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February 23, 2008

The 6 Hallmarks of Effective Project Based Service Learning

Why is Service Learning the most effective pedagogical strategy for ALL students to achieve rigorous academic and civic success across all grade levels and regardless of demographic variables?

We believe that there are 6 Hallmarks of the Project Based Service Learning methodology:

OWNERSHIP - When students are interested and invested in the completion of a project, they begin to own their educational processes.  When students own the project, all aspects, including mastery of curriculum become important to the students.

  • With ownership comes personal responsibility.
  • Completion of the project becomes important.
  • Employment of strategies like critical thinking, hypothesis, extension of learning becomes commonplace.
  • Motivation to succeed.
  • Ownership starts with YOU, the teacher!

Get invested in the processes of PBSL.  Initiate projects with your students that interest you, so you can authentically Model ownership.

ENGAGEMENT - Ownership and engagement are essentially 2 sides of the same coin.  When students take ownership and personal responsibility for the successful outcome of their project, it follows that they are engaged and interested.  Any good Service Learning project will present students with many opportunities to think critically, make hypotheses, and extend what they have learned.  Engagement in the project is the door to performing these important skills which engender academic and civic success.

COOPERATION - Cooperation - Students working cooperatively in small groups to achieve  project based goals is a powerful methodology to achieve curricular and standards based objectives.  Moreover, when students are focused on the goals of a project, they are more inclined to negotiate with their peers and make persuasive arguments to get their point of view adopted by the group.  The cooperative nature of small groups working together for successful completion of the project has an extremely positive effect on the classroom climate and behavior issues are significantly mitigated.

CITIZENSHIP - Development of good citizenship skills as part of the fabric of teaching and learning is critical to the long term, real-life success of our students.

Civic skills give greater depth, context and meaning to student mastery of curriculum and standards.
Integral to a Service Learning project is the inclusion of Community Partnerships.  By their nature, professionals who freely give their time and expertise to benefit students are models of good citizenship.  In general, Community Partners model good citizenship in action.

MASTERY OF CURRICULUM - The primary rationale to employ the Service Learning is, in fact, as a tool for student achievement, both academically and socially.  A project's success is ultimately determined by whether the project based activities are connected to grade appropriate curriculum and state standards and more importantly, whether these connections enable students to achieve mastery across a range of academic disciplines.  We have seen that when students work within the Project Based methodology they own their educational processes, are engaged in a project's activities, work cooperatively to achieve success, and see citizenship modeled by the Community Partners, then mastery of curriculum becomes more likely because the students are more self motivated achieve success in all aspects of their scholastic experience.

FUN - School and  Fun?  While the terms are usually in diametric opposition to each other, students having FUN is an integral aspect of the Project Based Service Learning methodology and is the overarching link that makes PBSL so effective.



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