By Katherine Herrera Solano - Student of English Teaching and Translation

When I was in my last year in the bachelor’s degree in English teaching, I had the opportunity to be part of a service-learning project teaching 50-year-old adults. This project gave me a meaningful experience because I had the chance to learn how to help a specific population whose dream was to learn English. This is what service-learning is; in other words, “it is an approach to teaching and learning in which service and learning are blended in a way that both occur and are enriched by the other” (Jagla & Tice, 2019, p.9). In fact, service-learning is a human and solidary activity that helps future teachers get values, pedagogical skills, and meaningful experience by helping those who need to learn. Therefore, service learning in English teaching should be normalized in the national universities for teachers to get a better preparation for their future careers and empowerment and leadership in the implementation of the program.

Service learning provides new teachers with real experience before they graduate since they get a vision of the reality in English teaching by working with different communities and populations. For instance, the University of Costa Rica offers undergraduate teachers different courses to teach including English to people who are 50 years old or even older; “these courses were created at the request of organized groups of the community that came closer because they had the need and since the bond with the neighbors is very strong, whenever possible, the University responds to these requests” (Munoz, 2018). As a matter of fact, those new teachers grow personally and professionally, raising awareness and making use not only of the language but of all the pedagogical theories they learned. This is a good example why service learning should be implemented in English teaching for undergraduate teachers to be in contact with the reality and apply all the knowledge they have to give a service in order to help a specific population in need.

Service learning prepares teachers to have an active role in the process giving them a sense of empowerment and leadership so that they can feel more prepared in their future careers as English Teachers. For example, in our country, there is a place called Costa Rica Exploration in which teachers from different parts of the world can come to the country to provide a service learning with vulnerable communities while they can practice their profession. In fact, according to Costa Rica Exploration (2019), students’ participation in international service projects empowers their students to gain essential skills, determination and motivation to become much needed global leaders of the future”. This is an example of how teachers can get that empowerment by using their profession to help others because they are in charge of a specific program by identifying needs to later apply the course or program they previously designed or planned.

On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind the challenges that undergraduate and international teachers could face in the process of English teaching service learning. As Jagla & Tice (2019) mentioned, it is important to “take seriously that responsibility of caring for others, teachers are not observers, but instead they have an active role to transform teaching experiences”. In other words, teachers have the responsibility to make a change in their communities and universities; for this reason, teachers need the support of the institutions they are part of to know how to carry out any service learning project successfully. In addition, it is necessary “the creation of original service learning models and practices and develops new forms of knowledge that can challenge students to a real learning experience” (Jagla & Tice, 2019). Another challenge that service learning teachers may have is to create different and meaningful ways of learning to make a change in their communities. Therefore, new teachers should be trained about the challenges that they could face, such as transforming teaching experiences through the creation of meaningful pedagogical methodologies to help in a better way the target population.

To sum up, through service learning, teachers will get a meaningful and effective preparation for their future jobs, and that sense of empowerment and leadership this experience provides through the implementation of the project will remain in their careers forever. In fact, future teachers will keep in contact with situations they could face in their realities as future English teachers since they have to deal with socioeconomic, psychological, and pedagogical problems; in this way, they will be aware of how to react to specific situations in the future throughout this project. This experience will let teachers grow personally and professionally because they will empower and lead a program using the knowledge they have gotten to strengthen their careers. Finally, universities in Costa Rica should include in their curriculum, as part of their education programs, service learning projects in which students get trained with the possible challenges and problematics they could face along with the service so that they graduate more integral teachers.

MOXIE es el Canal de ULACIT (, producido por y para los estudiantes universitarios, en alianza con el medio periodístico independiente, con el propósito de brindarles un espacio para generar y difundir sus ideas.  Se llama Moxie - que en inglés urbano significa tener la capacidad de enfrentar las dificultades con inteligencia, audacia y valentía - en honor a nuestros alumnos, cuyo “moxie” los caracteriza.

• Costa Rica Explorations. (2019). Costa Rica Service Learning Trips.
• Jagla, V.M., & Tice, K. C. (2019). Educating Teachers and Tomorrow’s Students through Service-Learning Pedagogy (Advances in Service-Learning Research) (Reprint ed.). Information Age Publishing.
• Muñoz, D. (2018). Continuing Education in Paraíso Facilitates New Learning for People over 50 Years of Age. Acción Social UCR.