Service Learning in Sport Management: A Community Health Project

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Service Learning in Sport Management: A Community Health Project

Sport management has become an increasingly popular academic discipline in colleges and universities. Sports have become a major industry, resulting in both increased need for professionals and more opportunities to train students effectively for sport careers by providing them with the kinds of learning environments that produce critical thinkers and problem solvers.

How to go about creating learning environments that enhance student learning about sport organizations is a challenge faced by most professors. While the sport management curriculum is rife with opportunities to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, all too often the learning environment best suits a passive style of learning. This traditional academic style of teaching and learning involves students listening to lectures, reading, taking test and quizzes, writing research papers, and watching films or video (Parkhouse, 2005). The strength of this method is its strong theoretical underpinning; its weakness is its failure to engage students in the pedagogical value of real-world experiences in sport organizations. Service learning is a method of teaching and learning that can make up what is missing from more traditional approaches to learning. Sport management courses can be designed and implemented as service learning, featuring projects addressing, for example, community health challenges. Though the curricular design presented here could be applied to address any community problem, it was used by the researchers in a fund raising project benefiting a malaria mitigation effort in which bed nets were distributed as a low-cost means of prevention. It is a requirement, however, that service learning be based on recognized community and humanitarian needs.

Service learning is an experiential pedagogical approach that goes beyond mere classroom instruction. Service learning involves the blending of service activities and classroom instruction with the purpose of meeting real community needs as students learn through active engagement and reflection (Geleta & Gilliam, 2003; Mumford & Kane, 2006). One benefit of service learning is that it connects hands-on learning to classroom knowledge. This connection of practical application to theory enhances the academic curriculum and also provides a structure helping students to reflect on their service experience (Prentice & Garcia, 2000). Service learning provides meaningful experiences that enable students to learn by doing rather than only reading, talking, and writing about doing (Parkhouse, 2005). It is a pedagogy that fosters critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as it supplements traditional curricula and classroom activities. In addition, service learning fosters civic responsibility, personal and social development, and opportunities for career exploration (Prentice & Garcia, 2000).

Malaria Mitigation Is a Recognized Need

Fighting deadly malaria is clearly a recognized need. Malaria is one of the world's most dire public health concerns, causing over a million deaths and up to 500 million clinical cases each year. It is particularly devastating in Africa, where there are some 3,000 deaths from malaria every day and 10 new cases every second. Malaria is the leading cause of death for Africa's children under age five. More than a third of the world's total population now lives where the disease is endemic, so it takes a high toll on households and also on health care systems, impeding development. It is estimated that malaria reduces growth of gross domestic product by approximately one percentage point per year (World Economic Forum, 2006). It is the poor who are most affected by malaria. They have less access to information, services, and protective measures, and less power to avoid living or working in malaria-affected areas. …