Emergency Room Mode-A Service-Learning Case

By Wilberschied, Lee; Bauer, Lisa et al. | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Emergency Room Mode-A Service-Learning Case


Wilberschied, Lee, Bauer, Lisa, Gerdes, Carla, Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

This study examines the outcomes of a two-part service learning project in a summer practicum for English as Second Language (ESL) teacher endorsement candidates. First, 10 mainstream K12 teachers with 2 to 30 years' experience needed practice teaching students with linguistic and cultural differences. Their own service learning was to implement a summer family literacy program for ESL students. Second, these teachers had planned a service learning component for the ESL students. Teachers, feeling obliged to correct all the perceived linguistic deficits in students, went into a panic that they described as "emergency room mode." Regarding service learning and any other non-classroom activity as distraction, they chose to have ESL students abandon such activities. Teachers did gain significantly in understanding and implementing concepts studied in university classes, but their conclusions about service learning varied.

Introduction

Currently, K-12 public schools in the United States include populations of students who differ significantly from those of previous generations, who are increasingly linguistically diverse, even in small and rural districts (Berube, 2000). Nieto (2002) observed, however, that teachers overall have become increasingly monocultural, a majority of White, middle class females from the dominant culture. In suburban and rural districts, 40 percent of the teachers received their teacher training in the 1960s, when teacher candidates were being prepared to serve White, English-speaking, suburban populations (Berube, 2000). In addition, Nieto (2002) and Ladson-Billings (1995) noted that many White teachers do not see themselves as culture-bearers and are unprepared to address issues of cultural differences in their classrooms.

Preparing teachers to deal with diversity is not a simple task. Phinney and Tatum (2000) described a developmental scale for White students in teacher education courses illustrating the long, demanding, and arduous process that members of the dominant (White, middle-class) culture undertake when they make the commitment to come to terms with their own race and its implications in society. Ladson-Billings (1995) discussed the need for a model of culturally relevant instruction for all students. Added to these challenges is often that of acquiring the skills and knowledge to help English as a Second Language learners (ESL) acquire language and build meaning without viewing them from a deficit perspective (Boyle-Baise, 2002). Such a perspective mistakenly treats the student as a deficient individual rather than as one who has language skills and background knowledge and is in the process of further acquisition.

Nieto (2002) called for the transformation of the educational system into one that reflects the diverse demographics of modern schools. This paper reports on a case study of the effectiveness of service learning as one method to prepare teacher education students for the multicultural and multilingual classroom.

Literature Review

John Dewey receives credit for articulating the formative ideas upon which service learning pedagogy is based (Cooper, 2002), which link community service with course content and reflection upon the relationship of the two with the growth of the individual. Service learning methodology shows potential for preparing teachers efficiently and effectively (Root, 1997).

Eyler and Giles (1999) coined five "Cs" to represent important elements of service learning projects. "Connection" represents the concept that classrooms do not exist as isolated entities, but should expand into the lives of students, communities, and institutions. "Continuity" represents the notion that class work should extend beyond the time frame of the course and allow students to reflect and grow through the testing and re-testing of their beliefs and concepts. "Context" presents the idea that students learn most efficiently when applying theory to solve real-world problems. …

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