About this Research Topic
In the North American reference framework, as in European and other contexts, service-learning has become a methodology of educational and social action whose epistemic anchorage may be historically associated with a pragmatic constructivist approach to generating and developing students’ knowledge, commitment and personal involvement in various life contexts. Service-learning represents an opportunity for gradual educational reform, in either formal or non-formal education, which broadens the links between institutions and advocates a more comprehensive or complete education for students. It also involves an element of continuous reflection that allows for the establishment of reciprocal relationships between academic learning and action in community settings. Its uncontested orientation towards students’ academic development and community development situates it as a pedagogical strategy whose potential can be measured in terms of both educational innovation and social transformation.
In service-learning, the key element is students’ performance of a service to the community following the identification of a need, so that the resolution or adequate management of such a need may be linked to what they have learned, or can learn, in the curricular context of a subject at a specific level of education. It therefore implies an unequivocal connection between theory and practice or the real link between aspects of academic education and corresponding modes of implementation in the immediate environment, in which the collaboration of people or authorities in the form of partners is crucial. Nevertheless, many questions remain to be resolved. Although the literature currently agrees that the service learning methodology gives new meaning to the learning of competences and is a valuable tool in achieving this, there are still many challenges that arise for all agents involved in the process (including social entities, universities and the students themselves). Professional training and scientific research have historically been the two fundamental activities involved in service learning, but there are still many tensions, contrasts and challenges that have to be resolved in bringing these together.
Since the introduction of service learning methodologies, it has been made clear that students’ community service and academic education need to be closely connected, thus giving rise to a relationship of reciprocity in which university education allows students to offer a useful social service, which in turn provides greater understanding and significance in the learning process. More research is therefore needed to understand and improve the relevant processes, to help students problematize their own experience, and to understand reflection as the incorporation of mediation instruments and frameworks into the mental activity of the participants involved in service-learning activities.
This Research Topic welcomes studies of both a theoretical and empirical nature, in which service-learning is linked to innovation in academic and social terms, including effects on student learning (in secondary and university education), students’ civic development, and their involvement in actions related to changes in community life. Contributions focusing on teacher training and the employability of graduates, among other topics, are also welcome.
Keywords: service learning, educational innovation, social transformation
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