Infusing Student Activism into the College Curriculum: A Report of a Service-Learning Project to Bring Awareness to Sexual Violence

Article excerpt

Service learning involves infusing activities into the curriculum that enhance student learning, promote community engagement and effect change on the community level. Significant advantage can be applied to vulnerable communities by leveraging student action, interest, and energy, which can bring time, effort and attention to important community issues. This paper describes a project that was developed by undergraduate students in a social work practice course. The students designed, and implemented a program to bring awareness to the issue of sexual violence. Students reported feeling that their ability to apply clinical skills to practice situations their leadership skills, their understanding of an important social issue and their ability to contribute to solving social issues were enhanced as a result of participating in the project.

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Colleges and universities have embraced service learning as a useful pedagogical tool. Service learning involves infusing activities into the curriculum that enhance student learning, promote community engagement and effect change on the community level. There are several components that make service learning an important instructional method, including opportunities for student learning that take place both inside and outside of the classroom and opportunities for students thank take on leadership roles and make a difference in the larger society (Levesque-Bristol, & Knapp, & Fisher 2010). Service learning can also help students become better prepared for professional roles (Dolyniuk, 2002). Student participation in activities that meet a genuine community need, promoting student awareness of social and cultural issues, and heightening student identity as global citizens are also important components of service learning that impact student outcomes (Lavesque-Bristol & Stanek, 2009). Other benefits include the impact on student learning by increasing their skills, abilities, and motivation for learning (Lavesque-Bristol & Stanek, 2009). Student self-awareness can also be enhanced (Simons and Cleary 2006).

In addition to the benefits to students, service learning can offer significant advantage to vulnerable communities by leveraging student action, interest, and energy, which can bring time, effort and attention to important community issues. Targeted intervention that may be part of a service learning activity can also solve specific problems that may plague a community.

Service learning is a particularly useful pedagogical tool in social work education. A core value of the social work profession is challenging social injustice. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the raison d'etre of the profession is to work on behalf of vulnerable communities, and oppressed peoples. Social work education, the avenue by which future social workers receive their training and education on the undergraduate and graduate levels should provide a theoretical foundation about social justice issues and how change can be effected. Social work education should also provide student with the chance to apply these theories to real world situations. Service learning offers such experiential opportunities. An important benefit of service learning is that it integrates theory and practice, providing students with a chance to fully develop an understanding of how and why a theory can be used. Further, students can immediately assess the effectiveness of their learning, and can receive feedback in a real world setting. Since its mission of empowerment on behalf of vulnerable persons, families, and groups is of primary importance to the social work profession, introduction to the methods and practice of social action and social change is an important aspect of social work education at all levels (Han& Chow, 2010). To this end, service learning projects and activities can be an important strategy to integrate the application of theory to social work practice. …