Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Beginning Teachers and Service-Learning: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Beginning Teachers and Service-Learning: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt


This article presents the results of a case study of a beginning special education teacher as she implemented service-learning methods in her classroom. As a part of the case study, teacher education faculty assisted and supported the beginning teacher as she taught a service-learning instructional unit to her students. Results from graduate surveys were analyzed in relationship to the results of the case study. This article (1) documents and identifies the process of implementing service- learning methods in beginning teachers' classrooms (2) documents and identifies the challenges faced by beginning teachers (3) discusses recommendations for effective practices in teaching service-learning methods to preservice candidates.


Service-learning is an important component of teacher preparation in the California State University, Chico (CSU, Chico), Concurrent Teacher Preparation Program. In 1995, the Concurrent Program faculty developed an organized continuum of experiences that prepared candidates earning both general and special education credentials with a foundation in service-learning (Davis & Bianchi, 1998). During three semesters of program coursework and field experience, candidates participate in an articulated scope and sequence of service learning experiences and develop core knowledge about the importance of service learning as a teaching strategy. As a capstone experience during student teaching, candidates implement an integrated content standards-based instructional unit that they have written. Specific community and pupil needs are fundamental to the service component of their units.

The Concurrent Program faculty has increased its commitment to improving the service-learning component in the program by analyzing how effectively they equip graduates to use service-learning in their future classrooms. In the current climate of high stakes testing, standards-driven decisions, and budget cuts, teacher preparation programs need to provide specific examples of ways in which service-learning can be utilized effectively (Callahan, Davis & Hill, 2001; Ryan & Callahan, 1999). Colleges of education and teacher preparation, "have a unique opportunity to be at the cutting edge of school improvement efforts by preparing their students to effectively facilitate the service-learning process" (Meyers, 1995, p. 8).

The program faculty's commitment to increasing the number of pupils who would benefit from service-learning experiences in public school classrooms resulted in the implementation of a two-pronged approach to studying the problem. First, a survey was administered that provided information regarding the extent to which graduates transferred their knowledge and experiences with service-learning from their preservice preparation to classroom practice. Results of the survey provided important data regarding the supports needed by beginning teachers to implement service-learning and the barriers that prevented them from using service-learning during their first years of teaching. Secondly, faculty designed a case study that provided in depth involvement and data collection with one program graduate as she implemented service-learning during her first year of teaching.

The case study subject was a beginning teacher working in a rural elementary classroom for special education pupils identified with emotional/behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. The class consisted of eight pupils ranging from first to fourth grade. Faculty gathered data for this study from the beginning teacher's journal, interviews, and direct involvement in her classroom on a weekly basis throughout the school year. As faculty compared the results from the graduate survey to her individual experiences, they were not only able to confirm the parallel between the two sets of data, but also were able to more deeply understand the complexity involved in how and why a new teacher makes curricular decisions that involve the use of service-learning. …

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