Fez - During the last decade, a growing number of universities worldwide have been incorporating service learning into their curriculum. It is considered a learning experience that develops students’ sense of responsibility to their community and society.
Fez – During the last decade, a growing number of universities worldwide have been incorporating service learning into their curriculum. It is considered a learning experience that develops students’ sense of responsibility to their community and society.
The recent interest in service learning has been strengthened by the work of national organizations interested in combining service and education, believing that universities are particularly well suited to become national leaders in the development of service learning.
Service learning does not happen in the confines of a classroom or on a campus. Instead, service learning involves partnerships between an institution and a community. There are several service projects that students can take part in and in a variety of areas including education, public safety, and environmental awareness. The National Youth Leadership Council provides several examples that illustrate the concept of service learning. Examples include tutoring students for free during exam periods or providing a graphic design service to non-profit organizations that need logos, posters, brochures and website graphics.
Service projects may also include collecting trash from apartment complexes and recycling it or building and maintaining community gardens in neighborhoods. University students enrolled in service learning can also start a neighborhood campaign to collect food, used clothing or furniture and donate those goods to people in need. Such projects can have many positive outcomes for students, institutions and any given community as a whole.
Students enrolled at Al Akhawayn University (AUI) have the chance to take part in a service-learning program first hand and make changes within their own local communities. “Al Akhawayn University’s Language Center created a service-learning program in partnership with the local high school at the start of the Spring 2012 semester. This program offers AUI students studying in pre-academic English courses the opportunity to engage in project-based group work with high school students,” Brian Seilstad, a lecturer at AUI, said.
In this regard, service learning is more than just a buzzword for community service or volunteering since it goes beyond what is learned in the classroom. This is due to the fact that its programs can have various positive impacts on university students. “It also improves the quality and validity of research by connecting the intellectual content of classes to the service experience, which opens higher education to the wider community.” Service learning improves social and personal skills of university students including communication, team building and critical thinking in addition to building self-esteem and improving creativity.
“Through the program, both groups of students develop a project of their choice, often related to their curricula or a pressing social issue, and present their results publicly. Thus, students improve their English, learn about other social groups, practice teamwork skills, and realize the power of youth voice,” Seilstad said.
However, students can only benefit from service learning if they abide by a set of principles. “One of them is accepting cultural diversity and showing respect to all people regardless of their gender, ethnicity, race, religion or political affiliation.” Moreover, students are not meant to impose their personal bias on others or to attempt to influence a person’s views or beliefs. Students who are offered service learning are also expected to act within professional boundaries in the relationships they form through their service learning experience. More than that, it is necessary for university students enrolled in service projects to maintain client privacy and confidentiality and when confronted with a situation in which they are uncertain about what to do, they should consult their community supervisors.
As an educational practice, service-learning fulfills the dual purpose of meeting community needs and gaining further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility. In this way, service learning provides many benefits to the instructor, student, and to the whole community. However, it remains a pedagogical practice that Moroccan public universities lack since only few private universities have implemented it. This is due to obstacles and challenges including lack of time and materials in addition to difficulties in its assessment. Therefore, the recognition and implementation of service learning in Morocco would ensure citizens are not only productive but also beneficial to the wider Moroccan community.
Edited by Liz Yaslik
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