Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Service Learning and Student Engagement: A Dual Language Book Project

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Service Learning and Student Engagement: A Dual Language Book Project

Article excerpt

Introduction

Across Canada (Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning, n.d.) as well as internationally service learning is one option universities are providing across faculties as a way of making connections to the broader community and involving students in opportunities to mobilize and transfer theoretical learning to application in practical settings (Bringle & Hatcher, 2009). These opportunities are as diverse as the communities' needs: from engineering students working on reclaiming vacant buildings to history students working in museums (University of Waterloo, n.d.). In the context of faculties of education, closer collaboration between universities and their partners in the field, and providing more relevant and engaging experiences for pre-service teachers are two themes that have become more salient in the recent literature on reforming teacher preparation programs in Canada (Association of Canadian Deans of Education: ACDE, 2006; Crocker & Dibbon, 2008, Rideout & Koot, 2009).

Service learning provides a framework for operationalizing broad principles of effective teacher preparation that have been articulated by ACDE (2006) and are included in Appendix 1. While Sigmon (1979) is credited with coining the term 'service learning', Bringle and Hatcher (1995: 112; 2000) are widely recognized for elaborating the construct and developing a more precise definition: 'Service learning is a course-based, credit bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs, and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility'.

Evolving from the recommendations of the Boyer Report (1996), the work of the Canadian Deans of Education, the more recent survey literature on teacher preparation programs in Canada (Crocker & Dibbon, 2008) as well as outcomes of National Survey of Student Engagement--NSSE data (2007), faculties across many campuses nationally (and internationally) have mounted a variety of responses to the call for the institutionalization of more meaningful learning opportunities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our own institution, the University of Calgary, participates in the NSSE survey and is making clear attempts to address student feedback identifying weaknesses in three key clusters (of five benchmarks) of effective educational practice: active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interactions and enriching educational experiences (University of Calgary, 2004). This paper describes one initiative, the Teaching Innovation Award in Service-Learning and Student Engagement, available at the University of Calgary supported by the Students' Union through incentive funding (University of Calgary, 2010). Echoing Bringle and Hatcher (1995), Crocker and Dibbon (2008: 10) call for stronger models of collaboration between universities and their field partners as well as case studies that can be used as illustrative examples of effective, principled teaching practices.

The dual language book project makes the connection between campus based experiences with a cohort of students in their final semester in the Faculty of Education and an identified community need: language and literacy development among young English language learners (ELLs) in kindergarten and grade 1 at Almadina Language Charter Academy, a local charter school. As a faculty member involved in the instruction of students in the Division of Teacher Preparation and with a research focus that includes previous studies at Almadina (Roessingh & Elgie, 2009; Roessingh, 2011) I recognized immediately the mutual benefit afforded through service learning for my students as well as the Almadina community. Drawing on Bringle and Hatcher's (1995, 2009) definition of service learning, the paper is framed as follows

* Identification of community needs. …

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