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At a time when there is an urgent need to better prepare our students to become global citizens and engage in the social issues of the time, it is necessary to create innovative curricular opportunities for students to connect to the diverse local communities in which they live, work and study. The purpose of this paper is to present a model that facilitates this type of connection within the classroom. This work falls within the area of what is widely known as service-learning. Service-learning, with the emphasis on service, is often defined as learning which centers around providing a service to the community, which may also be called community-based learning. A different perspective would be to focus on the learning aspect of service-learning which focuses on the academic disciplines which interact with community in one way or another. Service-Learning, taken as a whole, however, focuses on key outcomes necessary for developing the academic knowledge of the student while simultaneously developing the student as a member of the larger community whose ultimate goal in life is to improve the lives of those within that larger social sphere. “Service-learning is a philosophy, pedagogy, and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards” according to the National Youth Leadership Council website (2008). Within language and linguistics circles, the theoretical perspectives most closely allied with service-learning come from concepts originating from the work of Lev Vygotsky (1978) particularly on the importance of continuous access to the knowledge base and from resultant sociocultural theory wherein human learning is considered a social phenomena within the given culture rather than based solely on individual parameters (Kozulin et al. 2003). In teaching, particularly language teaching, both Freire's and Dewey's theories juxtaposed support community based service-learning (Deans 1999) as a way of motivating student engagement with the subject being studied, while at the same time promoting civic engagement with the local communities (for additional information see the introduction to this book). Stuart Stewart (2007, 83) relates servicelearning to critical pedagogy as well, noting that “critical refers to an ability to see below the surface, and pedagogy speaks to the creation of independent learners who are developing an awareness of identity, culture, and community.” It is the goal of the University of Texas—Pan American (UTPA) and our faculty in the English linguistics and language courses to ensure that our students think critically about language issues and become aware of those issues in our community and beyond.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2010
More about this publication?
Building Communities and Making Connections Building Communities and Making Connections explores areas of academic and community engagement, through various studies that include community service learning, and the development and implementation of university programs that contain a community dimension. Academic endeavors have long been seen as separate from the realities of local and regional communities. This book closes the gap by looking at ways in which both academia and the communities its serves can collaborate to create authentic and applied learning environments.