Academic service-learning is one of the approaches that have been widely used for the preparation of teachers. In part, this method is based on the premise that these people should take an active part in the life of the community in order to understand the various challenges, to which students and their parents can be exposed. Furthermore, in this way, one can better understand the experiences of children who may come from diverse backgrounds. This paper is aimed at assessing service learning from the perspective of Paine’s theory. Moreover, one should show how this experience can help educators improve the learning of children from diverse social, cultural, or racial groups. Overall, one can argue that service-learning enables pre-service teachers to see various dimensions of diversity and avoid stereotypical thinking. More importantly, the knowledge and skills acquired in this way are critical for enhancing students’ academic performance and raising their self-esteem. These are the main benefits that should be examined in greater detail.
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Overview of Paine’s theory
Overall, the theoretical framework developed by Lyle Paine relies on the premise that teacher’s understanding of diversity can be divided into several categories, namely, contextual, individual, pedagogical, and individual views (Paine as cited in Bell, 2007, p. 124). For example, some educators believe that diversity can be primarily explained by individual differences between students and their unique character traits (Bell, 2007, p. 124). Therefore, teachers should not make generalizations when thinking about people coming from diverse backgrounds (Bell, 2007, p. 124). In turn, many teachers believe that diversity is rooted in the “categorical affiliation” of a person (Bell, 2007, p. 124). In this context, the word categorical refers to such notions as gender, race, class, religion, and so forth. These factors shape the experiences of individuals.
Thus, one should focus on these specific criteria in order to understand and meet the needs of students as best as possible. In turn, this theory implies that diversity can be attributed to a variety of contextual factors affecting an individual. For instance, one can speak about such issues as the value system adopted in society, the economic situation within a country, behavioral norms, perception of gender, sexuality, and so forth. Finally, many educators believe that the differences among students should affect the instructional methods used by teachers. These are the main aspects of this theory. This model has profound implications for educators. By relying on its principle, teachers can better understand various aspects of diversity. Moreover, this model can assist them in understanding the needs of children. The main advantage of this approach is that it enables educators to see the complex experiences of students and their major concerns.
Overview of service-learning
Service-learning can be viewed as an important experience for students who intend to become teachers. These people need to take an active part in the life of the community in order to see how complex social environments are functioning. There are several benefits to this approach. First of all, students have an opportunity to evaluate many of their preconceived notions in a more critical way (Baldwin, Buchanan. & Rudisill, 2007, p. 315). For instance, some people can believe that low-income parents do not attach much importance to education. The main problem is that this statement is based on the stereotype which leads to the victimization of many students (Baldwin, Buchanan, & Rudisill, 2007, p. 323).
Additionally, service-learning enables students to understand their ethical and social responsibilities. For example, they need to know that some children can be much more vulnerable due to economic difficulties than others. Therefore, the duty of a teacher is to pay more attention to them. Additionally, this experience is critical for the intercultural competence of teachers. It should be noted that in many cases, students maintain contact predominantly with the representatives of cultural groups that are most familiar to them (Tagen, Mercer, Spooner-Rane, & Hepple, 2011, p. 70). As a result, they find it difficult to interact with people having a different background. In turn, service-learning helps them overcome this lack of confidence. Finally, it is important to mention that service-learning contributes to the development of leadership skills which are also critical for the professional qualities of a teacher (Chambers & Lavery, 2012, p. 133). These are the main details that should not be overlooked.
Understanding individual differences
Overall, people, who focus on individual aspects of diversity, assume that differences between individuals manifest in an idiosyncratic way (Bell, 2007, p. 124). They cannot be explained only by the cultural, social, or gender characteristics of a person. Therefore, a teacher should focus on the character traits that make a student unusual. This is one of the perspectives on diversity. In turn, participation in community activities enables the student to understand that one should not make excessive generalizations while analyzing the behavior or values of people. In many cases, pre-service educators tend to have rather simplistic views on people who may represent certain social classes or cultural groups (Ryan, Carrington, Gitta, & Healy, 2009, p. 155).
