Service, Social Studies, and Citizenship: Connections
for the New Century. ERIC Digest.
by Shumer, Robert
Service to the community as part of the social studies curriculum teaches
active citizenship and democratic processes. This Digest describes how,
by connecting service, social studies, and citizenship, civic educators
have the potential to begin the new millennium by initiating a "Century
of the Caring Citizen".
CONNECTING CITIZENSHIP AND SERVICE THROUGH SOCIAL STUDIES.
How do young people learn to become critically thoughtful, engaged,
active, lifelong citizens? Effective methods include activities such as:
* allowing students to learn and develop through active participation
in thoughtfully organized experiences that meet actual community needs;
* integrating service into students' academic curriculum and providing
structured time for thinking, talking, or writing about the service activity;
* providing students with opportunities to use newly acquired skills
and knowledge in real-life situations in their own communities; and
* enhancing what is taught in schools by extending learning into the
community and helping foster the development of a sense of caring for others.
These practices constitute a working definition of service-learning
(National Service Learning Cooperative 1998). While service-learning is
not the only way to engage young people in communities to teach civic skills
and virtues, service has the potential to play a central role in citizenship
RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTS OF SERVICE LEARNING PROGRAMS.
Although research on service-learning offers mixed findings, studies
clearly show that the quality of program implementation matters (Melchior
1998). Intensity (the number of hours per week) and duration (the number
of weeks, months, and years of engagement) significantly affect the level
of outcomes derived from service-learning initiatives (Conrad & Hedin
1991). A National Center for Education Statistics report found that students
who participate in community service activities 35 hours or more during
the school year tend to have higher levels of civic development than students
who participate less often or not at all. Characteristics of civic development
include increased political knowledge, greater confidence in ability to
speak at public meetings, and a stronger sense of understanding politics
(Niemi & Chapman 1999, 62).
Well-conceptualized, well-administered programs produce positive changes
in students, including increased social and personal responsibility, more
favorable attitudes toward adults, growth in moral and ego development,
and increased self-esteem. There is a universal high regard for service-learning
among those who have participated in such programs. For example, in a nationwide
survey of nearly 4,000 students involved in service-learning programs,
about 75% reported learning "more" and "much more" in these courses than
in those taught through traditional methods (Conrad & Hedin 1991).
PROMISING PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICES.
In order to have civic value, service-learning must be implemented in
such a way that students learn about the policy dimensions of issues addressed
in their service activities. Harry Boyte (1991) argues that most service
programs lack a vocabulary that draws attention to the deeper public issues
surrounding students' personal lives and local communities. Mark Battersby
(1998) suggests three principal guidelines for reflection that help build
such a vocabulary and create a complete service and learning experience
for students. First, students need the opportunity for critical reflection
on the politics of the service activity as well as the larger political
environment in which service organizations function. Second, experiences
should involve appropriate preparation and subsequent reflective action.
Finally, students must be encouraged to examine the conditions that create
a need for service and the social policies that might address these needs.
Activities involving reflection affect student learning. In a study
of mandatory service in Maryland, Davidson (1995) reports that high school
students involved in service projects have increased levels of awareness
of community issues, but do not always understand the civic connections
between service and citizenship. Davidson recommends that in order to make
these connections more intentional, the service requirement should be implemented
in social studies courses where civic purposes and skills are likely to
Reflecting on community needs and social policies brings a political
dimension to service-learning. Kahne and Westheimer (1996) identify two
models of service-learning, one focused on charity and the other on change.
According to their framework, a charity-oriented program emphasizes giving,
whereas a change-oriented program fosters caring. While acknowledging that
the two orientations are "by no means neatly distinct," the authors make
the important point that "the choice of service-learning activities --
like the choice of any curricular activity -- has political dimensions."
For social studies teachers to effectively implement service-learning,
they should be involved in service activities during their pre-service
training. Based on evidence that "teacher education students retain little
of what they learn from textbooks and lectures," Rahima Wade (1995) designed
a program that combines a methods course on democratic participation with
a practicum placing pre-service teachers in classrooms participating in
service learning projects. In-service teachers can also partake in similar
Existing guidelines on service-learning, including "Standards of Quality
for School-Based Service-Learning" (Alliance for Service-Learning in Education
Reform 1993), "Principles of Good Practice for Combining Service and Learning"
(Honnet & Poulsen 1989), and "Essential Elements of Service-Learning"
(National Service-Learning Cooperative 1998), describe the important components
of high-quality programs. These documents emphasize the importance of providing
choice and challenge to students, connecting schools and communities in
positive ways that meet real needs, and engaging in ongoing program assessment
and evaluation. Following these prescriptions for good programming will
ensure that service-learning experiences enhance students' achievement
of civic knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with responsible democratic
As more and more educators, researchers, and policymakers recognize
the important connections between service-learning and civic education,
the number of publications, organizations, and conferences addressing this
subject increases. The following organizations provide starting points
for further investigation of resources:
* Center for Civic Education
* Center for Democracy and Citizenship,
Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
* Civic Practices Network
* Close-Up Foundation
Toll-free telephone: 800/CLOSE-UP
* Constitutional Rights Foundation
* Corporation for National Service
* National Service Learning Clearinghouse
Toll-free telephone/TTY: 800/808-7378
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES.
The following list of resources includes references used to prepare
this Digest. The items followed by an ED number are available in microfiche
and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS).
For information about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite
110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2852; telephone numbers are (703) 440-1400
and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ number, announced monthly
in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through
EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal section of most larger
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided, requested through
Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from commercial reprint services.
Alliance for Service-Learning in Education Reform. STANDARDS OF QUALITY
FOR SCHOOL-BASED SERVICE-LEARNING. Chester, VT: Alliance for Service-Learning
in Education Reform, 1993.
Battersby, Mark. "Education for Citizenship: Service-Learning and the
Reflective Citizen." LEARNING QUARTERLY 2 (December 1998): 3-6.
Boyte, Henry. "Community Service and Civic Education." PHI DELTA KAPPAN
72 (June 1991): 765-767. EJ 426 976.
Conrad, Dan, and Diane Hedin. "School Based Community Service: What
We Know from Research and Theory." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 72 (June 1991): 743-749.
EJ 426 971.
Davidson, M. THE INFLUENCES OF MANDATORY SERVICE LEARNING ON THE ATTITUDES
TOWARD POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT OF A SELECTED GROUP OF SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS.
Ph.D. diss., University of Maryland, 1995.
Honnet, Ellen Porter, and Susan J. Poulsen. PRINCIPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE
FOR COMBINING SERVICE AND LEARNING: A WINGSPREAD SPECIAL REPORT. Racine,
WI: The Johnson Foundation, 1989.
Kahne, Joseph, and Joel Westheimer. "In the Service of What? The Politics
of Service Learning." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 77 (May 1996): 592-599. EJ 524 359.
Melchior, Alan. NATIONAL EVALUATION OF LEARN AND SERVE AMERICA SCHOOL
AND COMMUNITY-BASED PROGRAMS. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University, 1998.
National Center for Education Statistics. PUBLIC ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY
EDUCATION STATISTICS. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office,
1998. ED 418 991.
National Service-Learning Cooperative. ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SERVICE-LEARNING.
St. Paul, MN: National Youth Leadership Council, 1998.
Niemi, Richard G., and Christopher Chapman. THE CIVIC DEVELOPMENT OF
9TH THROUGH 12TH GRADE STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES: 1996. Washington,
DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 1999.
Wade, Rahima. "Developing Active Citizens: Community Service Learning
in Social Studies Teacher Education." SOCIAL STUDIES 86 (May-June 1995):
122-128. EJ 510 829.