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Mrs. Roxanne Greenidge-Waithe Adjunct Lecturer, Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute
PhD Candidate, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, School of Education
#94 Hibiscus House, 4th Avenue Woodbourne Park St. Philip, Barbados. BB18047
246-420-4019 (h) 246-230-2691 (m) firstname.lastname@example.org
Lessons in Community Service Learning: Implications for Tourism Educators The tourism and travel curriculum needs to be as dynamic as the industry it serves hence tutors are expected to use innovative ways to enhance students‟ learning. This research reports the efforts of a tourism instructor who used action research to introduce community service learning into a core course at the Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute. The paper makes a case for four key factors that can lead to a sustainable community service learning tourism with specific emphasis on implications for the educator. In particular, action research has significantly transformed the context for my teaching practice and cultivated an appreciation for the value of teacher and student reflection.
Keywords: community service learning, curriculum, tourism, action research
This paper considers how community service learning experiences can be developed using lessons learnt from an action research project executed in Barbados.LESSONS IN COMMUNITY SERVICE LEARNING: IMPLICATIONS FOR TOURISM EDUCATORS There is no easy way to evaluate the extent to which a teacher or a course is boring but students have their own way of communicating boredom. absenteeism. I propose that community service learning. also referred to as service-learning (Kinsley 1997 and Furco 1996). The Tourism Education Context in Barbados The two main institutions responsible for tourism education in Barbados are the Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute and the University of the West Indies Cave Hill where students can read for an Associate Degree or Bachelor of Science in Tourism respectively. classroom attendance is an unavoidable requirement. and nowadays they send text messages during class. The fact is that for taught modules. is a viable alternative for enlivening academic courses and engaging students to gain knowledge through action instead of typical lecture sessions. educators have options for modifying their teaching practice and creating exciting learning experiences for their students during teaching time. incessant chatter. glazed over eyes. Although the national curriculum as posited by the Barbados Ministry of 3 . However.
However. and strategic partnerships with community members. there are usually concerns regarding local access to target communities and student safety. authentic experiences and flexible learning supported by community involvement. continuous reflection. Instead. Furthermore. 4 . student permits.Education (Curriculum 2000) advocates the materialization of active learners schooled using continuous assessment. In addition to financial resources. in 2004 I embarked on an action research project and introduced community service learning in one of my courses to see whether it would enhance my students‟ learning experience. Lesson Outline The ensuing discussion will involve talking about the findings of the study. a culture of teamwork within the faculty. As a tutor for the Tourism and Travel at the Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute. I will use the project to explain the four key factors that have so far sustained the community service learning programme at the Hospitality Institute: a dynamic syllabus. teacher preparation and corporate backing. curricular activities at The Hospitality Institute that give tourism students experience in practical tasks which are not taught in the classroom setting are often expensive to run and difficult to administer considering transportation costs. the purpose here is not to report results. the reality is that the curriculum in these tertiary-level schools is still principally exam driven.
were resistant to alternative forms of assessment other than pencil and paper tests. I refer to the challenges of implementing community service learning. preferring instead to write copious notes in preparation for an end of term exam.I discuss these factors within the context of four lessons learned since introducing community service learning into a Tourism and Travel course. They disliked group work and in-class discussions. 5 . I conclude my discussion with some thoughts on the implications these lessons have for my future teaching practice and for those who might be considering community service learning for their courses. The first lesson explains what community service learning means to me as a course instructor. The second lesson demonstrates the influence of action research in promoting a dynamic syllabus. new entrants to the Hospitality Institute. In the third lesson. evaluation and change. Lesson #1 – On What is Community Service Learning My interest in community service learning was propelled by a need to address some significant trends that were happening in my classes: The first year students. The final lesson considers the power of reflection as a tool for course feedback.
