The best practices in teaching and the educator of the future look a little different…
Teachers of the future have excellent role models and systems to follow. However, the noble profession along with the best practices in teaching must constantly evolve and improve, not to mention the fact that the global environment in which learners and teachers find themselves has changed, and continues to change, rapidly. How do we equip teachers and learners to respond effectively to the demands of the modern world through more experiential learning?
Formative assessments will always be a part of learning, but the world is full of many tests that do not require pencil and paper to prove one has understood concepts. Today’s teachers need to equip their students with skills and dispositions ‘global competencies’ to navigate the current environment effectively. For example, communication and collaboration skills need to be taught, time and space provided for students to learn how to be effective for self efficacy.
Giving students more autonomy by personalizing the learning and providing ‘agency’ within curriculum design can seem a little scary for an educator who might not be used to it, but the practice results in students who are more invested and engaged. Learning through serving others is a powerful method of applying concepts learned in the classroom into real world environments – learning by doing.
The teacher of the future needs to understand the power of building relationships and trust, and be able to do it themselves, while sharing with their students and bringing awareness on how important it is for them.
The Global Citizens’ Initiative defines a global citizen as; “someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices.”
The goal of service learning is to extend learning beyond the classroom and into the local community and the world at large.
Community service for learners is not a new concept, and assisting the community is usually a part of most school and tertiary offerings. However, with service learning, the concept goes beyond the simple ‘helping out’ or ‘counting hours’ concept of community service.
Service learning entails the creative combination of academic theory in a specific subject, and practical application in the real world, in order to consolidate the academic theory and meet the needs of the community. On top of the obvious learning benefits, the community and the learners and educators are all enriched through the experience and through the best practices in teaching.
Service-learning initiatives are also a lesson in time management, and useful outcomes. The learner realises early on that what they learn in the classroom has a powerful and beneficial impact in the ‘real’ world.
Often, you might hear someone mentioning a facet of their school learning, such as algebra, or science. And then wondering what those skills or facts and the time spent learning them did for them once they had left school? This is where service learning comes to the fore – by showing learners that everything they learn matters and can have an impact on the world and others..
How does integrating service learning into curriculum design enhance outcomes?
Finding creative ways to integrate service learning into curriculum design produces an enhanced academic learning experience with personal and social skills development.. Students learn so much more about themselves and about others when they interact with their community, or with real-life examples and situations.
Skills that are acquired last a lot longer than facts that are learned, so each element of the education is being brought into reality where it can be retained and built upon.
Service learning benefits the student and the teacher
So many young people are ‘waiting’ and ‘wanting’ to be able to make their mark on the world. Incorporating service learning gives a fulfilling opportunity to make a difference, and be the change -right now. The responsibility and challenge builds confidence in their ability to solve problems independently or collaboratively, and make a difference.
The rationale for service learning is that students learn best by:
- Action Research- Investigation of the problem, issue, need, cause/effect, and how they can help.
- Planning and preparing for action with roles and responsibilities, timeline, resources needed
- Doing action- direct, indirect, advocacy or research
- Serving others- people, animals or the environment
- Reflecting on the experience, meeting the needs, and learning
- Sharing- Communicating and Demonstrating the learning with the community
The benefits of service learning include:
- Developing skills such as communication, collaboration, leadership, problem solving, decision making and critical thinking.
- Making use of youthful creativity and energy to assist the community
- Working on developing respect and empathy for others
- A connection between academic theory and practical application
- Building mature relationships between the learner and community members
- An overall increase in community awareness of relevant social issues
Teachers benefit from service learning through opportunities to understand individual learners in different contexts outside the classroom. The educator can develop a meaningful, trusting, and positive relationship in this way.
It also helps an educational organization to become a powerful and positive part of the wider community, fostering great relationships beyond just those of the learners and parents.
Service learning cannot be random – it must tie in with the learning objective
It is important for the service-learning activities to be tailored to the learning objectives.
So, if a biology class connect with a local conservation group to plant trees, it should be to enhance areas such as wetlands, encouraging learning of ecosystems, biodiversity and plant life cycles. The service component would encourage learning of how to mitigate wetland loss, storm protection and habitat preservation.
Students develop their skills through the five stages of service learning, such as a blood drive. They could market and promote the blood drive in their community, learning how to write, present, research, and collaborate with organizations such as the red cross, while applying their public relations. They could also encourage blood donation from within their schools and families and become a citizen who donates blood regularly.
There are so many ways that service learning can be incorporated in a way that truly supports the learner, not only right now, but in the future.
The confidence and skill benefits of service learning are increased by these opportunities to ‘hone their skills’ which is a powerful benefit for our children’s future, and our own. Service learning promotes high moral values and provides ethical building blocks on which to live a fulfilling and purposeful life.
There is a huge ‘knock-on effect’ – each of the learners who emerges from their education a skilled and competent communicator with a confidence in their own abilities and a strong moral code, will go on to influence many others in their lifetime by spreading the positive and powerful outcomes of service learning.
Tara brings passion and a deep understanding of service learning, rooted in years of experience, to her training. Her training builds bridges from theory to implementation while generously sharing her resources and knowledge to ensure our success. Tara works with the whole school (administration, teachers, students, and SL leaders) to build a sustainable program that is embedded in the curriculum and tied to the mission. She energized a faculty on a Friday afternoon, no easy feat, leaving them with a desire to learn more about SL and to become more involved. I cannot recommend Tara highly enough.