Designing Teacher Education Course Syllabi That Integrate Service Learning

Article excerpt

Sample service-learning in teacher education course syllabi are analyzed in relation to important variables impacting the value and use of this pedagogy in teacher education courses and experiences. Results of the analysis - as interrelated with the findings of other service-learning research -point to possible means for strengthening the design and uses of service-learning in teacher education. Guidelines for strengthening service-learning within teacher education courses are presented and discussed.

Service learning (SL) is an experientially based pedagogy that is ideally suited to educating teachers (Erickson & Anderson, 1997). As a teaching methodology, SL attempts to involve learners in community service experiences that are meaningfully interrelated with particular learning goals. Service learning enhances students by giving them opportunities to explore, study, acquire and apply skills as well as examine problems and issues in a reflective way. Service learning in teacher education is usually focused on one or more of the following goal areas (Swick et al., 1998):

* Enhancing students' through career exploration activities where they can examine the many dimensions of relating to people in different teaching-learning contexts.

* Enriching students' introduction to educational contexts and issues through meaningful service involvement in community settings where children, young people, and adults pursue educational activities.

* Assisting students in acquiring and practicing various instructional, methodology, and curriculum strategies in disciplines appropriate to their studies.

* Engaging students in learning about and using the SL pedagogy in diverse and multicultural contexts.

In addition, SL is used to foster advocacy, research, critical analysis, and collaboration skills and dispositions relevant to being an effective teacher. Teacher educators use various means to integrate service learning into students' learning experiences and thus achieve the diverse goals previously noted. The most common means used is through the integration of SL into teacher education course requirements.

The purpose of this paper is to review selected teacher education course syllabi used in relation to important teaching and learning factors: time requirements, grade value, types and location of SL activities, course descriptions of SL, SL project descriptions, related means of SL course integration, and evaluation of SL projects and activities. In addition, the findings of this analysis are then synthesized in relation to guidelines teacher educators can use as they design SL components in their courses.

The context of this analysis was the "model" service learning in teacher education course syllabi shared at the 51st Annual Meeting and Exhibits Program of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education held in Washington, DC in 1999. The 11 course syllabi provided an opportunity to analyze these syllabi in relation to what some programs are doing with SL in their teacher education courses. Of the 11 syllabi reviewed:

* Four were for basic or generic introductory courses in education;

* Six syllabi were designed for upper-level, specific area methodology courses (mostly elementary social studies, language arts, and special education methods); and

* One course syllabus was for a methods course in SL itself. The results of the analysis of these syllabi are presented in relation to the varied dimensions of service learning.

Service Learning Time Requirements and Grade Value

The amount of time spent in service learning and the manner in which that time is organized appear to influence the value of SL as a learning experience. Further, the grade value given to the SL part of a course is likely to influence student motivation and performance (Lipka, 1995; Root, 1997; Shumer, 1997). In the course syllabi reviewed, introductory and more generic courses including a SL requirement were generally vague about the number of hours required; only two course syllabi stated the hour requirement, which ranged from 30 to 50 hours. …

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