Vol. 56 No. 2 (2015): Silliman Journal
Welcome to a special issue dedicated to service-learning (S-L). Much of what you will read in this issue were presented at a twoday international gathering at Silliman University in September 2014, sponsored by the Asian Christian Faculty Fellowship (Philippines chapter) in cooperation with the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. The conference focused on “Ethics and Human Protection Issues in the Conduct of Service-Learning.” Since the mid-1990s, the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia has been instrumental in the popularization of S-L as an approach to teaching (McCann, 2014). Through several institutional grants for faculty exposure and training, partner universities and colleges in Asia learned about S-L. Service-learning was the focus at the first two national conferences of the Asian Christian Faculty Fellowship (ACFF) in the Philippines. In the gathering on 23-24 July 2003 held at Silliman University, then trustees of the United Board, Ms. Shanti Manuel and Dr. Willi Toisuta, led a panel that expounded on the significance of service-learning in higher education. The ACFF members saw its relevance to institutions that adhere to the mission of care and service to the community. On 14-15 April 2004, the second national conference held at the University of St. La Salle, Bacolod City pursued the theme “Promoting Service Learning in Philippine Higher Education.” The Philippine Commission for Higher Education (CHED) endorsed the event and encouraged faculty members to adopt the methodology of S-L. This forum deepened the discussion on the general prospects of S-L in higher education as well as specific mechanics related to conceptualizing and institutionalizing service-learning. Since then, several colleges and universities in the country have applied S-L in the teaching of their courses. Articles have been written documenting the practice of service-learning in some institutions of higher learning. In 2002, Silliman Journal devoted a special issue on S-L as experienced by the early adopters of this methodology. Recently, the collective Philippine experience in the conduct of S-L was highlighted in a series on the social commitment of universities in the world in a book report “Higher Education in the World—Knowledge, Engagement & Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change” (McCann, 2014). Over a decade of S-L application necessitates a review of the processes involved in service-learning. Thus far, articles on S-L mostly deal with the basics of its application—its nature, content, college-community tie up, and in a few cases, measurement of learning outcomes. Fewer still, if at all, are articles reflecting on the higher-order dimension of protection of human subjects or of the general ethical issues in the conduct of S-L. Given this lack of articulation on the value of ensuring human fairness and dignity of people in local communities that serve as hosts to this teaching-learning pedagogy, the ACFF-Philippines deemed it right and proper to provide a venue for the discussion of matters in this area. To start us off, Hope Antone and Betty C. McCann put the discussion of S-L in the context of the international S-L program as it confronts the realities of ethics in academic-community work. This introduction is followed by “Agenda of Higher Education Gets Accomplished Through Service Learning” by Mercy Psuhpalatha of Lady Doak College in India, “Sustaining Service-Learning” by Silliman University extension director Emy Ligutom, and “Employing Typologies of Learning for a Holistic Evaluation of ServiceLearning Students” by long-time S-L advocate and Silliman University research director Ike Oracion. Lady Doak College Principal Pushpalatha traces community work at her institution from the 1960s through service-learning programs in the 2000s and the latest development—“life frontier engagement”—with a corresponding look at the ethical problems confronted at every step. Emy Ligutom outlines the principles or phases of service-learning, namely preparation, engagement, reciprocity, reflection, and dissemination/ celebration, but underscores the importance of sustainability of S-L programs. Ike Oracion suggests utilizing Howard’s ten principles of S-L to help ensure that students engaged in S-L are evaluated fairly for their work. Academicians Andrea Soluta, Gina Bonior, and Richard Salter then look into S-L in literature, in reading, and in religion, respectively. Soluta’s “Challenges in Reconciling Cultural Beliefs with Christian and Nationalist Values in the Context of Common Ghost and Malevolent Spirit Narratives” is a particularly interesting look at how literature is taught in communities where cultural beliefs predominate. Bonior’s and Salter’s papers were not part of the S-L conference but are relevant to the conference theme. In particular, Bonior reflects on the experience of training reading teachers and attempts to answer the following questions: 1) What are the merits, limitations, and challenges of using reflective journals in pre-service education students’ initiation to the practice of teaching through a service-learning activity? and 2) How may I, as a pre-service teacher educator, improve my practice particularly in facilitating reflective thinking among pre-service education students who are engaged in S-L activity? For his part, in “Promises and Pitfalls of Moral Formation in American Civil Religion,” Salter argues that, while S-L seems like a positive thing to do, “there can also be unintended consequences of service that may undermine the very goals that service intends to achieve.” In examining this argument, Salter’s focus is on the United States and the role that service plays in American Civil Religion.