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What is the value of service learning?
Intrinsic value for the individual student
The Review of Course Structures report Education for Tomorrow's World states, "the primary aim of [service learning] activities is to develop ethical awareness and civic responsibility through practical insights into specific social justice issues." In addition there will often be educational benefits, formal or informal, for the individual student.
Reputational value for the Guild
The UWA Student Guild has a proud history of fostering community service work, and this valuable form of social outreach deserves to be more widely recognised. By ensuring that volunteering activities are professionally supported and formally regulated, and linked to formal service learning where appropriate, the Guild can anticipate that its work in the wider community is better appreciated.
Professional value for the teacher
Service learning is not only an effective way of engaging students in the classroom but also a legitimate scholarly pursuit, an educational philosophy worthy of research, and a valuable professional means of connecting academic staff with an important sector of the external community.
Strategic value for the institution
There are obvious benefits for this University in creating links into the wider community (local, national, international) through the work of students and staff with service organisations. Internationally there is an increasing focus on the importance of service learning in higher education, as reflected in ranking systems such as the one published annually by the U.S. News & World Report, which includes a category based on service-learning programs. High on this "best in service learning" list are several institutions that also figure in the Jiao Tong top 25 world-class universities, e.g. Stanford, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin-Madison.
How does UWA measure levels of engagement in service learning?
According to the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), the level of UWA student participation in community-based projects as part of their studies has traditionally been low but is starting to increase. However, because of the significant benefits than can occur through service learning, UWA would like to accelerate this trend.
What can I do to support service learning at UWA?
The University would like you to consider incorporating a service learning component into one or more of your units, either as a core requirement or as an option. The service learning component may comprise a group project (as for example in the unit Engineering and Social Justice) or an individual placement (as in some of the Arts Practicum work, where third-sector community benefit organisations are the hosts).
What is the background to service learning at UWA?
The report that led to the development of New Courses 2012 at The University of Western Australia recommended that students be given greater opportunities for "engagement with the wider community through a structured unpaid service learning experience with a not-for-profit organisation".
- On advice from a Service Learning Working Party established as part of the New Courses implementation process, the University then resolved:
- to lift significantly the number of undergraduate students who participate voluntarily in community service activities;
- to ensure-by working in close partnership with the Student Guild-that these activities are professionally supported and formally regulated;
- to develop an appropriately simple way of defining and recording a student's community service experience, with a view to recognising it on the academic transcript; and
- to encourage staff to integrate service learning opportunities within the curriculum, by publicising examples of good practice.
What is service learning?
The term "service learning" sometimes characterises a broad array of community engagement experiences that may range from casual volunteering to some formal internship programs.
But in most educational contexts it is distinguished from "community service" in general. Community service can occur through various activities that are usually undertaken with not-for- profit organisations whose primary purpose is public benefit.
Service learning creates an explicit link between community service and a particular learning environment. At its best it is embedded within courses or parts of courses. It combines community service with educational processes and objectives so that the service is beneficial to both the recipient and the provider. It integrates participation in a real-world service experience with guided curriculum-embedded reflection on the civic ethos of that experience.
How does service learning differ from volunteering?
While curriculum-embedded service learning may be an ideal educational experience, service learning can also (but doesn't always) occur informally through extra-curricular or co-curricular opportunities for students to participate voluntarily in activities with a community benefit focus.
These volunteering opportunities are often available through student-led initiatives dedicated to civic engagement and advocacy.
At UWA many such opportunities are being managed by the Student Guild in association with Volunteering WA - and also in association with Student Services, which is developing Career Hub software as a web-based system for placement information, sign-up and record-keeping.
How does it differ from internships, professional practicum and work placements?
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