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<p>50</p> <p>Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Spring 2008, pp.50-65</p> <p>are dismantled. This article uses perspectives fromthe literature to uncover and explicate the meaning ofa critical service-learning view. In discussing each ofthe three distinguishing elements of the critical ser-vice-learning approach, I examine the classroom andcommunity components.</p> <p>Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning</p> <p>Community service learning serves as a vehiclefor connecting students and institutions to their com-munities and the larger social good, while at the sametime instilling in students the values of communityand social responsibility (Neururer &amp; Rhoads, 1998,p. 321). Because service-learning as a pedagogy andpractice varies greatly across educators and institu-tions, it is difficult to create a definition that elicitsconsensus amongst practitioners (Bickford &amp;Reynolds, 2002; Butin, 2005; Kendall, 1990; Liu,1995; Varlotta, 1997a). However, I use the terms ser-vice-learning and community service learning todefine a community service action tied to learninggoals and ongoing reflection about the experience(Jacoby, 1996). The learning in service-learningresults from the connections students make betweentheir community experiences and course themes(Zivi, 1997). Through their community service, stu-dents become active learners, bringing skills andinformation from community work and integratingthem with the theory and curriculum of the class-room to produce new knowledge. At the same time,students classroom learning informs their service inthe community. </p> <p>Research heralds traditional service-learning pro-grams for their transformative natureproducingstudents who are more tolerant, altruistic, and cultur-ally aware; who have stronger leadership and com-munication skills; and who (albeit marginally) earnhigher grade point averages and have stronger crit-</p> <p>Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning:Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models</p> <p>Tania D. MitchellStanford University</p> <p>There is an emerging body of literature advocating a critical approach to community service learningwith an explicit social justice aim. A social change orientation, working to redistribute power, and devel-oping authentic relationships are most often cited in the literature as points of departure from tradition-al service-learning. This literature review unpacks these distinguishing elements.</p> <p>A growing segment of the service-learning litera-ture in higher education assumes that community ser-vice linked to classroom learning is inherently con-nected to concerns of social justice (Delve, Mintz, &amp;Stewart, 1990; Jacoby, 1996; Rosenberger, 2000;Wade, 2000; 2001; Warren, 1998). At the same time,there is an emerging body of literature arguing thatthe traditional service-learning approach is notenough (Brown, 2001; Butin, 2005; Cipolle, 2004;Marullo, 1999; Robinson 2000a, 2000b; Walker,2000). This literature advocates a critical approachto community service learning with an explicit aimtoward social justice.</p> <p>Referencing the service-learning literature, Iunpack the elements that distinguish a critical ser-vice-learning pedagogy. In reviewing the literature, Iwas challenged by an unspoken debate that seemedto divide service-learning into two campsa tradi-tional approach that emphasizes service withoutattention to systems of inequality, and a criticalapproach that is unapologetic in its aim to dismantlestructures of injustice. The three elements most oftencited in the literature as points of departure in the twoapproaches are working to redistribute poweramongst all participants in the service-learning rela-tionship, developing authentic relationships in theclassroom and in the community, and working froma social change perspective. I wanted to understandand make clear the differences in these approachesand what they might look like in practice. How mightthe curriculum, experiences, and outcomes of a criti-cal service-learning course differ from a traditionalservice-learning course? </p> <p>The critical approach re-imagines the roles ofcommunity members, students, and faculty in theservice-learning experience. The goal, ultimately, isto deconstruct systems of power so the need for ser-vice and the inequalities that create and sustain them</p> <p>51</p> <p>ical thinking skills than their non-service-learningcounterparts (Astin &amp; Sax, 1998; Densmore, 2000;Eyler &amp; Giles, 1999; Kezar, 2002; Markus,Howard, &amp; King, 1993). Due largely to this evi-dence, service-learning has emerged on college anduniversity campuses as an effective practice toenhance student learning and development. Butsome authors assert that, to suggest that all formsof community service equally develop an ethic ofcare, a flowering of a mature identity, and advanceour understanding of community is misleading(Neururer &amp; Rhoads, 1998, p. 329). </p> <p>There are examples in the literature where com-munity service learning is