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Advancing Service Learning: From Ideas to Action Workshop

By Zita Joyce, PYP Coordinator

& Devika Datta, P6 Homeroom Teacher & Learning Leader

Over the course of two inspiring days on the 8th and 9th of September, educators from diverse backgrounds gathered at Panyaden International School in Chiang Mai for the "Advancing Service Learning: From Ideas to Action" workshop led by the renowned Cathryn Berger Kaye, an international education consultant offering award-winning expertise in Service Learning and engaging teaching methods.  Cathy generously shared her insights as we discussed how Service Learning has evolved, the importance of elevating student voices, and strategies that teachers can use to help young people build local communities.

Day 1: Seeds of Inspiration and Global Perspectives

The workshop commenced with a series of introductions, establishing a collaborative atmosphere among participants. Cathy set the tone by emphasising the pivotal role of quotes in service education, underlining how these profound words can inspire and guide both educators and students alike.

Immersive experiences throughout the day delved into the intricacies of Service Learning, exploring ways to transform ideas into impactful actions within educational settings. The participants built a collaborative definition of Service Learning which reflected the following points. 

Service Learning always has:

  • Academic Relevance, Rigour & Application

  • Social Analysis and High Level Thinking

  • Youth Initiative, Voice & Choice

  • Reciprocal Partnerships

  • Observing Change over Time

  • Aspects of Social & Emotional Integration

  • Inquiry Based: Purpose and Process

  • Emphasis of Intrinsic over Extrinsic Motivation

  • Respect & Understanding of Diversity

  • Career Ideas

  • Global Connections

  • Reflection

  • Literature

  • 21st Century Skills Integration

An inquiry into what a Service Learning Student looks like led to the following generalisations. 

With Service Learning, students:

  • ask questions

  • listen and retain

  • are observant

  • identify similarities and differences

  • work independently, with partners, and in groups

  • identify and apply their skills and talents

  • develop their interests

  • show curiosity that leads to innovation

  • learn from mistakes

  • distinguish between cognition and affect (thoughts and feelings)

  • discern what has value

  • maintain integrity in thought and action

  • extend ideas

  • acquire assistance as needed

  • exhibit resilience

  • are resourceful

    • gather and manage information

    • summarise and take notes

  • effectively solve problems

    • test hypotheses

    • follow-through with reasonable steps

  • organise their time and activities

  • incorporate change as a constructive process to learning and to life

  • transfer ideas to new settings and situations

A significant portion of the day was dedicated to understanding the integration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the classroom. Through engaging group activities, educators explored creative ways to incorporate these global objectives into their teaching methodologies. The workshop highlighted the "Good Life Goals," an approach tailored for younger children, ensuring that the essence of service learning is both accessible and meaningful for all age groups. The Good Life Goals served as an impactful provocation for the start of the PYP Exhibition with Stonehill P8 learners.

The session further delved into the diverse kinds of action - direct, indirect, advocacy, and research - providing educators with a comprehensive understanding of the spectrum of service learning. Drawing inspiration from stories around the world, participants witnessed the powerful impact of children taking action, reinforcing the belief that every small effort contributes to a larger positive change.

Day 2: Action Research, Guest Speakers, and Curriculum Integration

The second day of the workshop was equally enriching, focusing on practical applications of service learning principles. Educators embarked on a journey of self-discovery through the creation of personal inventories, a reflective process that laid the foundation for understanding one's unique strengths and areas for growth in the realm of service education.

Cathy introduced the process of Service Learning which follows five stages.

The participants were introduced to the MISO method (Media, Interviews, Surveys, Observations) for action research, providing a structured framework to guide educators in designing and implementing effective service learning projects. 

There are four kinds of Action Research:

  • Media - internet, television, newspapers, films, maps, and more

  • Interview - asking an expert

  • Survey - using set questions with people who have knowledge on a topic or for general knowledge or opinions

  • Observation, Experiments, and Experience - using our surroundings or memories of being somewhere, or creating an experiment or simulation

The MISO approach not only emphasises the importance of meaningful engagement but also encourages educators to foster a spirit of inquiry and reflection among students.

One of the highlights of the day was the incorporation of guest speaker sessions. Participants assumed the role of students, meticulously planning the interview process by scrutinising the biographies of the speakers. They crafted insightful questions, adopted distinct roles within their groups, and seamlessly conducted interviews with the guest speakers. This hands-on experience not only showcased the power of experiential learning but also provided valuable insights into the real-world application of service learning principles.

The workshop concluded with a session on curriculum planning with action in mind. Educators were guided in weaving service learning seamlessly into their curriculum, ensuring that it becomes an integral part of the educational experience rather than a standalone initiative. The holistic approach to curriculum planning emphasised the alignment of academic goals with the development of social responsibility, fostering a generation of active and empathetic citizens.

In retrospect, the "Advancing Service Learning" workshop was a transformative experience for educators, equipping them with practical tools and a renewed sense of purpose. As we return to our schools, we carry with us the inspiration to instil in our students not just knowledge, but a profound sense of responsibility and the belief that their actions, no matter how small, can ripple into meaningful change.