Community Service Learning in Culturally Diverse Settings as a Springboard for Student Constructed Case Studies

Article excerpt

In a teacher preparation methods course for elementary and secondary education at the University of San Diego, the integration of community service learning and the development and application of the case methods are proving a powerful approach to assess the teacher candidates' understanding and ability to apply university course content. In constructing their case studies, teacher candidates must provide information that will require readers to identify the factors that contribute to the situations or problems facing an immigrant child they are tutoring one-on-one. Along with case design, candidates provide their own evaluation of the case. These case studies are then reviewed by the instructor and distributed to other students for analysis and evaluation in class. This form of case methods development departs from the more traditional use of case studies where the instructor or textbook provides the students with the material to be analyzed. Instead of asking the students to analyze hypothetical cases in light of theory covered in class and field based learning experiences, they are asked to build cases themselves. This paper describes salient aspects of this interactive instructional approach that has effectively contributed to building bridges between theory and practice.

Incorporating Case studies as Part of Experiential Education

Case studies are useful because they provide college students with opportunities for decision making based on personal beliefs and educational theories (Greenwood & Parkay, 1988) that lead to effective practices. In adding experiential education or community service learning as an element for constructing case studies, these students are able to make professional decisions based on direct observation, interaction and practice with the subjects and school contexts with which they interact. Community service learning is a "pedagogical model that connects meaningful community service experiences with academic course learning" (Howard, 1993). It has proven effective to "socially engage students" (Alexander, 1993) and encourage active citizenship (Boyte & Farr, 1996). In the field of teacher education, research has shown that service learning helps to enhance prospective teachers "moral knowledge", and make them more aware of their own attitudes and biases. The experiences in the community also teach future teachers about inequities in the schools, and prepare them to teach populations who are culturally and linguistically diverse and different from them (Alexandrowicz & Kujawa, 1998; Anderson and Guest, 1993; Root & Bacheider, 1994: Root, 1997; Siegel, 1994; Sullivan, 1991).

The development of case studies by teacher candidates is part of a framework designed to achieve the course objectives for EDUC 145/245 "Methods for Language and Academic Development in English", which has an enrollment that ranges from 20 to 30 students each semester. These objectives include:

* Acquiring knowledge of theories and models of second language acquisition;

* acquiring knowledge of pedagogical factors affecting second language/literacy development;

* acquiring knowledge of cognitive and affective factors affecting second language learners development of literacy;

* developing an awareness of theory of bilingual education;

* acquiring knowledge about language arts programs for English learners;

* providing hands-on assessment of second language learners for instructional planning;

* developing and implementing lesson plans for language and academic development;

* becoming aware of the key issues that promote or hinder a student's access to equal and quality education;

* promoting an awareness of the relationship between socio-cultural contexts, second language development, and school success, and;

* understanding and being more sensitive to the process of language development and acculturation. …