criticized, labeled ascharity or forced volunteerism, critiqued for rein-forcing established hierarchies, and deemed pater-nalistic (Boyle-Baise, 1998; Cooks, Scharrer &amp;Paredes, 2004; Cruz, 1990; Forbes, Garber,Kensinger, &amp; Slagter, 1999; Ginwright &amp;Cammarota, 2002; Levinson, 1990; McBride, Brav,Menon, &amp; Sherraden, 2006; Pompa, 2002; Sleeter,2000). Pompa (2002) explains her reservation:</p> <p>Unless facilitated with great care and con-sciousness, service can unwittingly becomean exercise in patronization. In a societyreplete with hierarchical structures and patriar-chal philosophies, service-learnings potentialdanger is for it to become the very thing itseeks to eschew. (p. 68)</p> <p>Robinson (2000a) concurs, boldly stating that ser-vice-learning as a depoliticized practice becomes aglorified welfare system (p. 607). Without theexercise of care and consciousness, drawing atten-tion to root causes of social problems, and involv-ing students in actions and initiatives addressingroot causes, service-learning may have no impactbeyond students good feelings. In fact, a service-learning experience that does not pay attention tothose issues and concerns may involve students inthe community in a way that perpetuates inequali-ty and reinforces an us-them dichotomy. Further,such interpretations of service-learning (ironically)serve to mobilize and bolster privileged students toparticipate in and embrace systems of privilege(Brown, 2001), preserve already unjust socialstructures (Roschelle, Turpin, &amp; Elias, 2000), andmay act to normalize and civilize the radical ten-dencies of our constituent communities, students,and ourselves (Robinson, 2000b, p.146). </p> <p>Ginwright and Cammarota (2002) critique ser-vice-learning, advocating a social justice approachinstead:</p> <p>Unlike service learning, where youth learnthrough participation in community service pro-jects, social awareness places an emphasis on</p> <p>community problem solving through criticalthinking that raises questions about the roots ofsocial inequality. For example, a service learningapproach might encourage youth to participatein a service activity that provides homeless fam-ilies with food, while social awareness encour-ages youth to examine and influence politicaland economic decisions that make homelessnesspossible in the first place. Reflected in thisexample is a critical understanding of how sys-tems and institutions sustain homelessness.Through an analysis of their communities, youthdevelop a deep sense of how institutions couldbetter serve their own communities and initiatestrategies to make these institutions responsiveto their needs. (p. 90)</p> <p>While I agree with Neururer and Rhoads (1998) thatit would be misleading to suggest that all service-learning experiences encourage the type of criticalanalysis suggested by Ginwright and Cammarota, Ibelieve it is equally misleading to suggest that no ser-vice-learning class or program encourages the in-depth analysis or approach to community problem-solving that Ginwright and Cammarota name socialawareness. In the service-learning field, theapproaches labeled as service learning and socialawareness by Ginwright and Cammarota might belabeled as traditional and critical service-learning.</p> <p>The concept of critical service-learning firstappears in Robert Rhoadss (1997) exploration ofcritical community service. Rice and Pollack(2000) and Rosenberger (2000) employed the termcritical service learning to describe academic ser-vice-learning experiences with a social justice orien-tation. This explicit aim toward social justice chal-lenges traditional perceptions of service as meetingindividual needs but not usually as political actionintended to transform structural inequalities(Rosenberger, p. 29). A recent study by Wang andRodgers (2006) shows that a social justice approachto service-learning results in more complex thinkingand reasoning skills than traditional service-learningcourses. A critical approach embraces the politicalnature of service and seeks social justice over moretraditional views of citizenship. This progressivepedagogical orientation requires educators to focuson social responsibility and critical communityissues. Service-learning, then, becomes a problem-solving instrument of social and political reform(Fenwick, 2001, p. 6). </p> <p>Critical service-learning programs encourage stu-dents to see themselves as agents of social change,and use the experience of service to address andrespond to injustice in communities. Rahima Wade(2000) terms this perspective service for an ideal asopposed to service to an individual (p. 97). Boyle-Baise (2007) labels this service for critical con-</p> <p>Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning</p> <p>52</p> <p>Mitchell</p> <p>sciousness. Marullo (1999) considers service-learn-ing a revolutionary pedagogy because of its potentialfor social change. Service-learning, he suggests:</p> <p>If implemented properly, should be critical of thestatus quo and should ultimately challengeunjust structures and oppressive institutionaloperations. It is the analytical