By Edgardo Hidalgo Chacón - Student of the Licentiate in English Language Teaching
“Service-learning has had a high impact during the pandemic, as many academic institutions have redesigned their approach so that their students continue to support social causes as well as learn from experiences” (Fisher, Frey, Smith & Hattie, 2020, p. 67). The previous may be since crises can give rise to innovative ideas that generate benefits and address the specific needs. As a background, many academic institutions in Finland, such as the University of Helsinki and the Hertsikan College, promoted service-learning through virtuality during 2020, which led to greater support at the prescribed educational level curriculum. Based on the preceding, the COVID-19 pandemic has enhanced transformations in most contexts; however, crises give rise to innovation opportunities. Thus, service learning, which is the compass of social change, must continue to develop through virtuality to generate critical awareness, sensitivity, contributing to society, and enriching educational profiles.
The year 2020 generated sharp turnarounds where the education sector was one of the contexts with more transformations. Also, it marked a closing of cycles for many contexts; however, in the wake of the crisis, the world continued to move forward based on redesigns and new practices (Fisher et al., 2020, p. 109). Thus, the methodology for executing service-learning projects must be redesigned to resume these projects’ execution, which generates social assistance and significant learning. Service-learning should be promoted since we are going through a moment where its objectives are becoming more relevant. Besides, crisis times are fertile ground for sowing ideas, plans, and alternative strategies since fruitful innovations will be harvested in the future.
Service-learning promotes experiences and boosts social change, so its implementation should be a cross-cutting axis or pillar of the evaluation methodology. “Service-learning is a constructivist strategy categorized as the map that guides educational and human development in the 21st century” (Dolgon, Mitchell & Eatman, 2019, p. 87). Complementing the previous, the application of service-learning projects can make a substantial difference today because there are many populations in vulnerability or lagging, which need the support of professionals in the construction. Linking the above, “service-learning educates not only in the academic aspect but also in values and human development, a necessary aspect to enhance social responsibility and empathy” (Hartman, Kiely, Boettcher & Friedrichs 2018, p. 91). It is confirmed that the development of service-learning projects during this term is an opportunity to collaborate and bolster the people at risk. The previous generates benefits since one party obtains assistance, a beacon of hope, and the pupils learn from the experiences and spread soft skills, such as human warmth and communal responsibility.
It could be noted that the development of projects focused on service learning under virtual modality may constitute a significant difficulty for the students in charge due to the current conditions, where many of them are under stress due to the migration from face-to-face to virtuality. The previous is considerable because it is part of today’s reality; however, tomorrow’s professionals must learn how to handle complex situations, be flexible, work under pressure, and not leave aside social responsibility and empathy, especially when people are most vulnerable. Thus, although it is accepted that developing service-learning is a demanding task, it is necessary to learn to leave the comfort zone, to think strategically, and not to forget the roots of solidarity, responsibility, and social empathy.
It is recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic was the vehicle for many changes, which should be considered as opportunities to grow. Along these lines, the service-learning methodology must be redesigned to adapt it to reality and allow it to be developed virtually. Also, service-learning is a social change compass that enhances soft skills that enrich the professional and academic profile. When education changes, its actors must also be open to new experiences that help them grow as students and future professionals. Now, it is time to serve and learn. Therefore, to what extent are times of crisis a perfect reason to serve and learn?
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Dolgon, C., Mitchell, T. D., & Eatman, T. K. (2019). The Cambridge handbook of service learning and community engagement. Cambridge University Press.
Fisher, D., Frey, N., Smith, D. B., & Hattie, J. (2020). The distance learning playbook for school leaders: Leading for engagement and impact in any setting. Corwin.
Hartman, E., Kiely, R. C., Boettcher, C., & Friedrichs, J. (2019). Community-based global learning: The theory and practice of ethical engagement at home and abroad. Stylus Publishing.