Civic Learning Across the Disiciplines- The Proven Practice of Service Learning

This past Thursday, the  Illinois Democracy Schools Network continued with its C.L.A.D. (Civic Learning Across Disciplines) webinar series. Dr. Joseph Kahne, Ted and Jo Dutton Presidential Professor for Education Policy and Politics and Co-Director of the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at the University of California, Riverside, presented “Understanding the Proven Practice of Service Learning”. In his presentation,   he considered the background of civic participation by youth, recent changes to that participation, how the context for civic education has changed, and how informed action and service learning continue to offer opportunities for young people to politically engage: students can learn skills, develop identity, practice reflection and feel that they are making a difference. This was followed by a few members of the Democracy Schools Network sharing recent service learning projects that serve as examples of these positive attributes. Teachers created these projects while enrolled in the Guardians of Democracy course on Informed Action through Service Learning:

  • Kelly Van Hout (Hinsdale South, 2020) outlined several service learning projects that her students were involved in as they explored the question “What is Community”. Here is link that provides more details about her projects.
  • Jason Artman (Mendota, applicant school, 2022) and his colleague Aaron Sester, had their social studies students look at the intersection of environmental science and civics with the essential question, “How responsible are we for preserving the environment for the future?” You can read more about this project here.
  •  Barbara Lindauer (Collinsville, 2016) shared a Women’s History project that her students created last spring, considering the question “How do you define success?”  (Unfortunately, Barbara could not attend, but a summary of her project was shared.) Read more about her project here. 

In the discussion that followed, participants and Dr. Kahne spoke about some of the challenges with this proven practice: the time and preparation, assessment, less time for other curricular concerns, and pushback from the community.  Several teachers offered ideas about these issues and possible solutions: having administrative support, rethinking desired outcomes for the course and expanding methods of assessment. 

Several resources were offered by participants, the Democracy Schools Advisory Council and Mary Ellen Daneels,  Director of Illinois Civics Hub and Illinois Democracy Schools:

  • The Guardians of Democracy offers a 5-week course in Informed Action through Service Learning, where Dr. Joe Kahne is one of the featured academic experts.  Further details here.
  • A comprehensive toolkit on Informed Action/Service Learning is available from the Illinois Civics Hub. 
  • Educating 4 Democracy website, a collection of teacher resources and videos to help prepare youth for democracy sponsored by the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) 

If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording here.  Access other sessions in our CLAD series at the Illinois Democracy Schools Network Webinar Archive. 

The Illinois Civics Hub and the Illinois Democracy Schools Network continue to offer free after-school PD from many of the organizations highlighted above, including the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), and the Civic Education Research Group (CERG). A description for each webinar and information to register for professional development credits through the DuPage Regional Office of Education is available on the Illinois Civics Hub Professional Development Calendar. 

The Illinois Civics Hub also has a newsletter that shares our free PD that is open to all. You can subscribe here!