Experience is essential to understanding, and understanding leads to social problem solving.
John Dewey (1859-1952)
Service Learning: A course-based, credit-bearing educational experience in which students (a) participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and (b) reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.
Therefore service learning integrates community service and educational objectives. Reflection is the bridge between the service activity and the educational content.
Dewey contended that experience is as important as theory because "personal experiences, such as those gained through community service, allow theory to take on meaning when reflection supports an analysis and critical examination of the experience."
It is through active learning and the interplay between abstract, remote content and personal, palatable experiences that student learning is deepened and strengthened.
Reflection is an "active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supported form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it."
Experience becomes educative when critical reflective thought creates new meaning and leads to growth and the ability to take informed actions. Communication is a key to creating educative experiences and leads to educational, social, and moral development.
The Conditions that Maximize the Potential for Inquiry-Based Learning to Be Educative:
Experiences outside the classroom often cause dissonance, doubt, and confusion as students will face new circumstances and challenges. This perplexity is necessary because it fosters reflection and thinking.
Dewey's Educational Philosophy:
Criteria for Assessing Levels of Reflection
John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York: Macmillan Inc., 1916).
Task Group on Education, Strong Foundations: Principles for Effective General Education Programs. (Washington, D.C.: Association for American Colleges, 1994).
John Dewey, How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1933), 146.
John Gouinlock, ed., The Moral Writings of John Dewey (New York: Prometheus Books, 1994), xxxvi.
Dwight E. Giles and Janet Eyler, "The Theoretical Roots of Service-learning in John Dewey: Towards a Theory of Service-learning," Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. 4 (1997):22-29.
Bradley, J. (1995). A model for evaluating student learning in academically based service, Connecting Cognition and Action: Evaluation of Student Performance in Service Learning Courses, ed. M.Troppe (Denver: Education Commission of the States/ Campus Compact).
National Training Lab (n.d.) The Learning Pyramid. Bethel, Maine.