Fads come and go in education as any teacher or administrator over the age of 30 knows. Service learning, however, was not (and is not) a fad. Defined broadly as K-12 students providing “community service” it has been in public and private schools for over a century. But it did have its faddish moments in the 1980s and 1990s–see Ngram. And it remains popular among policymakers and practitioners who see schools’ primary duty as developing “good” citizens. But issues of what exactly is service learning, who benefits most–students? community?–and toward what ends–individual giving back? solving community problems?–persist.
What is service learning and when did it begin?
Like most school innovations, service learning has had multiple meanings since it was introduced into schools in the 1970s. Policymakers, researchers, and practitioners have various definitions. Distinguishing between students doing community service and school-based service learning has made definitions hard to pin down…
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