Saturday, March 27, 2010

Worldview Shifts In International Academic Service-Learning

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A longitudinal case study of an international service-learning program in Nicaragua, conducted by Richard Kiely (2004), found that "each student experienced profound changes in their world-view in at least one of six dimensions: political, moral, intellectual, personal, spiritual, and cultural" (p. 5).

The Six (6) Dimensions of Transformation

Kiely identifies six "transforming forms": political, moral, intellectual, cultural, personal, and spiritual.

For example, he defines political transformation as "an expanded sense of social responsibility and citizenship that is both local and global" while moral transformation is developing "a relationship of mutual respect and care and sense of solidarity with community" (p. 11). The intellectual transformation he observed in some students is their ability to question "assumptions about origin, nature and solutions to problems" (p. 11).

While his students did not change in all of these dimensions, this qualitative study (using onsite participant-observation, document analysis of student journals, questionnaires and reflection papers) revealed that each student experienced at least ONE of the six types of perspective transformation.

For more information about this and other studies of academic service-learning, click the link to visit the website of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning.

Work Cited
Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation in International Service-Learning Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp. 5-20.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

International Service-Learning: Does It Transform Students? The Answer Is YES!

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What impact does service-learning have on students? How are they transformed by the experience? There is a growing body of research in academic service-learning that is trying to answer these questions. And, so far, the answer is YES!
According to Dr. Richard Kiely of Cornell University, there has been extensive research and documentation on domestic academic service-learning and its positive effects on student's learning, personal and professional development. However, when it comes to international service-learning, systematic research on the impact of the ISL experience on students is needed(Kiely, 2004).
What we do know is that involvement in an international service-learning program "...increases students' intercultural competence, language skills, appreciation of cultural difference, tolerance for ambiguity, and experiential understanding of complex global problems related to their academic program of study" (Kiely, 2004).
Recent research on international service-learning has focused on "transformational learning" and have incorporated a model from transformational learning theory called "perspective transformation", which Mezirow (1991) defines as the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our presuppositions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand and feel about our world; of reforumulating these assumptions to permit a more inclusive, discriminating, permeable and integrative perspective; and of making decisions or otherwise acting on these new understandings. (p.14)
Works Cited
Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation in International Service-Learning Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp.5-20.
Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

"Perspective Transformation" in Service-Learning

How does service-learning transform students?

Numerous studies have shown the positive effects --academic, interpersonal, personal and professional --of academic service-learning (Kiely, 2004).

In their book, Where's the learning in service-learning? (1999), J.S. Eyler and D.E. Giles, Jr. argue that service-learning supports education that "raises fundamental questions and empowers students to do something about them" (p.133). Academic service-learning, they argue, is "not about accumulating more knowledge, but about seeing the world in a profoundly different way, one that calls for personal commitment and action" (p.129).

One study by W.A. Kellogg (1999) examined moral, intellectual and political dimensions of the transformational impact of service-learning by analyzing data collected through papers, surveys, and student journals. Kellogg describes the students' moral perspective transformation as "an enhanced sense of empathy and caring about urban which students would identify themselves and residents of these neighborhoods as members of the same community" (p. 64). The study also found a longer-term moral transformation in some students who continued to work in the service community after the semester ended.

For more information on research in this area, I suggest starting with this website:
Learn and Service America's National Service-Learning Clearinghouse ( has a library of resources on academic research studies of service-learning.

Works Cited
Eyler, J.S. & Giles, Jr. D.E. (1999) Where's the learning in service-learning? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Kiely, R. (2004) A Chameleon with a Complex: Searching for Transformation In International Service-Learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, pp. 5-20.

Kellogg, W.A. (1999) Toward more transformative service-learning: Experiences from an urban environmental problem-solving class. Michigan Journal of Service Learning, Fall, pp. 63-73.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Academic Service-Learning

What is academic service-learning?

It is a classroom-based program that involves students in some form of required community service and uses that activity as a means of understanding course concepts. It is a pedagogical approach whereby students engage in a service activity that benefits the common good. It is learning-by-doing.

What is the service learning pedagogy?Service learning is a type of experiential learning that engages students in service within the community as an integrated aspect of a course. Students participate in an organized activity and reflect on that activity to gain further understanding of course content; a broader appreciation of the discipline; and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility. Service Learning engages students in active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning experiences to meet identified needs of an organization or community at large.

What are the goals of Academic Service learning?
The goals of Academic Service learning are:

To blend service and learning goals and activities in such a way that the two reinforce each other and produce a greater impact than either could produce alone

To enhance students’ learning by enabling them to practice skills and test classroom knowledge through related service experiences in a non-profit organization

To enable students to provide needed assistance to community agencies

What are the key elements of ASL?
The critical elements of ASL are:

1. Meaningful service to community
2. Clearly conceptualized connection between courses’ objectives and service activities
3. Structured opportunities for students to synthesize and derive new meaning from their experiences as they relate those experiences to course goals and objectives
4. What are the benefits to students who take ASL courses?
5. Hands-on use of skills and knowledge
6. Increased relevance of academic skills
7. Opportunities that accommodate different learning styles
8. Increased analytical skills
9. Increased civic responsibility
10. Better prepared graduates to face real world market
11. Opportunity to develop as effective leaders and engaged citizens

What are the benefits to the community from the ASL program?

Awareness-building of community issues, agencies, and constituents
Opportunities to contribute to the educational process
Short- and long-term solutions to community needs
Positive community relationships

How is Academic Service Learning different from volunteer work?

The actual work you do at an agency might not be different from what you would have done as a volunteer. However, your approach to the work is different in the ASL program. You will be looking at the place, the people, your experiences, and your reactions to find out deeper meaning that relate to your course content. You learn something about the course you are taking by working in the community.

What kind of projects do students do in an ASL course?

It depends on the course you take and the partner organization. It may involve:
Developing marketing materials
Planning and executing an internal control audit
Preparing a volunteer recruitment plan
Developing a business plan

(FAQ above from the Berkeley College website.)

I have posted a few multimedia resources in the right-hand margin of my blog, including a video about service-learning at Berkeley College. Over the next week or so, I will be presenting some of the research on international service-learning, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Children & Staff At Casa de los Angeles

Last week I visited Casa de los Angeles to record a welcome announcement from founder, Donna Quathamer, to Berkeley College students for my spring 2010 online academic service-learning course, World Cultures. I also started taking and collecting photographs for use in our service projects. These include some great photos of the children and staff, the celebration of Valentine's Day and of the beautiful murals painted on the inside of the courtyard. After a cold and rainy January and February, the sun is finally shining, as you can see! Enjoy the slide show!