Learning and service: how to train committed and fair citizens


Our Social Education students arrive at the first year and immediately go out to collaborate in the Polígono Sur, an area of ​​social transformation in Seville. Part of their practical training is carried out at the Andalusia Infant and Primary School, giving support to children in interactive groups .

It is a service-learning experience (SL) that implies, neither more nor less, giving back to society part of what it receives from it, which is separated from the traditional image of the university as isolated from the world and is committed to a dedicated and liberating teaching .

The ApS is an active methodology based on experience through which students learn and develop curricular competencies while being linked to the real needs of their environment, in order to transform it. But it is more than that, it is a philosophy of education that connects with what has come to be called the third mission of the university or University Social Responsibility (RSU) for the promotion of sustainability in the university that the CRUE supported in 2015.

This way of understanding the mission of the university has developed ostensibly in recent years in Spain as an instrument of change from higher education institutions. In the ApS, students detect in their immediate context a situation with which they are committed to transformation, developing a solidarity service project that serves to give meaning and develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values ​​in light of the different subjects they study in the University. The students expect this practical training , situated and in relation to social problems and demands.

Learning and engagement

The SL is not something new, but an original mixture of several factors well established by active pedagogies or popular education: experiential learning and commitment to the community. The ApS puts them in value at the end of the service with the curricular link. A multitude of investigations have shown that the ApS is a methodology that enhances social commitment , education for intercultural citizenship, while maintaining academic excellence and commitment of students.

To delve into this certainty, a comparative study of the results obtained by the students was carried out through a traditional methodology that is developed entirely between the walls of the classrooms and another group of students participating in an SL experience.

In this work, the results are reflected in favor of the group that integrates curricular learning with the performance of community service activities where the student body assumes a leading role, placing special emphasis on critical and intercultural analysis and understanding of the real social problems and needs of the student. environment, getting involved in the construction of a more just and equitable society.

Civic and inclusive university

From this perspective, the ApS is a valuable didactic methodology for the inclusion of sustainability in university curricula in tune with a “ committed civic university ” with contemporary issues in line with the Sustainable Development Goals for the training of university students, being able to focus on areas such as support for education, the environment, international cooperation, health promotion, support for groups with needs, functional diversity, intercultural citizenship, etc.

Therefore, to speak of SL is to speak of a teaching practice committed to the development of essential values ​​for the construction of democratic societies, but also at the institutional level (the University) with the mission of forming a critical and committed citizenry .

For this, networking and collaborative and cooperative work are required, which breaks down the barriers of the spaces and times of the subjects, which link formal and non-formal educational contexts, ranging from the academic to the associative world.

In short, it is an approach that can be used in all undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and that plays an essential role as a strategy for the projection of curricular sustainability outside the university classroom through real and complex activities, with a significant ethical component and critical reflection.

This way of understanding education promotes intercultural citizenship of students from civic commitment to the needs associated with sustainability.

The post-Covid era, in which social problems have been magnified worldwide, is the opportune time to implement learning and service experiences as a fundamental strategy for a quality education aligned with the principles of a University committed to social reality and education. sustainable development.

Author Bio: Rosa M. Rodríguez-Izquierdo is Professor of the Department of Education and Social Psychology at Pablo de Olavide University (2004 to the present)