Giles and Eyler
The final element of Dewey' s ideas about learning and knowledge that we find relevant to theorizing about how learning occurs in service-learning is his idea of reflective thinking. It is interesting to note that Dewey uses the term "reflective
thinking" to connote a type of thinking, and he
uses the term "reflective activity" to mean the
complete set of activities related to reflection. It
seems to us that the specific emphasis on reflective thinking is Dewey's crucial point here; where
he uses the term reflective activity it seems to be
in a more general and possibly less precise way.
What is central for Dewey is that thinking and
action are inextricably linked. Evidence of this is
that Dewey stated that "reflection includes observation" (1933, p. 102), this being the empirical
basis of knowing and also being the link between
what is experienced and how that experience is
processed to produce learning. "Data (facts) and
ideas (suggestions, possible solutions) thus form
the two indispensable and correlative factors of
all reflective activity" (1933, p. 104).
While full explication of Dewey's Five Phases
or Aspects of Reflective Thought (1933, pp. 107 -115) is beyond the scope of this work, they are
listed below with some elucidation about each.
1. Suggestions-this is the inhibition of tendency to act, to pursue what ever suggestion arises from the situation by stopping
to consider more than one course of action.
2. Intellectualization-this is the definition
of a problem and the raising of questions
about the nature of the problem and possible solutions.
3. The hypothesis-this is the development
of the guiding idea based on observation
and previous knowledge.
4. Reasoning-this is the development of the
hypothesis by applying knowledge and by
developing the linkages in the sequence of
5. Testing the hypothesis in action-this is
the verification through further observation or experimentation in which the problem is solved or a new problem is presented.
In reviewing these phases it is important to note
that Dewey did not see them as linear. In fact, he
specifically wrote that the "sequence of the five
phases is not fixed," and that they could be
collapsed or expanded, but that they were "the
indispensable traits of reflective thinking" (1933,
pp. 115-116). One important implication of this
is that there is no linear movement from the
concrete to the abstract any more than there is a
preferred movement from the abstract to the
concrete. In rejecting both of these dichotomies,
Dewey argued that the realities of life demanded
a mix of the two, depending on life circumstances, and that the end of education was "to
secure a working balance" (1933, p. 228) between the two. This was to be done with respect
to individual dispositions toward concrete and
abstract thought in the context of social life.
Perhaps this reflects an application of the principles of continuity and interaction that were
To close this section, we return to Dewey's
central question that we posed at the beginninghow is it that experience is educative? Dewey's
practical answer in applying his philosophy of
learning and knowledge was in the form of using
projects as a means for producing learning from
experience. He set forth four criteria (1933, pp.
217-18) that were necessary for "projects to be
1. must generate interest
2. must be worthwhile intrinsically
3. must present problems that awaken new
curiosity and create a demand for information
4. must cover a considerable time span and
be capable of fostering development over
Application of these criteria involves linking
the principles of continuity and interaction, the
process of problematization and inquiry, and the
phases of reflective thought. These criteria are
probably the clearest example of how to apply
Dewey's theory to service-learning.
Citizenship, Community and Democracy
This section draws upon Dewey's social and
political philosophy. The primary works considered here are, Democracy and Education (1916),
The Public and its Problems (1946b), The School
and Society (1900) and Problems of Men (1946a)
(While the latter is an anthology of earlier works,
it contains an introduction written specifically for
the collection). As we move from Dewey's
educational philosophy to his social philosophy it
is important to note that the major works in this
latter area were attempts to link the two; the use