Service Learning (SL) is a methodological and educational strategy that allows for ongoing reflection on the function of education and our students’ training. This tool leads to better developed educational tasks and facilitates student learning, as it fosters the connection between society and universities and has proven to have a substantial impact on students, teachers, universities, organisations and the community (Furco, 2004).
SL is an active, participatory, civil, transformative and encouraging form of education (De la Cerda, Graell, Martín, Muñoz and Puig, 2009). As an experiential teaching and learning strategy, it helps promote learning and develops and demonstrates competences through action, by planning and implementing projects which respond to the actual needs of the context in which it is applied. Learning is placed at the disposal of service and, at the same time, promotes academic development through social action. Its implementation requires the active participation of students and coordination between collaborating institutions, in order to integrate the learning and service objectives that foster the academic and social development and personal advancement of students, who learn to undertake actions that benefit the community (Fuertes, 2012).
The ethical function of universities in today’s society makes experiences like those service learning provides, in the form of civic education, necessary. Education that is at once human, personal and social and therefore contributes to the ethical and moral optimisation of the future degree holders (Martínez, 2009).
While SL enables us to act for the common good and teaches us values through hands-on participation, it also promotes our personal, academic, vocational and professional development. At the same time, SL makes universities better, because it improves learning, research and cooperation with the community (Puig, 2012).
For more information, click here to see the bibliographic references.
SL was first introduced as such in the Faculty of Education at UIC Barcelona in 2008, as part of the curricular school placements, due to its numerous possibilities for comprehensive education (Fuertes, 2012; 2014).
Since the 2013-2014 academic year, SL has been included as an educational activity in the bachelor’s degrees in Pre-Primary and Primary Education. As of that moment, the number of subjects that have incorporated this methodology into their course guides and that develop SL projects, which may also be cross-disciplinary, has increased steadily.
But not only has SL spurred the development of teaching projects, it has also been the subject of several research projects and doctoral theses. What began as a service experience in the community is today included as one of the educational activities in our curriculum and offered as a potential line of research on social responsibility in our Faculty.
Please see this PDF for information on some of the most prominent and established projects.
The connection that may be established between learning and service offers two ways to approach the subject: one based on the curricular content and another that takes the service possibility offered by the collaborating institution as a starting point to find a connection with the curricular content (Tapia, 2006).
Several studies (Eyler and Giles, 1999) have shown that SL projects enhance the understanding and demonstration of competences in the real world.
Students may freely choose whether or not they would like to take part in the various projects available. They may also propose other projects, which will be assessed by the SL Committee.
Impact of internal participation in service learning projects at the foundation Fundesplai Organising entity: UIC Barcelona Principal investigator: Mariona Graell Funding entity: AGAUR (2017)
Education and social innovation for sustainability.Training professionals at Spanish Universities as agents of change to meet the challenges of society Funding entity: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; State Programme for R&D+i Aimed at the Challenges of Society; 2015 call Participating entities: UPC, UIC Barcelona, UCA, UAM, UCO, USAL, UdG, UCJC and US Duration: 2016-2019 PI: Dr Jordi Sagalàs Corral (UPC)
Education for Sustainable Consumption in Higher Education Non-funded project carried out through the Scholas Ocurrentes Chairs Participants: five universities in Spain, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Italy Coordinator: Silvia Albareda
Theses defended on service learning
Maria Teresa Fuertes (2012). El Aprendizaje-Servicio en el Practicum de la formación inicial del profesorado.Propuesta de una estrategia de docencia y aprendizaje para la adquisición de competencias genéricas claves para la formación y el desempeño profesional Supervisors: Miquel Martínez Martín and Albert Arbós Bertrán
Maria Elena Selfa (2019). Cantem junts.El impacto de la experiencia musical artística intergeneracional como vehículo canalizador de emociones, valores, motivaciones y aprendizajes Supervisors: Remiggi Morant and Mariona Graell. University of Valencia
Research groups: SEI (Sustainability and Comprehensive Education)