Service Learning is a learning and teaching strategy that combines essential community service with formal instructions received from class. The process focuses on strengthening communities through the development of civic and personal responsibility. It makes the students reflect and focus on the needs of the community while at the same time improving their academic skills. (Follman, 1998).
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Through service learning, students develop a commitment to their communities and gain skills to handle real-life issues. The principles and practices gained through formal teaching are enhanced when they are applied to the social context. Students are able to reflect concurrently when they learn through experience. The process makes students responsible citizens who actively contribute to the needs of the community through the practical application of their formal instructions.
Service learning promotes academic development, social growth, and community involvement because it integrates learning from schools and colleges with organizations that are either faith or community-based. The students participate actively in the community development projects. The community benefits in improved public health and safety, a more sustainable environment, better social education, among others.
The interaction of the students, members of the community and the educators creates a unified society. The benefit gained is mutual because the youth gets educated by the community while they address the concerns and needs of the community. For instance, the students may decide to collect trash lying in the environment. By so doing, they may use information they have learned formally to determine the source of the pollution.
When the results of their findings are shared with the community’s residents, they collectively address the problem (Pearson, 2002). Through the collaboration of the school, parents and members of the community, everyone enjoys a better environment. Service learning therefore effectuates a fundamental shift in traditional pedagogy to make classes interesting and engaging. When students apply their formal knowledge and skills to make the community a better place, they become inspired, motivated and ultimately empowered.
Service Learning promotes academic development because it offers students a platform where they can apply the knowledge they have acquired in the classroom practically. The strategy enriches the formal learning that takes place in the classroom by applying it through doing service to the external environment.
The academic development of the students is also enhanced because they are provided with an avenue to showcase their ability. They come up with a service to be delivered, design a strategy to deliver it, implement it and monitor what they initiated. This encourages them to seek more knowledge in the field because it instills a personal sustained interest.
The strategy promotes social growth because it supports the operation of the social agencies that are created to develop the community. It is a philosophy pedagogy that develops the community through the use of a learning method that satisfies the academic objectives. When practical learning strategies that satisfy social needs are developed, social growth becomes evident.
Some of the student learning activities that may improve social growth are the provision of portable toilets, unclogging the drainage systems, among others. Parents should encourage their schooling sons and daughters to get actively involved in service learning because it benefits them as well as the community as a whole.
Service Learning promotes community involvement through community partnerships. A community partnership is whereby the residents partner with the community agencies to identify the needs that are urgent, then mobilizes resources required to complete the relevant projects. The partnership becomes successful when students are engaged in the community agency to offer the relevant skills and services.
Follman, J. (1998). Florida Learn and Serve: 1996-1997 outcomes and correlations with 1994-1995 and 1995-1996. Tallahassee, FL: Center for Civic Education and Service, Florida State University.
Pearson, S. (2002). Finding common ground: Service-learning and educational reform. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum.