22 SES 02 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
Unlike theUnited States, the concept of learning in many European education systems has been characterized by a greater intellectualism (mastery of academic content) and by less emphasis on the development of civic and social skills.
InEurope, the diversity of education systems is a fact, which is certainly more pronounced than in the North American context, since a federal configuration did not diminish its basic unity of thought and action regarding the ordering of a system in which the citizen involvement is an important touchstone.
The background educational philosophy in theUSAcomprises the fact that the purpose of the education system is that students acquire disciplinary knowledge (Maths, Languages, Biology, etc.) and become citizens of a democracy, able to solve problems by themselves and to be involved in improving their community.
It is a socially functional and educationally pragmatic approach, undoubtedly influenced by the leading figure of educational philosophy, John Dewey, whose ideas would not be limited to express an epistemological slogan ("learning-by-doing") for primary and secondary schools. By means of the so-called "civic mission" of the university, this scheme extended to higher education (Jacoby, 2009).
This is the comprehensive support of service-learning as pedagogical intervention strategy which has been explained pragmatically in American academics (Santos Rego, 2013) and has been incorporated as another instructive reference of European Higher Education Area (EHEA), emphasizing on the students’ gain of more autonomous learning skills, based on the achievement of academic and social competencies. Service-learning is an educational approach that combines learning and community service in a well-designed project, in which the participants learn while working on real needs of the environment, with the aim of improving it (Bringle and Hatcher, 1996; Martínez 2007; Puig, Batlle, Bosch, and Palos, 2007).
Although it is difficult to speak of service-learning as a method widely spread in European universities, the mere fact that its mention does not sound strange on campus means that something is moving forward in this sense. It should be noted that there are active organizations in some countries such asGermany,Ireland,Great BritainandItaly. Moreover, the EU (Leonardo da Vinci program) has funded the CIVICUS project coordinated fromLithuaniabyVytautasMagnusUniversity(Berry and Chisholm, 1999; Luna, 2012). InSpain, the plans for training and development of university teachers, a promoting center (http://www.aprenentatgeservei.org), an academic network and the publication of books and articles in journals for educational guidance have contributed to its spread. There are even research groups in universities, which have adopted service-learning as one of their lines of work (Santos Rego and Lorenzo Moledo, 2007). This is the case of the Esculca Research Group from the USC, to which we belong, and within which this study was conducted. Keeping in mind an essential question: can service-learning be an effective strategy to optimize the relationship between theory and practice in the education of university students?
Under the assumption that service-learning may be a suitable method for the management of change in the way we understand the relationship between academic learning and improvement of practical skills (knowledge transfer), a research study with two objectives has been designed: a) to determine the extent to which service-learning is already known and, if applicable, used by the teachers in the university system of Galicia (Spain), belonging to the universities of Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña and Vigo, and b) whether a low penetration of this approach in the academic environment is observed, to lay the foundations for a proposal of development of service-learning in our universities, with specific regard to institutionalization keys (cf. Furco, 2001).
Berry, H.A. & Chisholm, L.A. (1999). Service-learning in higher education around the world: an initial look. New York, NY: International Partnership for Service-Learning. Bringle, R.G. & Hatcher, J.A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education, Journal of Higher Education, 67 (2), 221-239. Furco, A. (2001). Institutionalising service-learning in higher education. In L. Mcilrath & I. M. Labhrainn (eds.) Higher education and civic engagement: international perspectives (pp. 65-82). Aldershot (England): Ashgate. Jacoby, B. (2009). Civic engagement in today´s higher education. An overview. In B. Jacoby (ed.) Civic engagement in higher education. Concepts and practices (pp. 5-30), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Luna, E. (2012). What about service learning in Europe. Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona (http://hdl.handle.net/2445/27563). Martínez, M. (2007). Aprendizaje-servicio y responsabilidad social de las universidades. Barcelona: Octaedro. Puig, J.M.; Batlle, R.; Bosch, C; y Palos, J. (2007). Aprendizaje-servicio. Educar para la ciudadanía. Barcelona: Octaedro. Santos Rego, M.A. (2013). ¿Para cuándo las universidades en la agenda de una democracia fuerte? Educación, aprendizaje y compromiso cívico en Norteamérica, Revista de Educación, 361, mayo-agosto, 565-590. Santos Rego, M.A. & Lorenzo Moledo, M. (2007). Universidad y sociedad civil en Galicia. Vigo: Edicións Xerais.
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