Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Shaping the Vision for Service-Learning in Language Education

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Shaping the Vision for Service-Learning in Language Education

Article excerpt

1 | INTRODUCTION

Language education has embraced community-based service-learning (CBSL) as an avenue for language and culture learning beyond the classroom, through authentic engagement (Hellebrandt, Arries, Varona, & Klein, 2003; Hellebrandt & Varona, 1999; Perren & Wurr, 2015; Rabin, 2009; Wurr, 2013; Wurr & Hellebrandt, 2007). CBSL is broadly defined as a "form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development" (Jacoby, 1996, p. 5). Overall, the literature has recognized reflection and reciprocity as key tenets of CBSL (Flower, 2002; Meens, 2014; Mitchell, 2008), forming the basis for the ethical and sustained engagement of higher-education institutions with partner organizations and community stakeholders. This perspective on engagement-one that emphasizes reflection and social action-has become central to language education as the field responds to new and emergent forms of communication, flows of global activity, and (re)organization of social networks (Byram, 2008; Kramsch, 2014). CBSL effectively brings communities together, and its complementarity with language education affords opportunities for participants to communicate and collaborate. In this context, language educators "are in a unique position to lead the movement in service-learning" (Caldwell, 2007, p. 464) by emphasizing and problematizing language in service-learning across programs and courses. In this article, we focus on the challenges and possibilities for language learning in CBSL programs that are grounded in community action and examine the discourse of service as another potential platform for action in the direction of equity.

2 | OVERVIEW OF THE FIELD: CBSL AND LANGUAGE EDUCATION

Recent research in journals such as Foreign Language Annals, Hispania, TESOL Journal, Theory into Practice, and the Michigan Journal for Community-Based Learning has attested to the complementarity of language education with CBSL. Anthologies and reviews of best practices have further cemented its pedagogical force. For instance, Construyendo Puentes [Building Bridges]: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Spanish (Hellebrandt & Varona, 1999) highlighted the groundbreaking impact of ACTFL's World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (National Standards Collaborative Board, 2015) on language education, mobilizing language education beyond the classroom and emphasizing reflection on "working with each other as opposed to learning about each other" (Hellebrandt & Varona, 1999, p. 6; emphasis in original). In Learning the Language of Global Citizenship, Perren and Wurr (2015) highlighted the development of rigorous CBSL research in the field of TESOL. This continuing and wide-ranging scholarship attests to the benefits and the potential of CBSL in language education. We welcome the opportunity to reflect on this research in our contribution to the 50th anniversary special issue of Foreign Language Annals.

Our literature search for this contribution was iterative. First, using the key word service-learning, we searched peer-reviewed scholarship (1998 to present) using the ERIC database and conducted a separate search of our university library databases that included Academic Search Premier and the Modern Language Association (MLA) Directory. These searches yielded thousands of articles, revealing the extent to which connections with communities have been sought and taken up across professions and disciplines, nationally and internationally. This initial search also revealed the multiple approaches to service, such as clinics in the health professions, internships for business and NGOs abroad and at home, and instantiations of local and/or global voluntary work. These initiatives, predicated on an ethic of care, are implemented in a number of programmatic formats and with various aims in mind. …

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