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Learning through service : community service learning and situated learning in high school Wolfson, Larry

Abstract

This dissertation explores the symbiotic relationship resulting from the merging of situated learning's socio-cultural conceptualization of the nature of learning with community service learning's ethos of service. As such, I enquired into the effects of the integration of situated learning as the conceptual framework, and community service learning as both an instructional methodology and educational philosophy. Specifically, through an ethnographic investigation I sought to discover the nature and outcomes of learning which result when high school students take their skills out of the classroom into the community to help solve authentic problems. The students with whom I worked were members of a high school computer technology class in which expectations were that they (the students) would combine learning with service by devoting ten to twenty hours to help a community agency solve technology-related problems. In this regard, eight different student groups applied their technology skills within a variety of school and community environments. Thereupon, I looked to ascertain not only if the students improved upon their already sufficient technical skills, but also what other abilities and knowledge of themselves and/or the world they appropriated. Thus, as per the defining features of situated learning and community service learning, I hoped to find evidence of learning in areas related to technological development, workplace knowledge and expertise, problem solving, group skills, personal and social maturity, and an ethos of service. Such learning occurred and, thus, I concluded that the integration of community service learning and situated learning in this technology classroom resulted in a symbiotic relationship in which the nature and specific outcomes of learning were 1) accounted for by situated learning and 2) enhanced beyond what would normally be expected in a non-service Information Technology Management classroom in the Province of British Columbia. Hence, the well documented and rigorously determined empirical findings: 1) argue that situated learning provides a viable theoretical framework for community service learning, 2) add empirical support to the learning claims of both situated learning and service learning, and 3) suggest a means of enabling education to become more responsive to the students and the community.

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