Clues from Service Learning

As I waited in a principal’s office as she was called to one of several mini crisis, I looked through her office library for some reading material. I found a copy of The Complete Guide to Service Learningby Cathryn Berger Kaye.
Flipping through the pages I came across a list that caught my attention:  K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice  (page 14-15).
I thought the criteria were applicable to building quality learning into any setting:
#1 Meaningful Service
 “With well thought-out plans, students can see their actions having verifiable consequences as they learn and apply academic skills and knowledge…when students see the purpose, engagement and action are sure to follow.”
#2 Link to Curriculum-
“With Service Learning academics come alive. Students make explicit connections between subject matter and application within context of the community. This stimulates an intrinsic desire to learn content and skills needed to be effective”
#3 Reflection-
If we want to cultivate deep thinkers, young people who are able to personalize what they learn and see, take on a challenge with consideration of self and others, and recognize the need to hit the pause button on a regular basis in this fast paced world, then reflection is essential.
#4 Diversity-
Service learning provides exposure to a range of backgrounds, perspectives, and ways of thinking and solving problems. Social and cultural boundaries lessen as relationships resonate with mutual respect.
#5 Youth Voice
Young people need ample opportunities to express their ideas and opinions, and to make constructive choices and see the results.
#6 Partnerships –
In Service Learning partnerships students share responsibility with community members, parents, and other students. There is an exchange of information, ideas, and reciprocity exist when each person sees the other as having something to share, when roles and responsibilities stay clarified, and when a shared vision moves the group forward.
#7 Progress Monitoring
“Did our Service Learning matter? Did we make a difference?” With progress monitoring students set a baseline of how they are at the beginning and learn the skill of comparing this with the results.
#8 Duration and Intensity
A sufficient duration allows the participants to move through five stages of Service Learning
Investigation/Preparation and Planning/Action/Reflection/Demonstration
The emphasis is on process rather than aiming for a premeditated goal. Service learning is about moving forward with purpose, while allowing for flexibility, inevitable detours, and unexpected occurrences that are inherent to “real world” participation.
I use the following diagram to encourage teachers to explore moving their classrooms into increased motivation  through live event learning opportunities.
When instruction is tightly text book orientated, teachers practice manipulation…finding outside motivators to encourage learning or completion (points, grades, recognition).  Moving into simple and then more complex simulations, emotions that approach “real feelings” arise and spark engagement. When the event becomes real, the items listed above from Service Learning emerge often generating strong engagement and learning.
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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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