Learning about Schools & Society through Service Learning
InSpring 2008, two sections of TSOC 3000 will be taught with Service Learning components as their core assignments. This work is supported by an Individual Faculty Grant Category for 2007-2008 awarded to Lynne Hamer, Ph.D., and Michelene McGreevy, graduate assistant, by the University of Toledo Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement. The grant proposal which lays out the approach and content of the course follows:
Ohio Fair Schools Campaign:
A Service Learning Approach to
Issues of "Schooling and Democratic Society" in 21st Century Toledo
In1776 and again in 1817, Thomas Jefferson unsuccessfully sought legislative support and funding for a system of public education that would provide to "’all free children, male and female," three years of schooling at public expense (Tozer et al., 2006, 38). Twenty-four years later, Horace Mann successfully appealed to "’practical, sagacious and intelligent businessmen’" to support funding of mass public education—the "common school" movement (Tozer et al., 2006, 73-75). At the end of the 20th century, a plethora of options to publicly-funded, "common" schools in the form of school vouchers, charter schools, and home schooling, is effectively privatizing public education, diverting funds from public schools (Tozer et al., 2006, 456-457). As the Tozer textbook used in TSOC 3000 "Schooling and Democratic Society" indicates, how funding dissemination has been historically contentious.
Throughout the history of American education, the determinant for progress has emerged from shifts in dominant ideology. These shifts have occurred through deliberate work by educators, activists, and citizens. By seeking change, citizens have accomplished specific goals but also exercised fundamental measures of democracy. It is to this end that we seek to incorporate a service learning facet in two already existing courses that are pillars within teacher education at the University of Toledo.
The purpose behind a service learning program is to broaden the scope of the educational experience through the fulcrum of community service. By exploring the linkages between power, knowledge and identity, the static notion of what teaching and learning can be emerge as potentially transformative pedagogical practice and theoretical orientation (Billig, vii). A developed and strategic service learning approach should leave those who participate with a sense of a deeper personal philosophy of leadership through critical analysis of social issues within the context of community involvement (Jones, 6). "Within the framework of higher education, service learning becomes an apparatus for understanding the complex nature of schooling and the dissemination of knowledge as well as the role of higher education in a liberal democracy" (Butin, viii).
TSOC 3000, "Schooling and Democratic Society" is required of all students preparing for teaching licensure in the Judith Herb College of Education. It is particularly powerful for these pre-service teachers to have this experience, as they will be going out into P-12 settings and should have a sound Service Learning experience, with readings on what the approach constitutes. Furthermore, a Service Learning project easily fits into the existing curriculum of the multi-sectioned course as the Core Project, worth 15-25% of the grade. The Service Learning version of the course will be taught for the first time in Spring 2008, with the intention that this will be repeated in subsequent semesters.
Community Agency Partner
Our partner in this project is the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign. We have talked with the Director of Field Organizing (and Vice President of Toledo Public Schools Board of Education), Steve Steel, and he has expressed enthusiasm about working with pre-service teachers who will have the opportunity to contribute to the campaign not only as students but also, on an ongoing basis, as professional educators. The mission of the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign (OFSC) is "to organize and advocate for high-quality public education opportunities for all Ohio children wherever they live, whatever their race, and whatever their family background" (http://www.ohiofairschools.org/). This advances school funding equity, thus ensuring the public good.
Course Learning Objectives in Relation to Community Need
The purpose of TSOC 3000 matches well that of the OFSC. From the website, it reads:
tofacilitate knowledge of the school as a social institution (including the impact that various social forces have upon it), its purpose in a democratic society, its historical development, and its political dynamics … [with] a commitment to equity and social justice. (www.education.utoledo.edu/foundations/TSOC3000/)
Thus, although school funding is not the only possible focus for the course, as a topic it does provide salient examples relevant to all aspects of the purpose: how social institutions are funded and how social forces influence that funding; how schools reflect both democratic and undemocratic aspects of society and how this has developed and changed over time.
All of the existing, specific learning objectives for the course are relevant to the project:
Describe own complex definition of democracy, and what is essential about democratic education (i.e., cite and explain sources of their definition).
Participating in a grassroots, democratic movement for school funding reform will expose students to the undemocratic (unequal) aspects of public schooling as well as the potential for democratic, fair and equitable schooling.
Identify basic factual knowledge about key people, movements, and events in the history of schooling in the U.S.
The students’ "textbook knowledge," as illustrated above, will give them basic factual knowledge to contribute to educating the public about issues of school funding.
Use scholarly work (i.e., primary textbook and supplemental materials) in own writing and speaking in order to support the democratic rights claims of self and others.
Conversely, educating the public about school funding will allow students to actually use their knowledge purposefully to support the claims of students to equitable schooling.
Demonstrate self-efficacy (i.e., confidence in one’s own abilities and capabilities to engage a democratic classroom).
Leading classroom activities and interaction with adults and students, in community forums sponsored by the OFSC and in school classrooms, will provide the pre-service teachers with experience interacting collaboratively, as partners, with parent/guardians, which is an important part of creating democratic schools.
