As Australia aspires to create an adaptive, innovative and globally engaged education sector by 2025, higher education needs to focus on developing student capacities to become an active member of their local and global community. To date, ‘global perspectives’ in Australian higher education have focused on bringing perspectives ‘in’ or on taking students ‘out’. An alternative ‘third wave’ approach connects local issues with global contexts, making the global an integrated, everyday experience for students.
Local Global Learning explored the possibilities of ‘third wave’ approaches by investigating how the agentic qualities of a diverse student population can be effectively promoted and engaged to assist them to secure global perspectives through their service learning experiences.
The project sought to identify how student experiences can be maximised through service learning, based on the key research question, 'How can the agentic qualities of a diverse student population be effectively promoted and engaged to assist them to secure global perspectives through their service learning experiences?'
Three sub-questions contribution to this research question:
- How do students from diverse backgrounds view themselves as global citizens?
- What pedagogic elements of service learning curriculum and experience are most effective in development global perspectives for diverse students?
- How can the experiencing of the learning curriculum promote and develop student mobility for diverse groups?
These questions were addressed through six case studies based on the experiences of staff and students from JCU, JCU Singapore and Western Sydney University.
Why Service Learning?
Community based experiential learning might take on different names and structures, including work-integrated learning, service learning, professional placements and internships. Each of these experiences, however, has similar characteristics in that they aim to integrate and apply academic learning in a community based context.
The Local Global Learning Project focuses on higher education student experiences that require service in an intercultural community setting (local or global) that are supported by a structured process of preparation, sense making, engagement in social issues and reflection.
Service learning engages students with their own community. Successful community-based learning experiences allow students to challenge themselves, reflect on their learning, engage in meaningful participation with communities, and link their experiences to theory (McKinney et al. 20041; Rajaram, 20072). Hall et al. (2004)3 found that students learn better, are more motivated, and demonstrate a greater understanding of social issues when they have a personal connection with their community. Service learning in intercultural environments promotes student engagement with global perspectives, increases intercultural competency and can challenge students’ dispositions regarding their own contribution to local and/or global communities.
As Bringle (2010)4 asserts, using the image below, Service Learning brings together teaching and service in a community setting. Forms of service learning that offer professional services or involve students in participatory action research can bring together the three functions of universities – teaching, research and service.
|Diagram from Bringle, R. (2010) The Teaching of Research and Other "Tools of the Trade". In: Cooksey, M.A. and Olivares, K.T. (eds.) Quick Hits for Service-Learning: Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, United States of America.|
There is a powerful rationale that service learning is one structure through which the university can contribute to the public good and more specifically to needs in the local and global community. Other rationales for service learning include improved academic engagement, retention, the application of broader attributes and capabilities including social and collaborative skills and enhanced transitions between university study and the world of work.
Research that provides theoretically informed curriculum and pedagogical frameworks for service learning is in its infancy. We lack understanding of how students’ dispositions will affect the extent of their learning in intercultural environments. There is a need to develop a theoretical basis to service learning and student engagement in global perspectives to:
- Promote good practice
- Maximise the effectiveness of service learning as an intercultural learning tool for all students
- Normalise intercultural learning experiences, and
- Facillitate student interest in actively seeking out global perspectives.
1 McKinnery, K., Howery, C., Strand, K., Kain, E. and Berheide, C. (2004) Liberal Learning and the Sociology Major Updated: Meeting the Challenge of Teaching Sociology in the Twenty-First Century. New York: American Sociological Association. (Read online)
2 Rajaram, S.S. (2007) An Action-Research Project: Community Lead Poisoning Prevention. Teaching Sociology 35(2): 138-150. (Read online)
3 Hall, D. Hall, I., Cameron, A. and Green, P. (2004) Student volunteering and the active community: issues and opportunities for teaching and learning in sociology. Learning and Teaching in the Social Sciences (LATISS) 1(1): 33-50. (Read online)
4 Bringle, R. (2010) The Teaching of Research and Other "Tools of the Trade". In: Cooksey, M.A. and Olivares, K.T. (eds.) Quick Hits for Service-Learning: Successful Strategies by Award-Winning Teachers. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, United States of America.