Research Paper Service Learning Experience

It is known that service learning is a special technique which combines service objectives with learning objectives. This process is closely connected with self-reflection and self-discovery, as well as with the acquisition and comprehension of the appropriate values, necessary skills, and deep knowledge. As service learning integrates the important community service and learning experience, it helps to teach civic responsibility and strengthens communities throughout the country. Moreover, service learning gives young people an opportunity to use the information they learn in the classroom in solving life problems in real situations.  It means that the students not only learn the practical application of their numerous studies, but also they prove themselves as actively contributing citizens of their country and responsible community members (What is Service Learning?, 2012, para.1).


            Today service-learning is effectively used with students with disabilities. In the research article Service-Learning Opportunities That Include Students With Moderate and Severe Disabilities, the authors are interested in teaching elementary students with disabilities. They discuss the Kentucky service-learning project which was implemented as Young and Heart Program. The authors define service-learning as “a well-recognized strategy for enabling students to integrate and apply the knowledge and skills they learn at school to address the significant needs in their schools or communities” (Kleinert et al., 2004, p.29). In this project, the students were involved in decoration, food and entertainment for each event, such as Thanksgiving day and etc. The authors pay attention to the benefits for this group of students which include increased self-esteem and self-knowledge, the development of communication, social and problem solving skills. Elementary students with moderate and severe disabilities had an opportunity to plan their activities, and find methods to contribute to their communities.  Another researcher defines service-learning in the following way: “service learning is an integration of community-based student projects into the formal curriculum or school studies” (Smith et al., 2003, p.79). In her qualitative, descriptive study, Valerie M. Smith the major issues connected with disabled students who are involved in the process of service-learning. The researcher has found that most participants of her study plan to choose human service careers in order to help other people with disabilities. Smith states that the research participants in her study changed their attitude to their health problems and started “to view any information gleaned from their partners’ disability labels with a critical eye”. She also argues that this experiment will help them in the future. In the research article Student Ownership of Service-Learning Projects: Including Ourselves in Our Community, the authors discusses the role of service-learning projects in the life of students with disability. Abernathy and Obenchain (2001) state that “appropriately planned and implemented service-learning projects help students with disabilities include themselves in their community and allow all students the opportunity to use academic skills and assume personal responsibility” (p.86). Due to service-learning projects, many students with disabilities have a chance to act as service providers in their communities.


I consider that learning through service is a rather effective teaching technique as it teaches students to be self-confident and initiative. Service-learning helps to develop communication and decision-making skills which are of great importance in the future life of the students. My service-learning experience helped me in the formation of my personal beliefs and philosophy of teaching. Due to my field experience and direct interaction with individuals with disabilities and professionals who serve them, I can easily apply my new skills and knowledge in my future practical experience. My 15 hours experience and research work helped me to evaluate the necessity of service-learning projects. I realize that students with disabilities, who are empowered as citizens in different service-learning projects, become empowered as students in the academic process. It is very important to mention that students’ empowerment is always enhanced by self-confidence and renewed interest in the academic process at school. Moreover, many students with disabilities improved their communication skills. I am sure that special attention should be paid to the planning process as students should be involved not only in the service delivery, they should participate in the planning the service-learning project themselves. All the students took an active part in the project and were greatly impressed by this activity.


            In conclusion, it is necessary to say that service-learning plays an important role in the personal development of students, and provides support to the communities throughout the country. Service-learning projects can help to link students with disabilities with other community members in positive relationship.


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