Volunteering, Volunteering as Utilized by Service Learning Programs

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Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect. There is no financial gain involved for the individual. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment. It is helping, assisting, or serving another person or persons without pay.


Many schools on all education levels offer service-learning, which allow the student to serve a group through volunteering while earning educational credit. According to Alexander Astin in the forward to Where's the Learning in ServiceLearning? by Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles, Jr.,"...we promote more wide-spread adoption of service-learning in higher education becasue we see it as a powerful means of preparing students to become more caring and responsible parents and citizens and of helping colleges and universities to make good on their pledge to 'serve society.'"When describing service learning, the Medical Education at Harvard says, "Service learning unites academic study and volunteer community service in mutually reinforcing ways. ...service learning is characterized by a relationship of partnership: the student learns from the service agency and from the community and, in return,gives energy, intelligence, commitment, time and skills to address human and community needs." Volunteering in service learning seems to have the result of engaging both mind and heart, thus providing a more powerful learning experience; according to Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles,it succeeds by the fact that it "...fosters student development by capturing student interest..." While not recognized by everyone as a legitimate approach, research on the efficacy of service learning has grown.. Janet Eyler and Dwight E. Giles conducted a national study of American college students to ascertain the significance of service learning programs, According to Eyler and Giles,"These surveys, conducted before and after a semester of community service, examine the impact of service-learning on students." They describe their experience with students involved in service-learning in this way: "Students like service-learning. When we sit down with a group of students to discuss service-learning experiences, their enthusiasm is unmistakable. ...it is clear that [the students]believe that what they gain from service-learning differs qualitatively from what they often derive from more traditional instruction."

As well as enjoying service-learning, students reported having many personal and interpersonal transformations, such as disregarding previous stereotypes, understanding others better, developing tolerance and respect for other cultures, beliefs, and people, and a more profound understanding of themselves. Also, they felt rewarded in simply helping others as well as feeling more connected to others around them and their community. Studies showed that the students' critical thinking skills greatly improved alongside reflective periods.

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External Links

  • WikipediaVolunteerism and legislation: a Guidance Note

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