Intentional Learning

Intentional Learning

While the overlap between the service components of Community Service programs and Service Learning programs may be obvious, the same cannot be said of the clear aims of explicit learning that clearly differentiate between these two models. At its centre Service Learning is an educational model with educational goals. It is an instructional strategy that overtly seeks to meet learning goals and, in the case of All Saints’ College, to build an understanding of content arising from the Australian Curriculum. This will include making links between Service Learning programs run beyond the classroom and the Australian Curriculum, as well as creating awareness by embedding issues of ethics and justice into existing subject programs across the breadth of Learning Areas. However, in a similar fashion to any other subject, there is some learning implicit within the program that goes beyond that which can be assessed formally. Above and beyond the traditional curriculum, strong Service Learning programs encourage the holistic growth of students in terms of social and emotional learning, growth of planning and organisational skills, and development of empathy and ethical values. Further to this, students can develop an increased connection to the world around them and a sense of empowerment in the face of important social issues. Service Learning feeds in to the knowledge and skills of students as well as, possibly uniquely, providing structured coaching for them to learn to give of themselves and to find value and meaning in that process.

 

The learning component of Service Learning is difficult to separate from engagement with service in coming to understand issues, their context and needs, and planning ways forward before implementing and evaluating the process. However, there are some key markers that need to be considered and included in worthwhile programs. These include:

  • Service Learning is intentionally used to teach content from the Australian Curriculum. To do this programs need to:
    • Have content that is consistent with the Australian Curriculum
    • Help students to transfer knowledge and skills into assessed courses
    • Seek specified learning outcomes
  • Programs explicitly foster skills of research, organisation and evaluation by:
    • Promoting the acquisition of knowledge regarding issues being addressed, why they arose, and what the resulting needs are
    • Engaging students in the planning of action to respond appropriately, which gives responsibility for the organisation of that response
    • Having participants collect evidence of progress towards their goals
    • Involving students in the evaluation of the action taken and of the effectiveness of their efforts in reaching their goal for their partner organisation
  • Students reflect on their place in society, including their rights and responsibilities, by:
    • Reflecting on the differences and similarities between their situation and that of the group which they are serving
    • Thinking about their ability to effect change in contrast to other groups
    • Discussing preconceived ideas of difference to others and any change of understanding
    • Reflecting on complex community problems, including their part in them and alternative solutions

The goals of Service Learning are many and varied, covering both content-based material aimed at furthering students’ academic achievement and also their growth as individuals and members of a diverse society that has many challenges. While the aspects of learning covered in the Australian Curriculum are easy to justify within the learning goals of a school, broader learning needs to be embraced to educate the whole person. Such learning needs to be developmentally appropriate, as those outcomes are directly linked to the curriculum. The aim here is more powerful than the mere imparting of information. The wider goal is to provide age- and experientially appropriate opportunities for growth in understanding the world as a place in which problems exist, but in a way and at a rate which will not overwhelm students. When students meet increasingly broad and complex issues in a sequential manner, and with each new encounter are assisted to find ways to make a positive contribution to their world, they are themselves empowered to serve with wisdom and courage in the wider world.