At TLT we inspire a passion for learning and provide children with skills, values and courage to become responsible leaders, in the community and the world. We believe that one of the ways we help young people become responsible and courageous is in the service of others.

Community engagement pedagogies, often called “service learning,” are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good.

Vanderbilt University’s Janet S. Eyler (winner of the 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning) and Dwight E. Giles, Jr., defines service learning as “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students … seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development …experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.”

Typically, community engagement is incorporated into a course or series of courses by way of a project that has both learning and community action goals.  This project is designed via collaboration between faculty and community partners, such as non-governmental organizations or government agencies.  The project asks students to apply course content to community-based activities.  This gives students experiential opportunities to learn in real world contexts and develop skills of community engagement, while affording community partners opportunities to address significant needs. Vanderbilt University’s Sharon Shields has argued that service learning is “one of the most significant teaching methodologies gaining momentum on many educational organizations.”

STUDENT BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Learning Outcomes
  • Positive impact on students’ academic learning
  • Improves students’ ability to apply what they have learned in “the real world”
  • Positive impact on academic outcomes such as demonstrated complexity of understanding, problem analysis, problem-solving, critical thinking, and cognitive development
  • Improved ability to understand complexity and ambiguity
Personal Outcomes
  • Greater sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, spiritual growth, and moral development
  • Greater interpersonal development, particularly the ability to work well with others, and build leadership and communication skills
Social Outcomes
  • Reduced stereotypes and greater inter-cultural understanding
  • Improved social responsibility and citizenship skills
  • Greater involvement in community service after graduation
Career Development
  • Connections with professionals and community members for learning and career opportunities
  • Greater academic learning, leadership skills, and personal efficacy can lead to greater opportunity
Relationship with the Institution
  • Stronger relationships with faculty
  • Greater satisfaction with college
  • Improved graduation rates

Service learning, when done well, has all the characteristics associated with engaged learning. High quality service learning, aligned with our curriculum and mission, asks students to engage in setting goals to meet community needs; offers students choices and voice; provides many opportunities for teamwork in the planning and provision of service; engaging in reflection that reduces social comparisons of achievement and increases self-assessment; teaches time management; allows self-paced instruction; rewards students for goal attainment, all of which were cited by researchers as being highly associated with engagement.