Service Learning in Philosophy Courses


[Charles Sheeler, “Golden Gate”]

A reader has asked for suggestions about how to incorporate service learning into undergraduate philosophy courses.

“Service learning” is a combination of learning and community service. Students partake in activities to directly or indirectly help members of their community in ways that reinforce or enhance what they’re learning in the classroom.

If you have any ideas about how to use service learning in philosophy, or have done so, or are aware of helpful resources for doing so, please share your thoughts and information in the comments.

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DS
DS
4 years ago

There is a great set of resources at http://www.engagedphilosophy.com/
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Judith Norman
Judith Norman
4 years ago

Teaching students to teach philosophy to children at the grade school level is a great way to bring service learning into philosophy. Report

Julia Jorati
Julia Jorati
Reply to  Judith Norman
4 years ago

We (Ohio State) are about to start offering a service-learning course that does basically this, but at the high school level.Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
4 years ago

I’ve been approached several times to add a service learning component to my courses, and I confess to struggling mightily with the idea. Having students teach what they’ve learned to others is a great way to do service learning. It also sounds like a horrible idea for philosophy students. Frankly, the idea of my students attempting to teach grade-schoolers frightens me. Maybe my most outstanding students (maybe), but not my rank and file.

So many of the projects at Engaged Philosophy are a) great projects and b) not likely to help my students understand philosophy. They seem instead to presuppose that the hard philosophical work is done (or even the not so hard) – raising money for worthy causes, volunteering for worthy projects, etc (we know from the outset that these are worthy). But this just looks like getting students to do good things, and giving them class credit for it. Sure, students might volunteer at a homeless shelter, and then do a reflection paper on what Kant and Mill might say about such behavior. But they could get those answers by just reflecting on what Mill might say about it – the volunteering doesn’t seem to add much (if any) insight – other than tugging at one’s emotions, which might be relevant, but is a matter of great controversy.

I’m all for encouraging volunteerism, and the student groups I’m associated with do lots of just that. But that’s not service learning.Report

chris
chris
Reply to  ajkreider
4 years ago

I’ve had applied ethics students work in groups researching what services and where they could benefit their communities. The gist of the learning outcomes was to have students dialogue, deliberate, and organize with one another if/how philosophy motivates engagement in their communities, and how best they ought to be active. One take-away was that if one is persuaded by moral arguments, then one ought to be motivated to follow through on them. So rather than putting the philosophy at the end of the process as reflection on their activities, the philosophy initiates the process of planning and effecting their goals.Report

Jeanine Diller
Jeanine Diller
Reply to  chris
2 years ago

Chris that sounds really smart – if a moral argument convinces you how should it change your life? Then divide into groups of people convinced by things and figure out action steps. Two questions: which topics lend themselves well to this? And what do you do with the unconvinced? Report

Greg Oakes
Greg Oakes
4 years ago

Thanks for doing this, Justin.
I am considering having my students work in groups or teams to develop philosophical conversations with non-philosophical audiences. We have some interest from local youth and elderly groups. I’m going to do this in conjunction with an Ancient Greek philosophy course, so we’ll have a variety of topics available. I may make a list of available topics available to our audiences in advance, let them choose, something along those lines.
Will report again after the fact – fall 2017.Report