Vertically integrating professional competencies in general education through service-learning
Systems of practice teaching strive for mutually beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders. Knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary for successful functioning in future field settings must be consciously addressed at the beginning of a curriculum. Thus, in this grounded, a priori, qualitative study, we attempted to determine what competencies students might build through a service-learning project incorporated into a second-year undergraduate writing course. We studied the post-project reflections of students participating in a course with a service-learning project and of those participating in a course with a traditional, class-based project. We noted differences in how the students in the service learning project approached the assignment, the outcome, and the collaboration in a manner that is much more reflective of the kinds of professional behaviors they will use in the field than the students who participated in the class-based project. Linking professional practice to the early stages of curriculum provides students with practice thinking critically, problem solving, and building constructive communication. By nature of the recursive service learning project, students began making vertical moves toward bridging general education and professional practices and are, thereby, more likely to engage in more sophisticated professional behaviors once they enter their field environments.
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