Service Learning: Special Education Inclusion
By Corey Watt
Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University
Service-Learning is a teaching/ learning method that connects meaningful community service experiences with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility (North Carolina Public Schools 2005).is a teaching/ learning method that connects meaningful community service experiences with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility (North Carolina Public Schools 2005).
Inclusion refers to the practice of placing students with disabilities in the general education classroom for instruction (Lerner 2000).
Special Education is classroom or private instruction involving techniques, exercises, and subject matter designed for students whose learning needs cannot be met by a standard school curriculum (Dictionary.com. 2005).
The concepts of Service-Learning and Special Education Inclusion have long and very independent histories, but have grown to compliment each other well. Service Learning can be traced back to the creation of Land Grant Institutions, such as Michigan State University in 1855, and the Morrill Act of 1862 which was signed by Abraham Lincoln and officially established these schools. These colleges were designed where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanical arts (The University of Minnesota and Titlebaum, et. al. 2005). This pioneered a hands-on approach to learning that inspired a method that has been important in the education and job training of students with disabilities.
Special Education, specifically Inclusion, has not had the most glamorous or supported history. Major steps in the evolution of Inclusion have come in the past 30 years beginning with The Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 that paved the way for better articulated legislation that was more specific in its outlining of requirements and programming for the disabled. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 was implemented by the Department of Education in 1999 and is considered civil rights legislation that guarantees education to individuals with disabilities (Lerner 2000).
Several organizations around the country have curriculum and project information that are being more widely used to teach children in special education settings lessons through experience rather than classroom instruction. The transition from secluding children with mental and physical disabilities has given way to concepts of integrating all children in activities that serve their peers or the community. This historically uncommon approach has proven beneficial and is being duplicated and growing rapidly.
Service Learning: Special Education Inclusion is somewhat new in the evolving concepts of both Special Education and Service Learning. It is beneficial to educators and the community because it teaches life skills and useful talents to individuals who have historically been demeaned and dismissed by society.
While teaching students about philanthropy and the simple concepts of selfless giving and purposeful actions, it also allows for the inclusion and participation of a variety of people and teaches people a greater tolerance for others.
Further, a national study of Learn and Serve America programs suggests that effective service-learning programs improve grades, increase attendance in school, and develop students' personal and social responsibility (Learn and Serve America 2005).
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Philanthropy is defined as the desire to benefit humanity: a desire to improve the material, social, and spiritual welfare of humanity, especially through charitable activities (Microsoft 2005). The idea of teaching children lessons about life and the world that surrounds them in a way that doesn’t just speak about topics, but encourages action is key to philanthropy.
The ability to do good deeds and to help others doesn’t have to wait for motivation or opportunity. Involving special education students in activities as an integrated part of their studies where they are not just hearing a suggestion to do things, but they are actively participating in projects that teach them what to do and how to accomplish it while they get the intrinsic rewards for doing good work.
Key Related Ideas
Volunteerism is a concept that means "donating your time to a charity" (Houk 2005). This is a popular way to give back to your community and is something that anyone can do. It is similar to Service Learning minus the intentional organizational and educational components. is a concept that means "donating your time to a charity" (Houk 2005). This is a popular way to give back to your community and is something that anyone can do. It is similar to Service Learning minus the intentional organizational and educational components.
Mainstreaming refers to the practice of gradually placing selective students with learning disabilities in the regular education classroom for instruction, when teachers believe the child will benefit from an integrated placement (Lerner 2000).refers to the practice of gradually placing selective students with learning disabilities in the regular education classroom for instruction, when teachers believe the child will benefit from an integrated placement (Lerner 2000).
Least Restrictive Environment is a portion of special education law that surrounds the concept of Inclusion and indicates that children with disabilities should, to the greatest extent appropriate, be instructed with children who do not have disabilities (Lerner 2000).
Important People Related to the Topic
- Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.: Kaye is the author of Parent Involvement in Service Learning and The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, and Social Action. She was a classroom teacher and National Service Learning Consultant. She has worked with state departments of education, universities and school districts, and the PBS television show "Zoom" and their "Zoom into Action" Web site, as well as, Quest International (Angel Soft 2005). Kaye is the author of and. She was a classroom teacher and National Service Learning Consultant. She has worked with state departments of education, universities and school districts, and the PBS television show "Zoom" and their "Zoom into Action" Web site, as well as, Quest International (Angel Soft 2005).
- David Kolb: Kolb is the author of Experimental Learning: Experience as the source of Learning Development (1984) and is considered to be a pioneer in the field of Service Learning. His writings have been critiqued, embellished, and the foundation for opposing theory (Titlebaum, et. al. 2005).
