The Concept of Service Learning in Practice: A Vehicle for University Student Development?
Buckley, Daniel David
Service Learning is a teaching pedagogy which for a faculty is an innovative method for relating academic study to the realities of community practice. For communities and local organisations, it is an invitation to get involved with the benefits of higher education and those that its student volunteers can bring. For students it can be a realisation that what they are learning is useful and relevant to the chosen careers and promotes personal and social gain. For the institution it can be seen to contribute to local change and development. There are six supposed impacts of Service Learning for the student; academic development and understanding, career outlook, resilience, social and personal, citizenship and ethical consideration. All of these are said to be impacted through engagement in Service Learning opportunities. This study focused upon the perceived impact of Service Learning on academic understanding. This study included current students, recent graduates, staff members and academics all involved within their institutions student-led enterprise or entrepreneurial programme. A noticeable dearth of research was discovered linking to the challenging aspects of such programme and theory, however, this study aimed to discover any hidden drawbacks of Service Learning to recommend future research and practice for social enterprise within an institution. This study used a mixed-methodological data collection phase including semi-structured interviews and questionnaires, additionally the collected data was then analysed thematically using pre-determined themes with the intention of discovering the true impact of Service Learning. The main findings from this research included ‘pedagogical confusion’ relating to the outcome of academics not necessarily grounding their practice to any theoretical framework, and secondly, the unanticipated discovery that students involved with these organisations acquired an altruistic orientation.