Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Bridging Disciplines through Service-Learning

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Bridging Disciplines through Service-Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract

One of the goals of service-learning is to serve the needs of the community. Before this can be accomplished, roles of the various individuals involved in the partnership must be established. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in perceptions of oral and general health issues between dental hygiene and social work students in order bridge disciplines through multidisciplinary collaboration through service-learning. Curriculum development is necessary to ensure professional groups have an awareness of the skills and contributions each can provide.

Introduction

Multi-disciplinary collaboration is an increasingly important dimension of the helping process for professionals working within health and human service arenas. A critical component of this preparation process is to encourage the development of multi-disciplinary partnerships through service-learning approaches. One of the goals of service-learning is to serve the needs of the community. Before this can be accomplished, roles of the various individuals involved in the partnership must be established and understood through contact and collaborative activities. To date, a limited amount of research has been conducted to understand how service-learning activities bridge disciplines to collaborate, builds an understanding of other's professional perspectives, and prepares students for multidisciplinary collaboration.

Service-learning has been adopted by many campuses associated with higher education within the United States and Canada. The definition of service-learning carries different connotations depending upon the setting. For example, an early definition of service-learning has been defined by Boyer (1994) as "an approach to teaching, learning, and service that not only celebrates the scholarship of discovering knowledge, but also celebrates the scholarship of integrating knowledge, and applying knowledge through professional service" (p. A48). One of the earliest approaches to service learning was conceptualized by John Dewey (Boydston,1977), who conceptually moved away form the paradigm of service related to volunteerism and charity to the role of service as a responsibility of the individual toward democratic citizenship. Dewey sought to link the concepts of education/human learning with community service and democratic participation (Taylor, 2002). Eyler & Giles (1999) suggests that service-learning is a method by which students improve their academic learning and develop personal skills through structured service projects. In turn, these projects meet community needs, and build upon students' service activities by providing these students with opportunities to learn through reflecting upon their service experiences.

Service-learning is distinguished from volunteerism by the nature of its reciprocal relationship. Students not only provide service to the community, but also receive a benefit from their involvement, while volunteerism relies solely on the recipient as the primary beneficiary (Furco, 1996a). Service-learning is also distinguished from internships because internships are intended to provide the student with hands on experience that will enhance the students' skills and knowledge, and the student is clearly the beneficiary (Furco, 1996b).

The distinctions among Dewey's early teachings, volunteerism, internships and service-learning are important to discern because of the historical roots found within the helping professions. For example, many human service professionals such as nurses, teachers and social workers evolved from charitable works and voluntary efforts.

Volunteerism was initially the basis of activity for many human service professionals, while internships have been traditionally used in order to ensure that the skills and competencies of professional training were developed. Internships have also been used historically as a vehicle to contribute to the workforce. …

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