SERVICE LEARNING IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING

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Abstract

This research will study the grounds for implementing SL at University of Prishtina, by analyzing the students' attitude towards SL. It will focus in finding the most appropriate methods of how to implement SL in ESL and motivate teachers and students to be part of it. The study will be investigated through student's questionnaire, teacher's questionnaire, and focus group where students will be participating. These methods will be used in order to examine the students' experience and opinions on service learning in ESL, and teacher's preparedness and willingness to incorporate Service Learning in their ESL teaching environment.

The study will answer the research questions and validate the hypotheses. Analysis of results will be used in order to establish the grounds for implementing Service Learning into the existing curriculum in ESL programs and giving the students an opportunity to utilize experience and knowledge in real life situations.

Introduction

Service Learning isa new approach that merges the academic work with real life situations, this encourages the students to reflect on their own experience in life and think in a critical way about it.Its main components are reflection and experience. Service learning is built on team work, it combines learning objectives with service objectives, teaches responsibility to young students and raises community needs awareness through teaching. The final goal of Service Learning is meeting course contents while engaging students in learning by doing and reflecting upon their own experience. The reflective action and the experience that is put forward in this type of learning develops student's intelligence and shapes their way of learning while aiming to form their individual curriculum.

According to Dewey: "Education should encourage participation within the community, develop skills that will solve real life problems, and teach the students to become responsible citizens" (Dewey, 1938). This idea is implemented in US education system.

In post communist countries such as Kosovo community based projects were not part of education. Education was led by an iron-fist methodology that was implemented in national curriculum, which glorified the communism as a perfect ideology. There was no room for innovations or any kind of service other than communist.

However, this era came to an end and gave room to new era and ideologies that will bring productive methods and approaches in education. As a result of the isolated policy that former communist countries experienced today the need for Service Learning in the Balkans is bigger than ever and the need for its implementation into national curriculum is critical. The industrialization, globalization challenges and the new reality in Kosovo require an innovative teaching, a way that will place the focus in real life, in the community and the real problems, a way based on learning by doing. There is an initiative about implementing Service Learning in the Balkans. Since this correlates with to date democracy, and this being the primary focus of the Balkan countries the interest grows every day. To illustrate the effort for implementing SL in ESL I will mention some initiatives: Service Learning Conference, held in Bijela, Montenegro in June, 2006 under the topic: "Increasing Community Impact and Educational Outcomes in Higher Education". This was a program that was developed by the South - Eastern Europe Junior Faculty, and was supported by the American Councils. This was an initiative for the Balkans and it continues to develop and expand as a program in the region.

On classroom implementation of SL it is valuable to mention the pioneer of this method in FYROM, respectively in the SEEU, Aida Koçi. As a JFDP alumna she modified her lectures in order her students to understand the challenges that special needs students face every day. This speaks loud that service Learning can be implemented in every course subject, in this particular one she used her "Needs Analysis" course to create and involve students in a meaningful seminar where they had the chance to personally hear the challenges of two disabled students and the experts of that field. Ms Koçi's hope that the students will reflect on the experience and the knowledge gained from this project in their future employment as teachers marked this initiative as a milestone in the vast see of SL prospect.

1.1 Research Aims

The general aim of this research is to explore teacher's willingness to implement SL into ESL program. At the same time, the research will examine the students' views on SL as a project oriented program. The investigation of this research will be done through a questionnaire and a focus group.

1.2 The major objectives of this study are:

To identify the possibilities of further implementing SL at University of Prishtina.

To analyze the students' attitude towards SL.

To recommend the most appropriate methods of how to implement SL in the curriculum and motivate teachers and students to be part of it.

Literature Review

Service learning is dedicated to implement changes within an educational system by committing to it with serious motivation that derives from agent's interest, emotions and spirit. These tools make Service learning a device that will lead towards a change that will result with higher thinking skills in learners, improved ability to reflect on experience, better understanding of real life problems, engagement in the community where learner lives, and preparation for life outside of the classroom. A youth geared with such skills will without any doubts pave the road to a brighter problem-solving future.

A particular subject that requires a special interest in my region and also broader is the ESL program and the introduction of Service Learning in this program. The common questions that ESL teachers ask are the following:

1. Have my students learned what they were taught? 2. Can they use what they were taught in real life situations? 3. Is there knowledge serving them in class only? 4. And finally, can they be fluent in real life situations when using English Language? Thanks to the work and theories of many researchers the first steps are taken towards implementing positive changes to current education and ESL. The pillar of this idea was installed by John Dewey, to whose work and achievements we must refer when speaking about learning based on experience. In Experience and NatureDewey states that experiential learning has an impact on epistemology, (quoted by Kolb 1984, p. 161):

"…the ways in which we believe and expect have a tremendous effect on what we believe and expect … We discover that we believe many things not because the things are so but because we have become habituated ( to them) through the weight of authority, by imitation, prestige, institution, and unconscious effect of language".

