Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning Fall 1996, pp. 31-43 Service-Learning Practice: Developing a Theoretical Framework Dick Cone and Susan Harris University of Southern California Service-learning has dramatically increased its impact on the American educational scene during the past few years, and new practitioners are quickly adopting the methods of integrating traditional classroom-based instruction and community service. As might be expected of practitioners, our practices are strong but our theory is sometimes found to be wanting. We have tinkered with methods to perfect practices without understanding the philosophical, psychological and social mechanisms that undergird our practices. For two decades, we have been drawing largely on Dewey, Kolb and Freire for theoretical support for our work. This paper suggests additional theoretical perspectives drawn largely from cognitive psychology and social theory. A number of constructs will be presented including concept formation, selective perception, categorization, critical reflection and mediated learning, each of which helps to explain the transformational nature of experiential education, as well as provide intellectual support for what are currently recognized as "best practices." Cheryl Gilbert' Sociology 101 Journal Entry - Week One Week One - The Setting: What are your most vivid first impressions of the site? Describe settings, people, actions and positive or negative feelings you are having. Today was my first day as a volunteer for USC's Joint Educational Project at Prairie Avenue Elementary School.2 Despite the fact that this is my third semester on campus, I have never ventured beyond Exposition Boulevard into South Central Los Angeles, and I must admit that I was scared to death. What had I gotten myself into? I had volunteered to spend two hours a week in riot-ravaged South Central LA?! Riding south on Figueroa St., which borders USC on the east, I was thinking that it didn't look much different than Minneapolis (which is about an hour's drive from where I'm from). However, the further south I traveled, the more run down the houses looked, the more boarded up stores I passed. The cars parked on driveways and along the street appeared very old, often with missing tires or broken windows. The scene changed even more dramatically after I turned onto one of the side streets. Suddenly I was thrust into a scene right out of one of the "gangsta" videos I've seen. I was very conspicuous as I rode my bike; I felt like every person I passed stared at me, a 19-year-old white girl on a shiny expensive bike, intruding where she shouldn't be. Luckily, I arrived at the school safely. As I circled the school trying to find a bicycle rack, my thoughts drifted back to Walnut Road Elementary School in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Prairie Avenue Elementary looks nothing like the spacious, lush campus that I once attended. The building was badly in need of repair and there was graffiti and trash in the neighborhood surrounding the school. How could anyone get used to this? I walked around to the front entrance and was stopped by a security guard who asked me to sign in. Once admitted, I waded through a sea of black and Mexican children to the JEP office, and then to the classroom where I am assigned as a mentor. When I met my "mentee," my heart sank. Standing in front of me was this little Mexican kid who could barely speak English. Although he was smiling and seemed happy to meet me, I could tell that he was poor and probably neglected. While I feel very strongly for the people who live in this community, I do not understand why it is that they continue to live here, subjecting their children to such unbearable conditions. These children are susceptible to picking up bad habits like stealing, lying and cheating in trying to be like the gangbangers who live in the neighborhood. Cheryl's journal entry is representative of many students venturing beyond the perimeter of the University of Southern California campus through the Joint Educational Project (JEP), a program that links service-learning courses with community schools and agencies. USC is a wealthy, influential institution3 located in a predominantly Latino and 31
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