Analyze and evaluate the relationships between schools and societies (i.e., ideology, schooling, and political economy).
Students will use the analytic model as introduced by Tozer that provides an easily transferable lens to consider relationships between institutional structures, cultural beliefs, and individual experiences.
Demonstrate a willingness to suspend judgment while working to understand and explicitly validate others’ views and beliefs based on their experiences.
Participating in the Campaign with parents from a variety of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds is expected to challenge common stereotypes about how family structures function.
Demonstrate openness to new challenges, new intellectual conflicts, and counter-evidence in order to promote a climate of fairness.
AsService Learning advocates (Jones et al., 2005) have pointed out, the activity itself provides intellectual challenge, as theory meets practice, and students will bring their critical abilities to bear on the Campaign’s mission of promoting "a climate of fairness."
Demonstrate an understanding of the connection of self to others from different historical, social, cultural, and personal experiences. (www.education.utoledo.edu/foundations/TSOC3000/).
Participation in the campaign will, in the tradition of the democratic ideals set forth by John Dewey (1916), put the TSOC 3000 students in collaboration with groups of people with whom they normally might not interact, and working together will lead them to develop common purposes and understandings.
Planned Service Learning Course Instructional Components & Activities
TSOC 3000 has standard requirements across all sections and service learning components will be related within three of those requirements: reading analyses, critical skills demonstration, and a core project, intended to connect the educational philosophy and theory of democratic education learned within the classroom to the practical application of the classroom. Most of the service learning component would constitute the core project. Specifically, instructional components will include:
Reading Analyses: in four assigned reading analyses (part of the regular course requirements) students will apply the analytic model from Tozer (2006) to school funding in 18th century Virginia, 19th century Massachusetts, early 20th century Chicago (Gary, IN), late 20th century U.S. These will provide students background information to use in the Campaign.
Critical Skills Demonstration: Mastery of the analytic model will be assessed through a proctored, short-essay looking at funding issues in 21st century Toledo.
Core Project Journal Entries: Students will be asked to reflect on their service learning in 8 biweekly journal entries that will correlate their experiences with course objectives.
Projected Benefits for the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign
The Campaign supports two main organizational efforts: community organizing and youth organizing. The UT Judith Herb College of Education draws students from across the state (though primarily from northwest Ohio). The youth organizing experience they receive within the TSOC 3000’s service learning component will help to motivate them to continue to work on the campaign as professionals.
Assessment of the Service Learning aspect of the course will be determined through coordination with the youth organizer of OFSC and the instructors of TSOC 3000. Assessment of work done is based on the students’ ability to reflect the work that they are doing with the course syllabus and in class assignments. To determine this, students will be expected to produce a reflective journal that will answer key questions regarding the work they do on the campaign. In addition, the assessment by the community that students will be working will determine an ongoing relationship with future classes. This assessment will need to be administered by the instructor of TSOC 3000 to the organizers of OFSC. In the beginning of the semester, goals for work that TSOC 3000 students will be expected to accomplish will be had. A mid-semester evaluation and an end of semester evaluation will occur based on these goals to determine each students’ progress.
Dissemination of the approach to other sections of the course (five are taught each semester) can take place via the established TSOC 3000 Working Group, an established group whose purpose is to develop and refine the course. We also plan to give conference presentations on this pedagogy at the American Educational Studies Association as well as submit an article to that organization’s journal, Educational Studies.
Staff member (McGreevy), along with faculty (Hamer), will work with Ohio Fair Schools Campaign staff to (a) develop background information materials for class; (b) develop activities for class; and (c) participate in campaign activities so as to have experiences to share with class. Staff member will also set up syllabus and instructional materials for the class project, and will refine the assessment tools.
Staff continue participation with OFSC and meeting with Youth Organizer to project what the organization’s needs will be in Jan-May 2008 and thus to fine-tune timeline & instructional components
Teach course; activities and instructional components described above. Present service learning pedagogy to TSOC3000 Working Group
Complete analysis of assessment and write article describing project and assessment results
Billig, Shelley H. (2003). Introduction: Studying Service Learning: Challenges and
Solutions. In S.H. Billig & A.S. Waterman (Eds.). Studying Service Learning: Innovations in Education Research Methodology (pp. vii-xiv). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Butin, D.W. (2005). Preface: Disturbing Normalizations of Service Learning. In
InButin, D.W. (Ed.) Service-Learning in Higher Education (pp.vii-xx). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dewey, J. (1916). School and society.
Jones, S.J., Gilbride-Brown, J. & Gasiorski, A. (2005). Getting Inside the "Underside" of
Service-Learning: Student Resistance and Possibilities. In Butin, D.W. (Ed.) Service-Learning in Higher Education (pp.4-24). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kaplan, M. H. (1977). A Nine-Phase Approach to Community Education Development.
InBurbach, H.J. & Decker L.E. (Eds.) Planning and Assessment in Community Education (pp. 39-59). Midland, MI: Pendell.
Tozer, S., et al. (2006). School and society: Historical and contemporary perspectives. 5th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.