Service Learning in Domestic and International Settings

By Miller, Kari Knutson; Gonzalez, Amber M. | College Student Journal, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Service Learning in Domestic and International Settings


Miller, Kari Knutson, Gonzalez, Amber M., College Student Journal


This paper examines pre-service teacher outcomes associated with service learning in domestic and international settings. One group of upper-division undergraduate level pre-service teachers participated in supervised experiences in domestic settings. A second group of upper-division undergraduate level pre-service teachers participated in supervised experiences in Shanghai, China. Program evaluation and participant outcomes are reported here. Participant outcomes examined include civic engagement, career goal clarification, and cultural competencies.

Pre-Service Teacher Outcomes Associated with Service Learning in Domestic and International Settings

The practice of experiential learning is supported theoretically by constructivist principles recommending that students have an active role in learning where authentic tasks are introduced. Pre-service teachers report that service-learning experiences are beneficial to their professional development (Denton, 1986), enhance their understandings of schools and students (LaMaster, 2001), and contribute to their understandings of multicultural and urban settings (Boyle-Baise, 2005). Further, findings from empirical studies of participation in experiential learning indicate that it has the potential to impact academic achievement, career goal clarification, civic engagement, and cultural competencies (e.g. Knutson Miller & Yen, 2005; Ference and Bell, 2004; Fitch, 2004; Kiely, 2004; Weisskirch, 2003; Malone, Jones, & Stallings, 2002; Bliesner & Artale, 2001; Roschelle, Turpin, & Elias, 2000; Strage, 2000; Osborne, Hammerich & Hensley; 1998; Batchelder & Root, 1994; Giles & Eyler, 1994; Stanton, 1991).

International service learning offers opportunities for internationalizing teacher training (Schneider, 2003) and unique possibilities for enhancing academic achievement and professional development (Annette, 2003; Roberts, 2003; Grusky, 2000). Potential outcomes include enhanced critical thinking skills and concern for local community members (King, 2004), as well as greater appreciation of cultural diversity, awareness of global issues, expanded notions of community, and general cultural competencies (Lewis & Niesenbaum, 2005; Van Hoff and Verbeeten, 2005; Kiely, 2004; Annette, 2003; Thompson, 2002; Hartman & Rola, 2000). Wade, Boyle-Baise, and O'Grady (2001) add that these experiences may expand the "comfort zone" of participant teachers while enhancing their abilities to view the world from multiple perspectives. In addition, international service-learning experiences may lead to enhanced personal and professional flexibility (Roberts, 2003). It is often argued that international service-learning programs are potentially transformative in nature (Kiely, 2005; Roberts, 2003; Grusky, 2000).

Empirical study is needed, however, in order to continue to build and support the rationale for participation in service-learning experiences in both domestic and international settings (Van Hoof and Verbeeten, 2005; Annette, 2003; Roberts, 2003; Wade, Boyle-Baise, & O'Grady, 2001) and align such experiences with specific learning and professional goals (Boyle-Baise, 2005; Root, Callahan, & Sepanski, 2002; Denton, 1986; Goodman, 1985; Huling, 1998; LaMaster, 2001; Maxie, 2001; Oppewal, 1994; Silverman, 1998). For example, pre-service teachers participating in international service-learning experiences might demonstrate enhanced cultural competencies or knowledge, dispositions, and skills needed to work effectively with diverse students and families. This paper examines outcomes associated with pre-service teacher participation in service-learning activities in domestic and international settings. Participant outcomes including civic engagement, career goal clarification, and developing cultural competencies are examined. While theoretical support exists for the integration of service-learning experiences in teacher education, further empirical study is needed. …

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