component of ser-vice-learning that gives it revolutionary poten-tial, because it is precisely this component thatwill reveal the systemic, social nature of inequal-ity, injustice, and oppression. Service-learning isalso revolutionary to the extent that it creates apartnership for change among community anduniversity actors. Once the sources of socialproblems are seen to reside in the social andpolitical systems that so lavishly reward the fewat the expense of the many, it becomes obviousthat such systems require change. It is in theensuing step, advocating for change and assist-ing students to acquire the knowledge and skillsto become agents of change, that the revolution-ary potential becomes real. In this sense, service-learning provides an opportunity for institution-alizing on college campuses activism committedto social justice. (p. 22)</p> <p>To actualize the potential, Boyle-Baise (2007),Wade (2000), and Marullo (1999) see that criticalservice-learning must emphasize the skills, knowl-edge, and experiences required of students to notonly participate in communities, but to transformthem as engaged and active citizens. Critical ser-vice-learning must focus on creating true commu-nity-university partnerships where communityissues and concerns are as important (in planning,implementation, and evaluation) as student learn-ing and development (Brown, 2001). Critical ser-vice-learning must embrace the progressive andliberal agenda that undergirds its practice (Butin,2006, p. 58) and serves as the foundation for ser-vice-learning pedagogy (Brown, 2001). The workto realize the potential of this pedagogy and avoidpaternalism demands a social change orientation,working to redistribute power, and developingauthentic relationships as central to the classroomand community experience (see Figure 1).</p> <p>A Social Change Orientation</p> <p>Student development and community changeoften are viewed as mutually exclusive. Traditionalinterpretations of service-learning tend to empha-size students, focusing on preprofessional expe-riences (viewing service much like an internship orpracticum), and the personal or social developmentof students (mostly attitudes toward leadership,altruism, and sometimes thoughts or feelings aboutthe people served in the community). Rarely do</p> <p>students in service-learning programs considerwhether some injustice has created the need forservice in the first place (Wade, 2001, p. 1).Programs that might put more emphasis on socialchange may be characterized or dismissed asactivism, or deemed inappropriate or too politicalfor classroom learning. Wade posits that the practi-cality of traditional service-learning (service toindividuals) versus critical service-learning (ser-vice for an ideal) may explain the prominence ofservice-learning programs that emphasize studentoutcomes over community change:</p> <p>In general, service for an ideal is more com-pelling to me because of its potential power toeffect change for more people. However, in prac-tice, service to individuals is more accessibleand easier to facilitate with a given group of stu-dents over a short time (e.g., a semester). (p. 98)</p> <p>In service-learning programs that do not take acritical approach, the emphasis of the service expe-rience is to find the students some opportunity todo good work that will benefit a service agency,and provide the students with an opportunity toreflect upon the work they are doing and perhapsupon their own assumptions and stereotypes aboutthe individuals with whom they serve. This type ofservice-learning approach requires foregroundingissues of identity and difference as a way of help-ing students alter their personal and world viewsand preparing students with new ideas and skillsthat can help them understand and work across dif-ferences (Chesler &amp; Vasques Scalera, 2000, p.19). Chesler (1995), Eby (1998), Ginwright andCammarota (2002), and Robinson (2000a; 2000b)all caution that these types of service programs,while beneficial for the students in service rolesand providing much needed service in communi-ties, do not lead to any transformation in the com-munity and certainly do not tap into the revolution-ary potential that Marullo (1999) envisions. MarkChesler (1995) explains:</p> <p>Service-learning does not necessarily lead toimproved service, and it certainly does notnecessarily lead to social change. As studentsfit into prescribed agency roles for their servicework they typically do not challenge the natureand operations or quality of these agencies andtheir activities. As we do service that primarilyreacts to problemsproblems of inadequateeducation, of under-staffed and under-financedhealth care, of inadequate garbage collectionservice, of failing correctional institutionsour service does not focus on challenging ordirecting attention to changing the causes ofthese problems. (p. 139) </p> <p>53</p> <p>Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning</p> <p>While individual change and student developmentare desired outcomes of traditional and criti...</p>


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