Service Learning

By Timothy K. Stanton, Dwight E. Giles, Jr. and Nadinne I. Cruz
From Service Learning, Jossey-Bass, 1999, pp. 67-68

It was in Atlanta in the late 1960s that Ramsay and Sigmon began to conceptualize their service-learning approach to the internship program. Bill Ramsay continues:

I remember specifically deciding that we had to give this program a handle; we had to give it a name. These were not interns like medical interns, although there were some similarities. They were not practice teaching. We were trying to find a phrase that would describe the program, and we tried all kinds of things: experiential learning, experience learning, work learning, action learning. We decided to call it service-learning, because service implied a value consideration that none of the other words we came up with did. In my mind, it was never intended to restrict us to those things that can be put in a box called service. It was more of an attitude, more of an approach to be of service. It's not just any experience that's important for the kind of education we were talking about. It's experience with a value judgment involved. You could have experience with the mafia, and it would be tremendous learning perhaps, but it's not the kind of thing we were talking about. We were looking for something with a value connotation that would link action with a value of reflection on that action-a disciplined reflection. That was the model. It had to be real service-not academics, not made up, not superficial, not tangential, but real-and that's why it had to be agency based. It also had to be something that involved disciplined learning, not just casual learning.

Helen Lewis brought a strong community development focus to her work in Appalachia in the 1960s as well. In her case, her students, from families employed by the coal mines, represented the community she sought to serve. This made her goals and motivations clear and simple: educating and organizing community folks so they could take control of and improve their communities. Experience-based learning was her method:

It was getting students involved with what was going on in the community-the social movements that were happening in the mountains. I was teaching at a branch college of the University of Virginia-Clinch Valley College in Wise, Virginia, which is in central Appalachia in the middle of the coal fields. I'd gone there in 1955, and this was in the 1960s, when things began to boom, things began to happen. The area had become a poverty pocket of the United States, because of mechanization in the coal mines. There was a loss of coal miners, with refugees going into the city. VISTA volunteers were coming in. Office of Equal Opportunity [OEOI programs were getting started. It was also the beginning of a lot of strip mining. So there were a number of things that were of concern to the students where I was teaching, because most of my students were from coal mining families. I developed something called Appalachian studies. It's a big field now. Almost every university in the South has an Appalachian Center. But this was actually the first class, the first one of that sort. We had seminars every Wednesday night that would be open to the public and would focus on an issue or a problem that was important.

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