The Potential of Service-Learning as an Effective Instructional Strategy in Middle School Social Studies Classrooms
This paper examines the current research and theories concerning service-learning and its potential as an effective instructional strategy in middle school social studies classrooms. Traditional social studies classrooms rely mostly on textbooks and class lectures. Students learn knowledge by rote memorization, without seeing their learning connected to real-world settings. However, in recent years researchers and teachers have paid increasing attention to student-directed investigation methods and see their potential as instructional strategies in K-12 classrooms. One of these methods is service-learning, which combines authentic community services with integrated academic outcomes. Although service-learning has been used for teaching various subjects to students of all ages, the goal of social studies and the unique characteristics of middle school students make it particularly suitable for middle school social studies learners. This paper begins with the use of service-learning in a broader context. Then the potential of using service-learning to teach social studies in middle school is addressed through four specific elements: learning context, learner, curriculum and instructional strategy, and assessment. Next, the concerns and limitations of service-learning are presented. Last, this paper concludes with the recommendation of using service-learning as an effective instructional strategy in middle school social studies classrooms.