22 SES 02 A, Paper Session
Although there is much and varied research about the effects of service-learning on students, the analysis of its impact on faculty is still scarce. Nevertheless, since professors promote and support every process of educational improvement, they are a key part of it. More research on service-learning should focus on professors, so that the impact it has on them is examined and their perspective is fully considered. The aim of this paper is to study theeffects of service-learning in the transformation of the teaching practice, in all the dimensions it encompasses, in the framework of ethics and political philosophy courses.
We describe the transformations that professors perceive in their teaching practice, in each of the phases of the instructional process: in (1)the processes of activating previous knowledge, (2)the processes of construction and application of knowledge, and (3)the processes of evaluation, as well as some misunderstandings that are highlighted in the discussion.
From the beginning of the teaching sequence, professors introduce some pedagogical changes in the instructional design, by using examples from the practical experience that the students have in the NGOs. Furthermore, these students appear to be transmitting their own learning from the experience, so that peer-to-peer teaching and knowledge enrich the learning environment. In this regard, we point out that professors do not make the most of this opportunity, so they only take advantage of peer-learning in a limited way. This is so because there are not enough formal interactions among students in the class design, so non-service-learning students do not benefit from the knowledge constructed by those participating in the service-learning programme.
In terms of construction and application of knowledge, we note that service-learning students accomplish a more personal and practical knowledge of the concepts and ethical theories that are explained, but the extent to which they achieve this goal depends on the professor’s ability to adapt their pedagogy to this aim. For instance, we point to the need to devote some time and resources in the class to facilitate the connection between the experiences that students live in the NGOs and the content of the course. This facilitation consists of a guidance that provides tools that empowers students to reflect and connect their own personal experience to the course content, so that they do not limit their knowledge to an application of theory to practice, but they see ethical concepts arising from their own reflective practical experience. This pedagogical effort on the part of professors enables students to gain a deeper and more consistent understanding of the core elements of the course and develops skills and competencies to a greater extent, by opening a window that connects them to the social reality and their own way of social engagement.
Finally, in terms of evaluation, we highlight that some teachers consider that the participation in the NGO is valuable in itself. However, we note that, in the context of the course and, consequently, of formal education, this is so only as long as students gain some learning from it connected to the aims of the course. In this regard, the evaluation techniques must be adapted to assess the quality of the connection that the student is able to make between the content of the course and the praxis in the social organization. Consequently, we point to the weaknesses of already existing tools and recommend new ones that facilitate structured reflection and guide the student through specific challenges connected to the course. Furthermore,we point at the need to reach an agreement on the way of evaluating these kinds of experiences, as it brings a new approach to the course.
We carry out a qualitative study through the analysis of the content of a focus group composed of eight professors that teach ethical and political philosophy courses. The core of the analysis is professors' perception of their own teaching activity, and how it is modified to enable a better use of the service-learning experience on the part of students. This qualitative study belongs to a wider quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of service-learning in the three dimensions it encompasses: professors, students and NGOs. Students have completed 1146 questionnaires, before and after engaging some of them in the service-learning programmes. We have also carried out 6 focus groups among students, professors and the social organisations to delve into the results of the previous quantitative questionnaires. We structure the analysis of professors' perceptions of their own teaching activity in three parts, corresponding to the tree dimensions of the educational sequence: 1) the transformation of the processes of activating previous knowledge, (2) the changes in the processes of construction and application of knowledge, and (3) the transformation of the processes of evaluation. On June 18th 2020 eight professors from the Human Sciences and Philosophy Department participated in the focus group under the guidance of the coordinator of the programme, that was carried out in the academic year 2019/20. These professors represent 80% of the faculty that teaches the ethics and political philosophy courses, who teach around 500 students in the first years of their degrees. The selection criteria of the participants were: to be professors of a course enriched with a Service-Learning Programme, to teach in either one of the semesters of the academic year 19/20, and to be professors of an ethics course in any of the first two years of any degree. The focus group was an open-question group interview organised in three categories: social relevant topics that had been raised by the results of quantitative questionnaires, the relation between service-learning and the course, and service-learning as a valuable pedagogical methodology. Every participant answered and interacted with their colleagues, generating a rich discussion. We have concentrated on the second and third categories and, consequently, on the discussion that arose around the question about the relation that the service-learning programme has to the course, and the effectiveness of this pedagogical methodology. To ensure anonymity we have labelled each participant as E1, E2, E3, and so on.
1. Professors who have students who participate in a service-learning programme introduce changes in the way they teach, even if only part of their students are participating in such a programme. 2. There are not enough studies on service-learning that delve into the perspective of professors and, in particular, that focus on the changes they introduce in their teaching practice to make service-learning more effective. These should be made explicit. 3. Professors activate the student’s previous knowledge by drawing on the live experience in the NGOs that some students are having. 4. On the basis of 3, a new learning opportunity arises: peer-teaching. We confirm it is not being fully exploited. For this to happen, it is necessary for students to engage in communication activities between those participating in the service-learning programme and those that are not, that should be programmed in the class design. 5. With regard to the processes of construction and application of knowledge, service-learning students accomplish a more personal and practical knowledge of the concepts and ethical theories. 6. As in 5,we highlight the potential of the service-learning experience, but this is so provided that professors play their crucial role as facilitators to empower students to connect the challenges they live in the NGO with the learnings acquired in conventional classes.In this regard, the experience lived outside the academic context is truly educational only due to the scaffolding that professors provide to address its challenges, so the extent to which students can benefit from it depends on the faculty’s ability to adapt their teaching practice to this new methodology. 7.Regarding evaluation, evaluation tools should include specific questions to help the students carry out a structured reflection in which they connect the concepts and ethical theories learned in conventional classes and the experience lived in the NGO.
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