Schulz Information Center

“Service-learning has come to be one of the means by which students learn philosophy and confront foundational questions of meaning, value, and responsibility.” 1
—David A. Hoekema

SSU faculty member

Service-Learning in Philosophy

Thank you for your interest in service-learning in Philosophy. The CCE can help you create or deepen your service-learning class. We provide models of other courses, sample syllabi, resources for course construction, reflective analysis tools, and risk management support.

Service-learning activity usually falls into two categories:

TYPE 1) Teaching/tutoring/sharing knowledge from the class
Example: Philosophy students at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, took part in a service-learning course titled Perspectives on Poverty. The students partnered with elementary school students at Alexander Hamilton School. “Our group experience has covered work with children at each grade level K-5, with a multi-grade special-needs classroom, and with the resource room and the computer science laboratory.” They helped tutor the young children in reading, writing, and computer work. They were also called upon to “help teach sportsmanship and cooperative play through sports and games.” The university students reflected a common theme, and that noticing the “impact of poverty in other arenas of the children’s lives on their experience at school…” Also, seeing “‘discipline problems’ in this context enabled (the) students to get beyond simple solutions such as heavier discipline.” Back in the classroom, the university students discussed the topic of “deserving versus undeserving poor, and what criteria might distinguish these groups.” The community partner felt the students eased the burden of overseeing the elementary students and the work has been “well-received by the teachers” and the children have been “thrilled at the interaction with and attention from young adults.” 2

TYPE 2) Using information in the class to do something with/for a community organization. Example: Students at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, used service-learning experiences within the framework of philosophical works by Aristotle, Plato, Kant, and Hobbes to solidify what they were learning in class. Their community partners ranged from working with residents in a domestic violence shelter, to serving residents in a nursing home, to performing an interracial or interfaith service at a community center. They touched on intellectual virtues and moral virtues, and the “relationship between a well-lived life and a good community.” One of the guidelines is the “philosophical ground that it provides students with richer experiences with which to evaluate postmodern depictions of reason and pervasively racial, gendered, or ethnocentric in character.” One student reflected, “I think we need to adopt the Platonic concept of community policing. All too often we say, ‘we shouldn’t get involved’ or ‘it’s not my problem.’ I think the community needs to stand up to the abusers to let them know that their actions are unacceptable.” 3

Please contact us for more information.

Joshua Glasgow and Andy Wallace have instructed several service-learning classes and may be willing and able to share advice.

1 Hoekama, David A. Foreword. Beyond the Tower: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Philosophy.ix-xii. Eds. C. David Lisman and Irene E. Harvey. Sterling: Stylus, 2006. Print.

2 Magid, C. “Service-Learning in Perspectives on Poverty.” Beyond the Tower: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Philosophy Eds. C. David Lisman and Irene E. Harvey. Sterling: Stylus, 2006. 167-183. Print.

3 Valentine, E. “Service-Learning as a Vehicle for Teaching Philosophy.” Beyond the Tower: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Philosophy Eds. C. David Lisman and Irene E. Harvey. Sterling: Stylus, 2006. 139-166. Print.