SERVICE-LEARNING – A METHOD OF CONNECTING OF LEARNING WITH CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Service-learning (S-L) originates from American civic education, ie education for democratic action and active citizenship (Civic Education), and is based on the idea that students through social learning and civic engagement acquire a democratic way of thinking and acting. Socially useful learning as a method of learning and teaching in the United States is often practiced in both schools and universities. It is based on combining theoretical teaching content with practical work for the common good. In serivce-learning projects, pupils / students deal with the needs of their city, their city district or society as a whole and thus contribute to the common good. Projects can be implemented in the social, cultural and political areas as well as in the field of nature and environmental protection.
TOPICS OF SERVICE-LEARNING IN THE FIELD OF NATURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION – ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The field of nature and environmental protection provides various opportunities for the implementation of service- learning projects. In accordance with the motto “Think globally – act locally”, various problems and challenges can be identified at the regional level as a starting point for student engagement. It is believed that young people are particularly interested in better shaping of their future and the future of future generations and that they are the driving force of educational processes.
Precisely because of the above, education for sustainable development is a very appropriate topic for service-learning and the reason why the Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development Sunce participates in service- learning programs at the University of Split.
Through service-learning, students from different faculties work together on projects that contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development. This way of working enables the connection of students, but also teachers from different faculties, and the perception of environmental topics from different perspectives. Students, teachers and mentors from the Sunce make and deepen contacts and stronger motivation for joint engagement. Also, students often gain insight into how to apply their knowledge in areas that at first seem unrelated to their course or education in general.
You can see more about the mentioned programs on the page Office for service – learning for the environment and sustainable development in Split.
Basic principles of service – learning
There are three important principles in the implementation of S-L programs: the relationship between S-L and the real needs of project partners (reality), the relationship between university and extracurricular partner based on mutual support (reciprocity) and the relationship between theory and practice, ie student knowledge and action (reflection).
Reality – real need
It is very important that student engagement is aligned with real needs and problems and that it starts from the real needs and problems of the partner. In accordance with the teaching objectives and the non-university partner, the specific tasks and objectives of the S-L project are agreed.
Reciprocity – the principle of reciprocity
The principle of reciprocity allows all stakeholders of S-L to benefit equally: students, higher education institution and external partner. Students gain important practical experiences and social competencies and become more sensitive to problems in their environment. In interaction with society, academic education and scientific research are linked to the issues, problems and challenges of civil society. Higher education institutions are opening up and integrating into their social environment, and partners at DKU are receiving science-based support.
Reflection – the connection of knowledge and action
One of the principles of S-L is regular reflection in which practical experiences are considered in the context of academic learning and in which a bridge is built between theory and practice. Thus, an insight into the connection between theoretical contents and their practical relevance is gained. This enables a more thorough understanding of professional content and, in addition, leads students to think about themselves and their own image of the profession. Targeted questions encourage them to rethink the situations and activities of the S-L program and their impressions and evaluate new experiences and skills. In addition to the above, students can process and exchange experiences gained in the practical application of scientific knowledge. Reflection “connects learning and social benefit and is the key that enables students to learn through experience in S-L projects.”