Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

'Doing Good' and Scholarship: A Service-Learning Study

Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

'Doing Good' and Scholarship: A Service-Learning Study

Article excerpt

The national interest in formal links between university classroom education and community service raises two important issues for college and university teaching.

The first is definitional. What is service learning--learning that combines public service with related academic work--and what distinguishes it from academic internships, semesters abroad, and classroom laboratories?

The second issue is pedagogical. Is there reason to believe that the learning aspects of service learning justify the entry of colleges and universities into the public-service sector?

An undergraduate mass communication and society lecture course at a residential research university provided the laboratory to experiment with a dozen independent service-learning projects. Although the class was large and included several teaching assistants, the unit of analysis was service project. Each project was viewed as an individual endeavor suitable for a small class with no graduate student assistance.(1) Some service projects involved experiential learning in which students worked directly with off-campus community groups. Nonexperiential service-learning service projects provided the opportunity to aid community groups, but without direct student/community contact.

The projects enabled us to reach anecdotal, but systematic conclusions about the pedagogical value of service learning and to document empirically the differences in pedagogical value between service learning with and without an experiential component. We also were able to identify and then bring our observations to several normative issues.

Service learning

The growth of service. Interest and participation in community service has become well entrenched on American college campuses over the last decade. More than 305 campuses, for example, belong to Campus Compact, an umbrella organization established in 1985 by a number of college and university presidents to encourage community service among undergraduates.(2) The 1993 Report of the Commission on National and Community Service estimates that 140,000 students at Campus Compact schools participated in service on a weekly basis in 1992.(3) Another 650 colleges and universities participated in the Campus Outreach Opportunity League and 150 schools ROW provide academic credit for service-learning programs offered by the Partnership for Service Learning.(4) And of course, 1993 saw bipartisan support for President Bill Clinton's March 1 proposal for a program to offset tuition through public-service participation and for the inauguration of the 1993 Summer of Service.

The variety of motivations and rationales for service education are numerous and might even suggest that some see service education as a panacea. The 1980 report of the National Commission on Youth is often cited for its recommendation that community service be used to "bridge the gap" between youth and adulthood.(5) In a 1985 report for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Frank Newman concluded, "If there is a crisis in education in the United States today, it is less that test scores have declined than it is that we have failed to provide the education for citizenship that is still the most important responsibility of the nation's schools and colleges."(6) Rutgers political scientist Benjamin Barber has become the leading advocate of teaching citizenship values in a democracy through service education courses.(7)

In another Carnegie report, however, Ernest Boyer takes higher education to task "for the gap between values in the academy and the needs of the larger world. Service is routinely praised, but accorded little attention," Boyer notes in Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate.(8) And although Boyer embraces the values of service education, he does so with the practiced critique of the classroom professor. "Colleges and universities have recently rejected service as serious scholarship, partly because its meaning is so vague and often disconnected from serious intellectual work," Boyer warns. …

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