- Sylva Karayan, Ph.D. and Paul Gathercoal, Ph.D.: Karayan is the director Special Education Program and Gathercoal is the Director of Curriculum & Instruction at the California Lutheran University’s School of Education. They wrote a piece called, Service Learning in Special Education: From the "Deficit Model" to a "Model of Empowerment" which researched the characteristics of teachers (and students) using "special education preservice teacher candidates" at their school from 1996-2000 (Karayan and Gathercoal 2005).
- Dr. Dwight Giles and Dr. Janet Eyler: Giles is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Eyler is a professor at Vanderbilt University. Both are co-recipients of the 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. Collectively they have published six books, 59 book chapters, articles, and reports, and given more than 230 conference presentations. Giles and Eyler have published research agendas on strategies for service-learning, as well as special issues for the Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning (Campus Compact 2005).
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 to help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations. The Foundation believes that quality service-learning, by engaging youth in their schools and communities can: boost students’ academic achievement, foster a lifetime commitment to civic participation, improve personal development skills, and prepare students to enter the workforce. (http://www.wkkf.org/)
- Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) states that they are the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted. They advocate for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides continual professional development, advocate for newly and historically underserved individuals with exceptionalities, and help professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice. (http://www.cec.sped.org)
- Citizens Alliance To Uphold Special Education (CAUSE) was formed in 1975 by some of the consumer and provider organizations who had originally created the Citizens Committee for Mandatory Special Education in 1970 and drafted the Mandatory Special Education Law (Public Act 198) and worked to achieve its passage in 1971. CAUSE serves as an advocacy group throughout Michigan and offers free workshops and information to anyone who needs assistance.The Michigan Department of Education and Special Education Services fund a portion of the information, referral activities, and other services for parents. (http://www.causeonline.org/)
Related Web Sites
Learning*In*Deed Website, at at http://learningindeed.org/index.html, offers information on the background and application of service-learning. It has resources and links to national organizations and The W.K. Kellogg Foundation which started the Learning*In*Deed Initiative.
Nation Service-Learning Clearinghouse Website, at http://www.servicelearning.org/, has hundreds of articles and links about Service Learning, Special Education Inclusion, and the combination of both available on their website.
New Horizons for Learning Website, at http://www.newhorizons.org, is funded by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State. It offers reproducible materials and the ability to connect with professionals and informational sections, such as Teaching and Learning strategies that contain writings about a variety of topics.
Yes I Can! Website, at http://ici.umn.edu/yesican/, is The University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration’s program designed to enhance social and recreational opportunities of young adults with disabilities. The program teaches interested students with and without disabilities to effectively work together to ensure that youth with disabilities are included in recreational and social activities of their choice within the communities in which they live.
North Carolina Public Schools Website, at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/service_learn/, provides links and information about the concept of Service Learning, the research associated with it, and even a link with steps on How to Design a Service-Learning Program.
Learn and Serve America Website, at http://www.learnandserve.gov, is connected to the Corporation for National & Community Service and offers links to many government programs, such as Freedom Corps and others, that pertain to philanthropy and public service, as well and information on Service Learning.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Angel Soft. Service Learning Expert. Accessed 1 December 2005. http://www.angelsoft.com/angelsinaction/servicelearning/.
Campus Compact. The 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning Recipients. Accessed 2 December 2005. http://www.compact.org/awards/detail.php?id=11.
Dictionary.com. Accessed 2 December 2005. http://dictionary.reference.com/.
Houk, J T. "Volunteerism in Fund-raising: Is It Crippling America's Charities?" From the CEO. National Heritage Foundation. Accessed 2 December 2005. http://www.nhf.org/dock/dregs.htm.
Karayan, Ph.D., Sylva , and Gathercoal, Ph.D., Paul. "Service Learning in Special Education: From the "Deficit Model" to a "Model of Empowerment" ." California Lutheran University. Accessed 30 November 2005. http://public.clunet.edu/~gatherco/servicelearning/empowerment.htm.
Learn and Serve America. What is Service Learning? Accessed 2 December 2005. http://www.learnandserve.gov/.
Lerner, Janet. Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis, and Teaching Strategies. 8th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. ISBN: 061822405X.
Microsoft. Accessed 2 December 2005. http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/dictionaryhome.aspx.
North Carolina Public Schools. Learn and Serve North Carolina. Accessed 2 December 2005. http://www.ncpublicschools.org/service_learn/.
Titlebaum, Peter, Gabrielle Williamson, Corinne Daprano, Janine Baer, and Jayne Brahler. "Annotated History of Service Learning." Accessed 2 December 2005. http://www.usm.maine.edu/servicelearning/pdf/History.pdf.
The University of Minnesota. Community Involvement and Service Learning. Accessed 2 December 2005. http://www.servicelearning.umn.edu/.
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