Preliminary investigations highlighted Community Service Learning as a feasible teaching method which can potentially enrich teaching and learning. Bringle & Hatcher. Furco (1996) explains that community service learning is a method of teaching which connects classroom content to the community in a way that is helpful to others. 2007). when they were assigned simple projects they generally had difficulty in using critical analysis and problem solving skills to achieve project goals. Community service learning is also known as service-learning. Considering that I wanted my students to have more meaningful learning experiences. and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility (Waterman. 1998). and they use the experience generated to gain a deeper understanding of the course content. The requisite conditions are that students engage in a wide range of activities that are of benefit to others. Despite the fact that they had chosen a career in hospitality and tourism. 1997. some students were intimidated by the prospect of interacting with the public or even delivering oral in-class presentations. community-based learning. Moreover. and experiential learning (Mass-Weigert. a broader appreciation of their chosen discipline. I commenced an action research project to explore the possibility of successfully 6 .
implementing Community Service Learning as an effective learning methodology for one of the core modules in the Tourism and Travel Programme. 7 .” This definition encapsulates the rationale for my study because I wanted to find out if community service learning can be integrated into an existing tourism course and make student learning more meaningful. For instance. In my estimation. the 2010 Tourism System curriculum includes a new module on climate change which requires students to put on a puppet show for primary school students featuring this topic as part of their service learning experience. I launched the pilot project in 2004. Community Service Learning is an academic initiative whereby students collaborate with persons in the community to strengthen the lessons they learn in class and improve their understanding of the curriculum. and is gaining new dimensions with execution of every . the service-learning course was officially established the following year. Lesson #2 – Action Research Complements Community Service Learning McCutcheon and Jung (1990:144) describe educational action-research as “any inquiry teachers undertake to understand and improve their own practice.
2000. Through action learning. individuals learn with and from each other by working on real problems and reflecting on their own experiences. This simple learning cycle captures the main features of the action research and action learning sequence. Kemmis & McTaggart. when I first introduced community service learning into the Tourism and Travel curriculum. act. I followed an action research cycle as illustrated in Figure 1.” Plan. vital components of „community‟. However. with an intention of getting things done. through simultaneous processes of inquiry and learning. for the introduction of service-learning because the course topics are primarily concerned with people. and me the instructor. Each time I implement the community service learning course it takes the students. supported by colleagues. The overall objective of the course is to provide students with an understanding of how the global tourism system operates.Closely related to the notion of action research is that of action learning. 2007). Cohen et al. Changing the Curriculum I selected The Tourism System. a first year course for the Tourism and Travel programme. observe. 8 . places and enterprise. which according to McGill and Beaty (2001:11) is “a continuous process of learning and reflection.. and reflect (Kolb 1984.
1995.I used a Curriculum Development Form (Kinsley & McPherson. Research Participants The research group consisted of 39 first-year Tourism and Travel students registered for the academic year 2004-2005. a registered charity institution in Barbados that offers outreach s to the underprivileged through academic. the European Union and other tourism agencies. and use organizational. Exley. However the key service-learning „product‟ and evidence of their learning is the staging of a Global Tourism Fair. Student teams have also forged partnerships with community based organizations such as The Barbados Sindhi Association and The Israel Lovell Foundation. the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 2001) as a framework to produce a revised module for the Tourism System course. networking and negotiation skills. are the service-learning elements which requires students to complete a series of tasks during the term. Other participants in this study were the 65 tutorial and 75 9 . This activity calls for students to build on the theoretical concepts they learn in class. do research. The most obvious difference between the original and modified course. skills-training and creative arts classes. Students therefore initiate contact and interact directly with tourism industry persons to gather information about the various global tourism destinations. Their inquiries have so far included collaboration with various local embassies.
