Academic journal article New Waves

The Impact of Service-Learning on Early Childhood Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article New Waves

The Impact of Service-Learning on Early Childhood Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

Introduction

Service-learning offers individuals an opportunity to link theory to practice; more specifically it can help teacher candidates explore the connections between theoretical and practical. It also offers individuals the opportunity to connect to a community and identify their civic roles in that community. Service-learning, a pedagogy that has been implemented in higher education, has received more recognition as the National and Community Service Act (1990) created a federal mandate to increase civic engagement across campuses. Service-learning is now perceived as a movement to reinvigorate the public purposes and civic mission of many higher education institutions.

Service-learning as a teaching strategy has been integrated in many teacher education programs across the country (Jagla, Erickson, & Tinker, 2013). It is used frequently in multicultural education courses to help preservice teachers better understand the social issues and their role as teachers in today's ever-changing classroom (e.g., Boyle-Baise, 2002). When community-based service-learning is implemented in teacher education programs, it can provide preservice teachers a basis for multicultural education. Community-based service-learning can help preservice teachers become aware of the social issues the community faces, needs of the community, their students' educational needs, and eventually help them develop instructional activities relevant to their concerns. Boyle-Baise proclaims that multicultural service-learning should focus on inclusive, critical, and social use. It is about building community and resolving issues associated with inequality.

Service-learning experiences provide the opportunity for preservice teachers to develop a commitment to lifelong learning. They can also provide preservice teachers with the opportunity to better understand the real-world experiences of individuals of all walks of life in their immediate communities, especially in the culturally diverse and lowincome community. Research on servicelearning has shown positive effects on student learning outcomes (Baldwin, Buchanan, & Rudisill, 2007; Celio, Durlak, & Dymnicki, 2011; Chambers & Lavery, 2012; Maynes, Hatt, & Wideman, 2013). Most importantly, service-learning has an impact on preservice teachers' dispositions toward teaching in diverse settings, cultural awareness, social issues, and social responsibility. This study attempts to further explore how service-learning experiences influence first year early childhood education preservice teachers and if these experiences affect their understanding of social justice.

Service-Learning

Service-learning combines experiential learning and community service; it focuses on critical, reflective thinking as well as personal and civic responsibility. Servicelearning is a method for individuals to learn and develop through active participation in planned service within a school or community service program to meet the needs of communities (Jacoby, 2015). It helps foster civic responsibility, provides structured time for reflection upon the experience. Service-learning as a teaching strategy has become popular during the past two decades. Kaye (2010) argues that service-learning helps individuals develop a deeper understanding of the course content, fosters their sense of civic engagement, and helps develop better insights into themselves and their place in the community. According to Kaye, service-learning makes learning meaningful because it is directly related to the students' curriculum and students make meaning from their experience. This concept is not new as Dewey (1916; 1938) stated that students learn best by doing. His learning theory focuses on learning through experience and critical thinking, which is the essence of service-learning.

Types of Service-Learning

Kaye (2010) proposes four types of service-learning: direct, indirect, advocacy, and research. …

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