Balancing service and learning in service-learning

Post Thumbnail

Formalizing opportunities for service-learning is increasingly important to schools of medicine, both for the inherent merits of service-learning itself (for both learners and communities), as well as for accreditation considerations.

The Future of Medical Education in Canada (FMEC) report places a strong emphasis on social accountability, and service-learning is integral to carrying out this mandate: “Central to these social accountability initiatives is the provision of a comprehensive education for physicians that will enable them to respond directly to the ever-changing health care needs of the communities they serve” (FMEC, p. 16).

Ways forward suggested in the FMEC document include:

  • Provide greater support to medical students and faculty as they work in community advocacy and develop closer relationships with the communities they serve.
  • Provide students with opportunities to learn in low-resource and marginalized communities as well as international settings. To emphasize student and patient safety in a socially and ethically accountable framework, students should experience adequate training and preparation prior to working in these communities and should have adequate support throughout. (p. 17).

As well, service-learning projects can provide students with opportunities to develop many aspects of the CanMEDS competencies in community settings, enhancing our existing classroom and hospital-based curriculum.

But what, exactly, is service-learning? There are many definitions of service-learning (one reference points to 147 definitions in the literature) and many interpretations of what service-learning may look like.

The LCME has defined service-learning as “a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Medical students engaged in service-learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens and professionals.”

It’s also helpful to consider this chart (from Marquette University in Milwaukee) which illustrates the differences among community service, service-learning, and internships.

Marquette University SL Chart

Source: http://www.marquette.edu/servicelearning/images/CommunityServiceTable.jpg

Regardless of variations in definitions, service-learning is always a three-part process which incorporates preparation, service, and reflection.

The core components of service learning include:

  • Formal, deliberate preparation, which includes consulting with the members of the community who will be served by a project and which may include classroom instruction or another form of mentorship/coaching. A plan, detailing both the intended service and learning outcomes is created.
  • The “service” and “learning” are completed
  • The learner reflects on the process, the service and the learning. (This may occur throughout the project or period of service). The learner provides evidence of learning. (This could be provided in different ways, for example, through written reflections or an interview with a preceptor).

Some things to consider when thinking about incorporating a service-learning project into an existing course or a student-developed learning plan:

  • Time & Scope: Is this in addition to, or as a replacement for, an existing project or assignment? There may be ways to extend or expand existing assignments to allow for service-learning. How much time can students realistically devote to the project both to make it a success and in light of other academic and personal responsibilities?
  • Goals: How does the project relate to curricular objectives and individual students’ learning goals? How does the project serve the community group or agency’s goals? An individual or group of students may have short-term goals that feed into an agency’s long-term planning: A particular cohort could complete a component of a larger service-learning endeavor with subsequent cohorts carrying on with other components of the same over-arching project.
  • Mentoring & Accountability: How will students be guided and supervised during the project? Is this responsibility shared between an instructor and community member or does one person have the lead? How will students’ learning be assessed and documented?

Encouraging opportunities for service-learning should in no way suggest that other, equally-worthy, voluntary service is not valued by the School of Medicine, Queen’s or the wider Kingston community (and other communities in which our students find themselves). However, because of the integrated nature of service-learning, it has the potential to provide unique opportunities for our students and our communities. The Professional Foundations Committee is exploring ways to address service-learning formally in the UGME Curriculum.

If you’re interested in incorporating service-learning in your course, the Education Team is available to help with your planning. Please feel free to get in touch.

One Response to Balancing service and learning in service-learning

  1. Lori Rand says:

    Great read Theresa! Such potential for meaningful student learning experiences!

Leave a Reply

Post Timeline

Students striving to make a difference in our community
Published Mon, October 23, 2017

One of the attributes that our Admissions Committee works very hard to identify in applicants is a commitment to service. This has multiple dimensions, involving service to both individual patients and communities. It’s therefore always very gratifying to learn of efforts such as that described below in todays guest article provided by students Lauren Wilson, Katherine Rabicki and Melissa Lorenzo. … Continue reading

Mentorship isn’t rocket science – or is it?
Published Mon, October 16, 2017

One of the most consequential communications in modern history took the form a letter sent by Albert Einstein to American President Franklin Roosevelt on August 2, 1939. “Sir: Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and … Continue reading

Meet Jenna Healey, the new Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine
Published Mon, October 9, 2017

The new Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine knows most Queen’s medical students aren’t going to memorize historical dates and events as a matter of routine, and that’s perfectly okay. Dr. Jenna Healey notes that instead focusing on dry facts – that these days can readily be looked up — one excellent use of history is “to … Continue reading

Curriculum Committee Information – July 27, 2017
Published Mon, October 2, 2017

Faculty and staff interested in attending Curriculum Committee meetings should contact the Committee Secretary, Candace Miller (umecc@queensu.ca), for information relating to agenda items and meeting schedules. A meeting of the Curriculum Committee was held on July 27, 2017.  To review the topics discussed at this meeting, please click HERE to view the agenda. Faculty interested in reviewing the minutes of the July … Continue reading

From campus to community: the Loving Spoonful Service Learning Project
Published Mon, October 2, 2017

By Steven Bae and Lauren Wilson, MEDS 2019 “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates Food. It is a vital part of our existence, and is a focal point in many cultures. Over the course of one year, a person who eats three meals a day consumes 1092 meals. It plays such a large role … Continue reading