My approach was to gather information on two sets of variables. Students‟ responses were analyzed to see whether their views changed after having undergone the programme. In terms of students‟ experiences I wanted to gage their reactions to service-learning. For my study I defined „community‟ as those persons or agencies with whom the students form enterprising relationships and those who routinely interact with staff at the Hospitality Institute. and to examine how it would affect their performance. I administered a Pre-service learning Survey to measure students‟ attitudes and perceptions prior to their engagement in community service learning.ancillary staff members at The Hospitality Institute plus community partners. Figure 2 illustrates the techniques used to gather this information. students‟ service-learning experiences and curricular issues. Before instruction. and at the end of the course they filled out a Post-service Survey that rated their service-learning experience and tested their level of interest in the community. 10 . Data Collection I used several vehicles for data collection in order to understand what was happening at each stage of the research.
the knowledge gained through in-class instruction and their ability to synthesize and communicate this information to others. Since I essentially changed the curriculum. I used in-class presentations and reflection worksheets to measure students‟ knowledge about the Tourism System and to test their ability to think critically. I started a learning log to document changes and reflect on my own classroom practice. The Global Tourism Fair was the most critical output for evaluating the students‟ servicelearning experience because it assessed the extent of their learning from community partners. This strategy included recording notes from notable tutor/student exchanges. Results Some key results from the study include: (i) community service learning can be effectively integrated into core courses for the Tourism and Travel Curriculum 11 . as well as other related experiences. I interviewed other instructors at The Institute to find out which instructional methods or innovative techniques they employ to keep students motivated to learn.During instruction. and to investigate their level of interest in community service learning. Additionally. meetings with staff and community partners.
It facilitates a dynamic syllabus because each time I implement the community service learning course I draw on best practices from the previous programme. (iv) Community members were interested in the development and education of students and supported their service-learning project. 12 . I learn from my students as much as they learn from me. organization. communication. The learning is symbiotic. creative. I have two points to make in this lesson. The first is that my study demonstrates the possible power of action research and action learning to change an everyday course into an extraordinary community service learning programme. Secondly. action research never stops.(ii) Students responded positively to this method of teaching and learning but encountered time management problems to complete the necessary work for other courses (iii) Students reported that the service-learning project impelled them to develop interpersonal. I continuously question my teaching practice and at the same time learn from this process. problem-solving and time management skills.
Curry (1991) asserts that for a community college to successfully integrate servicelearning into the institutional culture. As the research progressed. I remained 13 . When I first discussed my proposal with the director of The Institute. The most frustrating moments were when I encountered resistance or indifference when I asked for help. I received immediate approval for the service-learning initiative. I persisted and habitually sought faculty I invited them to assess advice and involvement in the service-learning activities.Lesson #3 – Expect Challenges Holland (1997) contends that because community service learning is relatively new. the main barrier to building greater academic legitimacy for this method of teaching is skepticism on the part of educators who do not see the value of service-learning as pedagogy. the response from other faculty members was not so encouraging even though I distributed materials to explain the programme and I delivered a presentation on my proposed plans. to participate in the Global Tourism Fair. staff and administrators must be part of the activities associated with the innovation. faculty. and used any opportunity to sensitize faculty about the potential benefits of community service learning programmes and also to solicit their support for the project. students‟ in-class presentations. However. This has been my experience.
Implementing a community service learning project is extremely time-consuming. However. skeptics can be reached by demonstrating the value. 2000). 14 . succeeded because of their contributions. act. members of the administrative staff. Evidently. the most important community service learning activity. efficacy and legitimacy of community service learning (Ramaley. and individuals from the management team had participated in some aspect of the programme. I partnered with three fellow tutors along with their first year students from the Culinary Arts Associate Degree Programme to stage the Tourism Global Fair. The implementation of the Global Tourism Fair. The obstacles I faced were consistent with findings of studies conducted by Anderson and Pickeral (1999) and Holland (2001): 1. By the end of the first course in 2004. faculty at The Institute endorsed servicelearning. reflect’ provides structure for the process.committed to the programme and eventually. In 2008. many fellow tutors. Those who attempt community service learning can expect other challenges along the way. observe. I maintain that the action research cycle of „plan.
