The findings reported show clearly that participating in service activ-
ities during the undergraduate years substantially enhances the student’s
academic development, life skill development, and sense of civic responsi-
bility” (p. 262). Eyler, Giles, and Braxton (1997) report in their study of
service-learning, “Service-learning programs do appear to have an impact
on students’ attitudes, values, skills and the way they think about social
issues even over the relatively brief period of a semester. These findings are
even more consistent in arts and sciences classes. While the effect is signif-
icant, it is small; few interventions of a semester’s length have a dramatic
impact on outcomes” (p. 13). They note as well the need “to identify more
clearly the types of service-learning experience that make the greatest dif-
ference to students” (p. 13), so a crucial aspect of service-learning needs fur-
Henson and Sutliff (1998), in reporting on their experience of inte-
grating service-learning into a business and technical writing classroom, say,
“Integrating service learning into a regular class stimulates both teaching
and learning” (p. 201). Others agree that service-learning is beneficial
(Rhoads, 1998; Rice and Brown, 1998).
Yet as Eyler, Giles, and Braxton (1997) noted, the results are mixed. For
instance, Miller (1997) reports that one of the hypotheses of his study of col-
lege freshmen—“Students, over-all, will report an increased sense of the
power of people to make a difference in the world”—was not confirmed. In
fact, he found that “students perceived people to have less power than before
the experience [of service-learning]” (p. 18). He nevertheless interprets this
result positively because it represents a change in a particular group of stu-
dents’ unrealistic expectations about the level of their influence in helping
to change the world. Koliba (1998), in reflecting on his case study of service-
learning, identifies one of the problems he encountered as underuse of stu-
dents in a redevelopment project: “Most . . . did not feel as if they were an
integral part of the planning process, let alone members of the community.
In most instances, there was never any dialogue between the students and
the residents” (p. 83). Indeed, Neururer and Rhoads (1998), in considering the
results from their study of graduate and undergraduate students engaged in
service-learning, remark, “Community service, as a panacea to bridge class
differences, as well as racial differences, falls apart upon close examination
of our data” (p. 325).
These successes and failures suggest that more research needs to be done
to determine the best ways to integrate service-learning into the curriculum
and identify the types of activities best suited for meeting the goals of service-
learning initiatives. For instance, Astin and Sax (1998) view tutoring and
teaching as “by far the most common forms of education-related service”
(p. 257). Yet Schutz and Gere (1998) question the use of tutoring as an effec-
tive means of achieving the goal of developing community among equals:
The strength of tutoring as a mode of service is its ability to promote close
individual relations between tutors and tutees. Yet, without a deep connec-
tion to a tutee’s communities, the effort to create such a relation may be seri-
ously constrained. Thus, it is not surprising that tutoring often fails to change
college students’ visions of their tutees as lacking a free-floating “expert”
knowledge that they can provide. [p. 135]
In other words, tutoring maintains the status distinction between those who
help and those who need help, one of the distinctions that the civic approach
believes perpetuates injustice. Clearly, the research provides only a rough
guide to professors who want to know how successful service-learning ini-
tiatives have been.
Objections to Service-Learning
Studies on the effectiveness of service-learning in courses suggest that pro-
fessors will find challenges as they seek to implement this pedagogy. In par-
ticular, I address three major challenges or objections to service-learning:
service-learning takes too much time and too many resources; it should not
be required; and it should be resisted because it is a form of indoctrination.
• Service-learning takes too much time and too many resources. One of
the immediate responses to the call for professors to participate in service-
learning is that there is not enough time for professors to do everything they
want to in a course. Thus, service-learning can be perceived as taking time
away from the study of course content and requiring additional resources that
could be used for other existing needs, such as increasing photocopying bud-
gets. And that is true. Professors will not only spend more time than usual set-
ting up service-learning in their classes but will also have to readjust their
thinking about what constitutes effective education. They will need to
reconsider the belief that stuffing students with content knowledge is the
sole or the most important function of academic education.
