"Service-Learning" is more than a new fad to win the popularity of students. It is pedagogy grounded both in issues of social justice and cognitive psychology. It has been widely researched and written about. We invite you to learn more about service-learning both as an abstract practice and as a practice that has evolved at the University of Southern California.
Originally, our program was designed primarily to provide badly needed resources to our local schools. As a consequence, the program was more successful at raising and addressing issues of social justice than at educating university students. Emphasis was on recruiting large numbers of students into the program so that we could place large numbers of "helpers" in the community. There was a naive view that students would automatically see the connections between their course material and lessons to be learned in the community.
Today, JEP continues to offer what we refer to as a "full service" connection to the community. We inform faculty of involvement opportunities, recruit students from courses in which faculty members believe that there is some connection between the course and work in the community, place, train, and monitor students and maintain communication with the schools and agencies, observe students, read weekly reflection papers, and evaluate the students at the conclusion of the semester. Most faculty members ask students to write an end-of-semester paper for the class. Some professors require a very real paper and/or in-class oral reports on their work in the community.
We support the idea that professors become more actively involved "jep 101", in helping students make connections between course content and their work in the community. Our experience has been that when faculty members are involved more personally, the students learn more and carry far more away from the experience. We are currently offering technical assistance to faculty members who are interested in adapting service-learning efforts that are more self-contained.
All students participating in JEP, whether as for-credit students, volunteers, or paid work-study or non-work-study students, reflect weekly on their work. Reflection is the process through which students think systematically about their work. We have our service-learning students reflect at two levels - personally and intellectually. All students complete weekly journals. Some students respond to reflective questions that parallel their course syllabi.
Reflective Responses - Currently, JEP uses eight questions to help students process their eight weeks of work in the community. These questions are available to all the students who participate in JEP. Our student Program Assistants read every journal of every student every week offering comments and asking Socratic questions so that students can learn to be better observers in the community.
Academic Questions - These questions are from a sociology course and are designed to help students move from an ego- and ethnocentric view of the world and toward the use of a "sociological imagination" (C. Wright Mills). The responses to these questions are read every week by Program Assistants working with sociology professors. PAs offer comments and ask Socratic questions so that students can learn to be better observers in the community. A full set of questions for sociology are included so that you can see how we bank items from courses for future use and modification.