As a teacher, I believe that substantial learning can take place outside of the classroom, and that the university should recognize its position within a larger community. Service-learning is a valuable pedagogy that when done well can 1) create constructive learning experiences outside of the classroom and 2) build ongoing and deep partnerships between the university and local community organizations. As such, I always remain interested in considering opportunities for service-learning that might fit well with the courses I am teaching.
I first became interested in service-learning while an undergraduate student at Calvin College. In the student residence hall that I lived in I became a community partnership coordinator, which involved planning and organizing various service-learning events in which students from the dorm spent time with a group of adults in the community with cognitive impairments. The next year I was hired by the Service-Learning Center on campus to work with students across campus to develop service-learning experiences. My time at the Service-Learning Center was a great opportunity to more fully explore and consider service-learning pedagogy, and I benefitted immensely from the collaborative and thoughtful atmosphere that was cultivated there by the director, Jeff Bouman.
As a graduate teaching assistant at Loyola I have continued to explore and utilize service-learning pedagogy. The most substantial instance of this occurred during the fall semesters in 2011 and 2012, in which I co-taught a case-based ethical reasoning course with a senior professor, Jennifer Parks, and we developed partnerships with two local, Catholic middle schools and then, as part of the course, had Loyola undergraduates teach middle school students ethical reasoning and argumentation skills on a weekly basis. At the end of the semester, Loyola undergraduates helped to coordinate an ethics bowl style competition between students from each of the middle schools. This competition involved the middle school students advancing a persuasive argument in response to a question about a particular case narrative. The competition was a great success, and offered an excellent example of how service-learning might incorporated into a philosophy course.