In addition, professors who integrate service-learning into their
classrooms will find that the relationship between the classroom and the
organizational environments in which students engage in service is not nec-
essarily tidy. Gordon (1999) notes that “working with a community partner
can be a dance of accommodation” (p. 22). Sax and Aston (1997) not only
endorse the idea that each campus should have a centralized service-learning
center; they believe that without such a center, the necessary “level of coor-
dination between faculty and community agencies will be nearly impossi-
ble to attain” (p. 32). Indeed, the costs for such a center can increase the
resentment of professors who are struggling to live with inadequate bud-
gets. In short, service-learning requires precious resources, including class-
room time and a variety of support mechanisms.
Ultimately, the question to resolve is this: Are those resources well
spent, or could they be better spent in other ways? Proponents of service-
learning affirm that the resources are well spent, but questions about the
effectiveness of resource allocations are notoriously difficult to answer
unless good evaluative data are available. As I have noted, research results
on the effectiveness of service-learning are mixed, and even the evaluation
of individual students’ efforts in a service-learning project can be inconclu-
sive. For example, Eddy and Carducci (1997), in discussing the evaluation
of students’ writing in their service-learning class, admit that student writ-
ing “aims to, and often does, affect the local community in ways both sub-
tle and profound, but difficult to estimate and evaluate” (p. 83).
• Service-learning should not be required. Another objection takes
advantage of the seemingly ironic position that service-learning, which is
intended to breed a long-lasting desire for voluntary service, can be
required. This objection may be based on a misunderstanding of volun-
teerism as spontaneous. Indeed, volunteerism is no doubt a learned behav-
ior that can be nurtured best in an environment where service is naturally
accepted as part of a person’s civic responsibility. Such environments, how-
ever, are not the norm, and although students might initially resist the
notion of being required to serve as part of an academic class, they may
learn that service is worth their energies and make it part of their post-
graduation lifestyle (Carpenter and Jacobs, 1994). Again, however, whether
service-learning should be required depends in part on what education is.
If Dickson (1979) is correct when he says, “Education does not mean teach-
ing people to know what they do not know, it means teaching them to
behave as they do not behave” (p. 149), then service-learning might very
well be required.
One of the strongest arguments in favor of requiring service-learning
comes from Schnaubelt and Watson (1999): “One could argue that forcing
a student to do algebra homework also violates one’s personal freedom. This
imposition, however, may lead to greater freedom (i.e., admission to a good
college, a better job, etc.). In a sense, some impositions lead to greater free-
doms” (pp. 12–13). Indeed, their comments raise a more fundamental issue:
Why is any course required? Certainly, professors believe they have the right
to impose graduation requirements on students, in both the general educa-
tion program and students’ majors, so any argument against imposing
requirements would need to explain why certain requirements are defensi-
ble and others are not.
• Service-learning should be resisted because it is a form of indoctrination.
Perhaps the most potent argument against service-learning is that it appears,
at least in the civic approach, to be indoctrination. Students will learn to be
democratic citizens, and they will subscribe to particular political views
about the evils of capitalism. The authors I have quoted who openly criti-
cize the status quo certainly could be interpreted as pushing a particular
agenda, one that is based on notions of human perfection, as was typical of
This qualm about a particular ideological impulse for service-learning,
however, need not keep professors from engaging in it. After all, the con-
tinuum of service-learning impulses offers a variety of perspectives from
which to integrate service-learning in higher education classrooms. And as
Huckin (1997) notes, students can be given some flexibility in choosing
service-learning projects: “It is important to let students choose the
agency they want to work with, and to do so in full awareness of the kind
of work the agency does and its governing philosophy or ideology. Many
nonprofit agencies have strong political stances, and it might not be a
good idea to have a right-to-life activist, for example, doing a project for
Planned Parenthood” (p. 52).
In short, the purpose of service-learning in general is to integrate in the
classroom the learning of concepts with the implementation of those con-
cepts both inside and outside the classroom. The hope of service-learning
is that when students participate in such an integrated course, they will
choose as a lifelong goal to engage voluntarily in service.
Service-learning, like any other pedagogical initiative, presents risks and
rewards attended by numerous barriers and pitfalls. Professors need to
investigate both risks and rewards and be aware of pitfalls and barriers
before committing themselves to service-learning. While the purpose of this
book is to provide professors with nuts-and-bolts answers to practical issues
related to service-learning, it is also imperative for professors to be aware of
the impulses behind service-learning because theory drives practice.
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