An Adventure in Service-Learning: Developing Knowledge, Values & Responsibility (Gower, 2010)

Anto Kerins, Dublin Institute of Technology

An Adventure in Service-Learning argues that education can provide not just knowledge and skills but it can also encourage the development of values and responsibility. It does so by discussing a relatively new teaching method called service-learning. Where a lecture operates through presentation and explanation and a tutorial, through discussion, questions and answers, service-learning is different.

Service-learning is a teaching method that allows students to use their classroom theory to help others through relevant service or volunteering activity. In so doing, it gives students the opportunity to use the experiences of helping others to strengthen their understanding of subject material. The volunteering or service activity thus becomes an integral part of the curriculum and learning process.

This method can be used to teach any subject from architecture to zoology. In project management, for example, students are provided with project management theory in the normal class environment. However, they are then required to manage a volunteering project so as to help strengthen their subject knowledge and skills and encourage the development of responsibility and values.

In heritage studies, on the other hand, students might be asked to classify the heritage resources in an area and provide the results to the local community through an exhibition or report. Similarly, zoology students taking a communications module could be requested to provide presentations for local schools on the importance and excitement of zoology.

Service-learning is therefore like a bridge that connects the curriculum with the outside world. It can breathe life and clarity into any subject and better prepare students for life after college.

This is a well written and easy to read book. It introduces the newcomer to service-learning and provides the seasoned practitioner with an important analysis of this most interesting of teaching methods. Its discussion of learning and the role of higher education will interest educationalists and its consideration of service will be important to those who are concerned about community.

It examines service-learning in project management, leadership and management consultancy and provides the reader with an understanding of how the method can work in any subject or discipline. In considering the nature of service it clarifies the need for community and discusses the nature and possibilities of what it means to be human.

The book is permeated with a passionate belief in education and its possibilities and will help renew and reinvigorate practitioners, policy makers and the education system as a whole.

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