A Service-Learning Model for Science Education Outreach

Journal of College Science Teaching, September 2006 | Go to article overview

A Service-Learning Model for Science Education Outreach


Byline: Joyce Gutstein, Martin Smith, and David Manahan

The Science Education Outreach Program (SEOP) engages undergraduate students from a variety of academic disciplines in service-learning experiences. University and community educators introduce and model contemporary educational theories and methods to participating undergraduates during weekly seminars. Concurrently, SEOP students apply these strategies through service-learning experiences in the context of science education in area schools and community-based programs. A comprehensive review of SEOP indicated that the undergraduates applied the seminar teachings to their outreach efforts, and that participation in the program had positive impacts on their education and career choices, as well as workplace and life skills.

Higher education pedagogy literature calls for a more engaged, participatory learning environment for undergraduates (Chickering and Gamson 1991) that includes student acquisition of transferable skills through some type of authentic experience (Chalkley and Harwood 1998). The Dearing Report (1997) reinforces this message, advocating that all undergraduate degree programs should include some element of vocational application. Service learning helps meet this need.

Through service-learning opportunities, students foster connections between formal academics and real-world settings by enhancing their traditional classroom learning through the application of acquired skills and knowledge in authentic contexts within their communities (Francek 2002). Furthermore, college students involved in service learning show gains in the areas of personal development, career awareness, and self-efficacy relative to their participation in solving societal problems (Wade and Yarbrough 1997).

Service-learning programs for undergraduates also provide excellent opportunities for the university to respond to the needs of the public and private sectors through the dissemination of new knowledge derived from basic and applied research. As a land-grant institution, the University of California, Davis (UCD) mission is to provide its citizens with excellence in teaching, research, and public service. It is through effective outreach to all sectors of the state's population that new research knowledge and educational methodologies are disseminated and critical needs of communities are met, thereby strengthening the campus-community bond (Furco 2001).

The program

The Science Education Outreach Program (SEOP) is jointly administered and partially funded by two campus units. The Public Service Research Program (PSRP) promotes university outreach and fosters communication and collaborative research and education between the public, community agencies, civic organizations, and university faculty, staff, and students. Veterinary Medicine Extension addresses relevant issues through outreach programs that link the resources and research capabilities of the School of Veterinary Medicine with public needs. Other UCD units (e.g., School of Education, Department of Animal Sciences, the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and the Internship and Career Center) provide academic, financial, and administrative support. The SEOP is offered as a one-quarter elective academic internship. Students receive academic credit through an associated department and are graded either pass or fail. Participating undergraduates are typically from the prehealth professions, preeducation, and environmental sciences, and occasionally from the social sciences and humanities.

SEOP goals

(I) To introduce university undergraduates to contemporary research-based educational theories and methods that are applicable to service learning in the context of science education outreach

(II) To positively impact undergraduates' academic and career skills and goals

Program organization

The two major organizational components integral to SEOP's structure are:

(I) A sequential series of seminars held weekly over one academic quarter that provide undergraduates with effective education and outreach methods and strategies. …

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