Social Responsibility and Involvement
Social Responsibility and Involvement / Elana Ronen
In the Honors Program we believe that each individual is able to broaden the extent of his/her activities– as a student in an academic field of endeavor and as an involved member of the community. Developing responsibility and social involvement of students is part of their training as teachers and is essential for the molding of their personalities as leaders in society.
With this in mind an exclusive plan that combines learning in the classroom with social action in the community was devised (termed SL of Service Learning). The concept Service Learning combines service characteristics with learning characteristics, encourages social activism in the community and often has long-lasting effects on the provider as well as on the receiver of services (Eyler and Giles 1999). Learning takes place within the context of action and reflection including the student’s work, applying what he/she has learned to the problems / needs of the community and reflection on the outcomes.
Thus the students acquire understanding, skills, and experience, and connect between cognitive academic development and individual social development. Research results show that activity through SL that is based on the support of an academic course framework and involves practice and reflection has a very positive effect in training students for teaching (Davis & Moely, 2006). Since our goal is to motivate students to develop a life style which includes social activism as a necessary component, we have included an intensive program of social involvement in all teacher education studies since 1998. The program is called Community of Learners.
“Community of Learners” is an experimental framework to advance community oriented, guided learning. It aims to be a medium that constructs knowledge and encourages responsibility and social activism. The community of learners enables the creation of dialogue, in which listening and reasoning are the rule and which is conducive to learning (Lipman,1991; Shor & Fereira,1990). This research supports the idea that people who function in a positive and sensitive environment that allows for mistakes to be made, learn better (Brandt, 2000; Perkins 1998; Brooks & Brooks 1997).
In the community of learners, the moderators challenge the students with questions of educational, social and moral content. Discussions begin, there are proposals for solutions, and attempts to apply the solutions proposed in the college and in the community. By the method of discussion, observation and reflection on moral dilemmas, students arrive at the point where they choose to be active socially in the community.
This activity is a trigger to create discussion and opportunities for further learning and investigation within the community. Thus theoretical learning, community experience, reflection on community action and the moral dilemmas which they reveal can help to develop the habits which foster a life style of social activism. Research has also shown that students who are active in the SL method continue to feel a strong obligation to their work in their fields of specialization long after they have completed their college studies (Moely & Gallini, 2003). In this way we can develop a cycle in which the system that nourishes the honors students is continually rewarded by their social action (Ronen,2008).
Brooks, Jacqueline and Martin Brooks, Towards Constructivist Teaching: In the Search for Understanding, The Branco Weiss Institute, 1997
Brandt, Ron, Powerful Learning, in Yoram Harpaz (editor) Learning: New Approaches, Learning to Think, Pamphlet 19, The Branco Weiss Institute, 2000.
Perkins, David, Toward the Wise School: From Memory Training to Learning to Think, The Branco Weiss Institute, 1998.
Shor, Ira and Paulo Friere, A Pedagogy of Liberation: Dialogues for Transforming Education, 1990