In turn, when they interact with the representatives of diverse groups, they will see that it is necessary to consider the individual differences between people. So, they will take into account this issue and avoid stereotypes when working in the classroom. To a great extent, this skill will help them become better educators. In the future, they will be able to identify the individual needs of children as well as their concerns. In turn, children will feel more comfortable at school. Moreover, they will attach more importance to the arguments of educators. They may also avoid such pitfalls as truancy, smoking, or drug abuse. Secondly, they will be more motivated to learn. This is one of the main aspects that can be distinguished.
Categorical aspects of diversity
Categorical understanding of diversity implies that the differences between people can be explained by the impact of such factors as social class, race, gender, and so forth (Bell, 2007, p. 125). Furthermore, service-learning enables students to see how this influence manifests itself in various cases. Awareness of these factors is indispensable for teachers. In turn, by participating in community activities, students will be able to identify the needs of a specific social, racial, or cultural group. Very often, teachers can lack this knowledge (Bamber & Hankin, 2011). Apart from that, this experience can help teachers understand the risks to which a person can be exposed due to poverty, lack of educational resources, discrimination, and so forth (Boyle-Baise & Langford, 2004). In turn, this skill will also be critical for their professional development in the long term. As educators, they will better identify at-risk students whose learning can be impaired owing to various adverse factors (Campbell, 2008; Donahue, 1999). By shielding these students from these risks, teachers can enhance their academic performance and protect them from the adverse influence of peer pressure. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward.
Contextual views on diversity
Apart from that, one should not overlook the contextual understanding of diversity. This view implies that the differences between groups and individuals are often socially constructed (Bamber & Hankin, 2011). In many cases, these differences are the result of the conventions that people tacitly accept even without questioning them. In particular, one can speak about the classification of people according to such criteria as race, gender, or ethnicity. Overall, this approach implies that teachers should understand how and why certain differences emerge. In turn, service-learning can increase the students’ awareness of the impact of social conventions on the experiences of individuals. They will see that differences can be explained by the norms to which people are supposed to adhere.
For example, the differences between males and females can be attributed to the gender norms existing in the society. By taking part in community activities, students can better identify those cases when differences between people are artificially constructed. In turn, this skill can be of great value to future teachers who should help students by raising their self-esteem. This issue is relevant to people who can be victimised due to social conventions. The problem is that in many cases, students’ choices of subjects at school or colleges are shaped by gender. In turn, an educator should make sure that children can nurture and realize their talents. By acting in this way, teachers make students more engaged. In turn, a teacher can make the learning process more fulfilling. This is another detail that can be singled out.
Finally, it is vital to remember pedagogical views on diversity. According to this perspective, the differences between individuals should influence the strategies adopted by students (Bell, 2007, p. 125). For example, these differences can shape the design of the curriculum (Orlich, 2012, p. 41). The main peculiarity of service-learning is that future educators can get a better idea of the issues that are of the greatest importance to the representatives of various groups (Donahue, Bowyer, & Rosenberg, 2003). In some cases, educators will be able to incorporate these issues into classroom discussions. This strategy can bring several benefits to students. For example, they will not have stereotypes about different ethnic or cultural groups. So, they will gain a better idea of the complexity of modern society. This is one of the educational outcomes that should not be overlooked by future teachers.
On the whole, this discussion indicates that service-learning is important for the professional development of teachers. In particular, the experience gained can throw light on various dimensions of diversity. In particular, students can see that differences between people can be explained by various factors related to the social environment and idiosyncratic traits of a person. The main advantage of service-learning is that it enables educators to empower students. Moreover, their learning process can be made more engaging. Thus, service-learning can offer plenty of opportunities to future educators.
Baldwin, S., Buchanan, A., & Rudisill, M. (2007). What Teacher Candidates Learned About Diversity, Social Justice, and Themselves From Service-Learning Experiences. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(4), 315-327.
Bamber, P., & Hankin, L. (2011) “Transformative learning through service-learning: no passport required”, Education + Training, 53(2), 190 – 206.
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Boyle-Baise, M., & Langford, J. (2004). There are Children Here: Service Learning for Social Justice. Equity & Excellence in Education, 20(37), 55-56.
Campbell, E. (2008). The Ethics of Teaching as a Moral Profession. Curriculum Inquiry, 38(4), 357-385.
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Donahue, D., Bowyer, J., & Rosenberg, D. (2003). Learning With and Learning From: Reciprocity in Service Learning in Teacher Education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 36(1), 15-27.
Orlich, D. (2012). Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Effective Instruction. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
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