Additionally. The instructor and institution are accountable for any issues associated with incorporating community partners into the service-learning programme. 4. I provide my students with a Student Resource Kit which outlines strict guidelines for engagement with community partners. 3. Service-learning absorbs large blocks of student time and sometimes encroaches on their work for other courses. I allocate time during class for student groups to work on their service-learning project. For this reason. At the heart of this lesson is the idea that community service learning can only be sustained where there is a culture of teamwork within the institution. 5. There is no training for teachers in my locale on „how to use service-learning‟. I eliminated the problem of sending students offsite to conduct all their service-learning activities by arranging for the community partners to participate in classroom presentations during the semester and at the Global Tourism Fair which is held at the Hospitality Institute. Service-learning projects require a strong budget and I have had to omit or change activities over the years depending on the school‟s financial constraints. 15 . For my project. I would have liked a mentor who had some knowledge about service-learning to help me execute the first course. and partnership with community groups.2.
I also suggest here that while teachers can expect real challenges when introducing a service-learning course. The goal of reflection is to construct meaning from experience (Kraft & Kielsmeier. Lesson #4 – On the Power of Reflection Reflection is the use of creative and critical thinking skills to help prepare for. The sheets consisted of 4 or 5 questions that asked students to reflect on what they were learning from project. Kinsley and McPherson (1995) explain that reflection provides instructors with the means to assess the experiential learning that occurs when students participate in servicelearning activities outside the classroom. Reflection also allows students to connect the new knowledge with the formal knowledge obtained from instructional sessions inside the classroom. 1995. to account for their specific contributions and to evaluate their interaction with persons in the community. 1994). 2005 ). 16 . succeed in. the action research cycle ensures a systematic approach to execution and helps to surmount any problems. I devised reflection worksheets for use throughout the course to provide feedback about student learning. Connor & Seifer.. Each student submitted individual reflection worksheets at four critical stages in the service-learning programme. and gain knowledge from the service-learning experience (Follman et al.
This means that 17 . I reviewed past events from my learning log and from the students‟ reflection worksheets. rationalized what was happening with the servicelearning course and then took the necessary steps to ensure that loopholes were addressed. Conclusion Admittedly. was scheduled during a regular semester period.. In the first instance. which involved a course for credit. my study. According to Blyth et al. there were limitations in my research that have implications for potential practitioners of community service learning. The power of reflection is that it presents an opportunity for us to learn from past experiences and change our actions for a better future. reflection is a permanent feature in all of my courses because by encouraging students to reflect I acquire continuous feedback on instruction and it impels them (and me) to think about what they are learning. (1997) service-learning is likely to be more effective when students are repeatedly involved with community partners and they have a chance to grow and engage in problem solving through progression in learning. Now.Reflection was an invaluable tool for my research because it was a way of looking back to see how to proceed onwards.
However. Given the tremendous pressure on teachers to complete their syllabi and prepare students for exams. they their roles have changed from passive to active participants in the students‟ learning. I understand that it is difficult to change educational practice. Secondly.ideally. it has had a transformative effect that extends beyond my classroom walls: Service-learning has changed the way I teach. Some of the applications in servicelearning may not be appropriate for students undertaking conventional courses. students who do my community service learning course in their first year should follow on with this method in other subjects they take during their academic tenure. My syllabus evolves to suit student needs and industry trends. since I introduced community service learning six years ago. Nevertheless. my study was also limited by the characteristics of the students in the sample. It changes the way students are accustomed to learning For the academic board it meant changing the way the course is administered For community partners. The students in the sample consisted only of those enrolled in year one of the Tourism and Travel elective at the Hospitality Institute. I 18 .
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LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 . Revise REFLECT ACT course. OBSERVE change. Make Teach revised decisions for course. Modified from Kemmis & McTaggart (1981) Figure 2 – Data Gathering for Student Service-Learning Experiences Student Service-Learning Experience Data Collection Method Attitudes and Values Pre and Post Service learning survey Knowledge competence and subject matter In-class presentations Cognitive and critical thinking skills Reflection worksheets Educational Attainment Service Learning Project 24 . instruments.Action Research Cycle for Introducing Service-Learning PLAN Ask questions about practice. Review Design (data) experiences. Do research. Collect and analyze data while course is in progress.
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