Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Service-Learning Essentials: An Artful Marriage of Basic Building Blocks and Critical Issues

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Service-Learning Essentials: An Artful Marriage of Basic Building Blocks and Critical Issues

Article excerpt

Service-Learning Essentials: Questions, Answers, and Lessons Learned

Barbara Jacoby

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014

For faculty or staff seeking information on the how-to's of service-learning, there are a good number of manuals and handbooks available. When I was first delving into the mechanics of service-learning course design, I became quite friendly with Campus Compact's (Heffernan & Saltmarsh, 2000) Introduction to Service-Learning Toolkit, the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning's (Howard, 2001) Service-Learning Course Design Workbook, and Civic Engagement Across the Curriculum (Battistoni, 2003). As I coached faculty during their forays into service-learning, I carried the second edition of the Toolkit with me seemingly everywhere. Of course, these sorts of toolkits were heavily shaped by the National Society for Internships and Experiential Education's (Kendall & Associates, 1990) Combining Service and Learning: A Resource Book for Community and Public Service, Volumes I and II, which predated my entry into service-learning, community engagement, and civic development.

As for compendiums of examples that faculty and staff can consult, Heffernan's (2001) Fundamentals of Service-Learning Course Construction is frequently referenced for its six models of service-learning course structure. Zlotkowski edited the series, Service-Learning in the Disciplines (1997-2002), which gave prospective service-learning instructors hundreds of syllabi to use as models and bridges between the practice of service-learning and disciplinary concepts. More recently, The Service-Learning for Civic Engagement Set (Eisman, 2012) took a different approach to organizing examples, moving out of disciplines and arranging them by social issues. This approach speaks to the idea that public problems and issues cannot be holistically addressed through one, single disciplinary orientation.

Coming out this year, the SAGE Sourcebook of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement (Delano-Oriaran, Penick-Parks, & Fondrie, 2015) explores the practice of service-learning and various models for such programs, and the Handbook for Service-Learning and Community Engagement (Dolgon, Eatman, & Mitchell) is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

With these resources available to help faculty and staff learn about service-learning, one might ask why Jacoby's (2014) Service-Learning Essentials: Questions, Answers, and Lessons Learned is an important addition to the collection. I think the book is a particularly well-positioned contribution at this point in time. Jacoby cites the purpose of the book is to "define and promote high-quality service-learning, both to enable it to fulfill its promise and to serve as the foundation for advancing civic agency and engagement" (p. xvii). Jacoby's text marries the presentation of the basic building blocks of service-learning pedagogy and what I see as the more critical issues dogging its future: a variant inclusion of civic and political learning dimensions, a set of assumptions about the environment of higher education that dictate a normative framing of community outreach and student characteristics, and a modest but growing critical research agenda that will help evolve and sustain service-learning practice. Higher education has been employing service-learning for long enough that a good how-to reference book must also include how-not-to, to-what-end, and forward-looking discussions. I think Service-Learning Essentials delivers those discussions briefly, albeit in the latter third of the book, and points readers to the works that explore such issues in greater depth. By including nuts and bolts information along with more purpose-driven and critical discussions, Jacoby has written a text that brings together subjects typically bifurcated into beginners' manuals and theoretical works. I think this is a service to the field of service-learning: From their first encounter, all practitioners of service-learning ought to be aware of its pitfalls as well as opportunities to realize greater goals than simply adopting a high-impact teaching method. …

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