During the past year, we have witnessed several major natural disasters. Almost one year ago the devastation caused by the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in December 2004 left its imprint on all of us for many years to come. Much closer to home, we watched in horror as the disastrous impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on our own gulf coast unfolded before us in late August. As I write this column, we are trying to grasp the magnitude of the devastation brought about by the October earthquake in Pakistan. Our hearts went out to the victims of these tragic events. Given that part of Psi Chi's mission is to produce socially responsible members, the Psi Chi National Council encouraged chapters to engage in service activities to raise funds for victims of these disasters. Our chapters responded. For example, in the spring many chapters donated money to UNICEF, one of the agencies that led the aid and recovery efforts in the region affected by the tsunami and the earthquake. You can see the scope of our chapters' responses to hurricane Katrina on page 69
of this issue.
These natural disasters caught the world's attention, but there were many local needs that were urgent as well. The Sightings section of this issue highlights just some of the ways in which Psi Chi chapters reached out to those in need in their own communities. Whether in response to international, national, or local needs, service plays an important role in the life of our chapters. Indeed, as a society, Psi Chi has designated five national service projects: Adopt-a-Shelter, Archives of the History of American Psychology, Food Drives, Habitat for Humanity, and UNICEF. There are many other worthy opportunities for service as well. Conducting at least one service project during the year is one of the criteria for a Model Chapter Award. Benefits of Service for Students
Certainly the organizations for whom the service is done benefit from the activities, but there are also benefits to the service providers for service that is done on a volunteer basis or as part of a service-learning project. In addition to generating feelings of satisfaction about helping others in need (Wilson, 1998), Psi Chi service activities can benefit students in many other ways. For example, service activities can provide opportunities for students to
Service as Service Learning
- develop socially responsive knowledge and see themselves as change agents (Altman, 1996);
- forge connections with the local community and increase their awareness of community needs;
- learn about community agencies and particularly about the organizational structure, clients, and special issues of these agencies;
- gain experience at identifying social problems, increase their understanding of the complexity of these problems, and learn to develop strategies to address them (Duffy & Bringle, 1998; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Garcia & Robinson, 2005; Jacoby, 1999; Zlotkowski, 2001); and
- apply what they learned in the classroom to real-life situations thereby helping students to become active learners and critical thinkers and helping them to learn to integrate theory and practice.
Almost any Psi Chi service activity can provide opportunities for learning, but chapter advisors can enhance the likelihood that the volunteer experience will be a learning experience by structuring at least a few of the chapter's service activities as they would structure a service-learning project. Service-learning incorporates service goals and objectives (e.g., goals for the type of assistance to provide or the amount of money to raise for the agency) and learning goals and objectives (e.g., goals and objectives regarding the type of skills students will develop as a result of the experience or the core of knowledge students will gain from the experience) such that both service and learning are critical components in the experience (Duffy & Bringle, 1998; National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, n.d.). To enhance the learning component of chapters' service activities, faculty advisors could encourage chapter officers to make at least one of the chapter's service activities a service-learning project. Advisors could work with the officers to develop service and learning objectives for the project; provide an opportunity for members to reflect on, analyze, and assess the service experience; and provide an opportunity for members to discuss their experience and their thoughts about the experience with other chapter members.
Additionally, advisors could encourage chapter members to write about the chapter's service project and submit the article to Eye of Psi Chi.
This type of reflection, analysis, synthesis, and writing would help students learn at a much deeper level and develop their critical thinking and writing skills.Benefits of Service for Chapter Advisors
Engaging in service activities and mentoring chapter members in their service activities take considerable time and effort, but service activities can bring rewards and opportunities for chapter advisors as well (Andreoli Mathie, 2002). For example, engaging in service activities with chapter members can provide opportunities for faculty advisors to
- reinforce what students learn in their courses and take advantage of the teachable moments that often arise when working in real-life settings (Plater, 1995);
- serve as role models for civic responsibility and professional behavior;
- collect real-life case studies and examples of problems or issues for classroom use to increase students' interest in and enthusiasm for course material;
- form partnerships with community agencies that might serve as service-learning, field study, practicum, or internship sites for courses faculty advisors teach;
- contribute expertise to community projects and in doing so integrate theory and practice and sharpen professional skills; and
- build bridges between the community and the university or college community.
The literature on the scholarship of service (Andreoli Mathie, 2002; Andreoli Mathie, Buskist, Carlson, Davis, Johnson, & Smith, 2004; Driscoll & Lynton, 1999) offers guidance on how to document and assess service activities so that their value will be more salient in faculty evaluation documents. For example, documentation might include a personal statement that lists the goals and objectives of the activity, highlights the advisor's contributions to the project, explains how the advisor applied his or her professional expertise to the service activity, demonstrates the activity was conducted in a strategic and professional manner, summarizes the impact of the service activity on the agency and on student participants, and discusses how the activity influenced the advisor's teaching, research, and other professional activities. The documentation should also include work samples and external assessment data where possible.
As your chapter plans its service activities for the remainder of the year, I encourage your members to consider ways to incorporate both service and learning components into the activities. By doing so the benefits will be greatly multiplied for everyone involved in the project.References
Altman, I. (1996). Higher education and psychology in the millennium. American Psychologist, 51,
Andreoli Mathie, V. A. (2002). Integrating teaching and service to enhance learning. In S. F. Davis & W. Buskist (Eds.), The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer
(pp. 163-177). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum & Assoc. Inc., Pub.
Andreoli Mathie, V. A., Buskist, W., Carlson, J. F., Davis, S. F., Johnson, D. E., & Smith, R. A. (2004). Expanding the boundaries of scholarship in psychology through teaching, research, service, and administration. Teaching of Psychology, 31,
Driscoll, A., & Lynton, E. A. (1999). Making outreach visible: A guide to documenting professional service and outreach.
Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
Duffy, D. K., & Bringle, R. G. (1998). Collaborating with the community: Psychology and service-learning. In R. G. Bringle & D. K. Duffy (Eds.), With service in mind: Concepts and models for service learning in psychology
(pp. 1-17). Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
Eyler, J., & Giles, D. E. (1999). Where's the learning in service-learning?
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Garcia, R. M., & Robinson, G. (2005). Transcending disciplines, reinforcing curricula: Why faculty teach with service learning.
Retrieved on October 13, 2005, from the American Association of Community Colleges Web Site: http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Content/NavigationMenu/ResourceCenter/Projects_Partnerships/
Jacoby, B. (1999). Partnerships for service learning. In J. H. Schuh & E. J. Whitt (Eds.), Creating successful partnerships between academic and student affairs. New directions for student services #87
(pp. 19-35). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
National Service-Learning Clearinghouse (n.d.). Service-learning is ....
Retrieved October 13, 2005, from http://www.servicelearning.org/welcome_to_service-learning/service-learning_is/index.php
Plater, W. M. (1995). Future work: Faculty time in the 21st century. Change, 27
Wilson, T. L. (1998, Spring). The psychology of service learning: More than Pavlov's dog. Eye on Psi Chi, 2
Zlotkowski, E. (2001). Mapping new terrain: Service-learning across the disciplines. Change, 33