These two notions that Dewey emphasized: the connection of the students with learning, and how students know what they know is in fact believed to facilitate second language learning at best because is self- driven way and not imposed by another party, authority, or a teacher.

Besides experience, reflection is another crucial component of the learning cycle. According to David Kolb:

"The learner is directly in touch with the realities being studied… (He or she has a direct encounter with the phenomenon being studied), rather merely thinking about the encounter or only considering the possibility of doing something with it".

This concept is not new, and it is a very important one for ESL classes too. Language learners need a context that they understand and which is meaningful too. Here is what Mary Ann Christison, in "Applications of Brain-Based Research for Second Language Teaching and Learning"(1999), inferred about the meaningful context in Language Learning (quoted by Minor 2001):

"Facts and skills that are taught in isolation and not connected to something meaningful cannot be remembered without considerable practice and rehearsal... Second language classroom activities that are meaningful create an ideal learning opportunity for second language students to learn more information in a shorter time, with less effort".

In an ESL class students' cognitive skills and acquisition enhances only when they are exposed to context that relates to meaning.

According to Laura Latulippe (1999) students' proficiency in language is in direct correlation with the amount of their exposure to meaningful context and they should be exposed to it wherever and whenever possible.

Another benefit for the students of ESL is the development of humane values (Minor 2001), and the true picture about the society and its value. On this Howard Berry and Linda Chisholm (1999), believe that:

"Foremost among the purposes (of higher education) is that of giving young adults the skills and breadth of knowledge to think deeply about the structures of their society and to appropriate values which must govern their personal and professional lives (p.12)".

Service learning in ESL may go out of their classroom and use what they have learned, reflect upon that experience and what they learned when they are back in class in order to enhance learning , and it promotes humane values.

According to Kendall: an effective program is the one that has the following elements:

Engages people in responsible and challenging actions for the common good;

Provides structured opportunities for people to reflect on their service experience;

Articulates clear service and learning goals for everyone involved;

Clarifies the responsibility of each person and organization involved;

Includes training, supervision, monitoring, support, recognition and evaluation to meet service and learning goals;

Is committed to program participation by and with diverse population (Kendall, 1990, p.40).

Previous Studies and Research

A review of the previous studies that are conducted in the field of SL in language learning will provide the grounds for significant answers to the questions being investigated. SL is rather a young field and as a result of this the pool of researches that are conducted in this filed is not as deep as is the subject's need. Previous studies and researches are conducted in order to illuminate and clarify the importance and the positive effect of Service learning in ESL in order to establish the evolution of this program. Many institutions since 2000 have implemented Service learning in their

Curricula. Sacred Heart University, to mention one, has successfully integrated SL in their ESL classes. Their ESL students go into the community on weekly basis and they visit and serve to a local soup kitchen, an elementary school, a tutoring agency, a retirement community, a Habitat for Humanity construction project, etc. The services they offer are various, starting from preparing and serving food, assisting teachers, tutoring, etc. In class they reflect to numerous feelings, thoughts, experiences and observations they've had. They also research and read about the issues they have observed in field (homelessness, treatment of the elderly, childhood education) (Minor, 2001).

Another interesting service learning project is Mullaney's which grouped Hispanic students of ESL with Spanish students whose native language was English. This gave both groups an opportunity to have a conversational partner and enabled a two-way information exchange and experience. To enhance their linguistic development they were integrated into the community college, this was done with the intention to make them feel as part of the community and also to give them the opportunity to practice English language while conversing with native speakers. The students did not have this chance to interact with native speakers in everyday life. In this project they performed a service that was identified need into the community, developed their sense of caring for others, their civic responsibility, and it enhanced their language learning experience (Hellebrandt, 1999).

Dawson's (2006) service -learning project engaged the Sitka Tribe in Alaska. The students' service in this project was to interview the elders of the Sitka Tribe in order to document their verbal history into written. The students also assisted them in translating from their Indigenous into English. This inspired native American students to learn more about their cultural heritage and customs and history while enhancing their academic achievement in History.

A similar service learning project is integrated in the curriculum of the University of Prishtina, Department of English Language and Literature. Third-year students group comprised of 12 students were engaged to complete 30 hours of translation for a local news agency "Kosova Live". They had to translate the news, edit, save the translation, and cope with deadlines. On completion of this project the students had to bring a file of their translations to their teacher, for the portfolio assessment. The educational goalsin this project were: Career preparation; Students will improve their Albanian- English translation skills.Standards mete the following:

Students will understand and interpret written language on a variety of topics; Students present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of readers on a variety of authentic topics; Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own; Students use the language both within and beyond the school setting. The partner in this project Kosova Live Agency benefited from this collaboration from the translated news into Albanian and the service was provided for free. The professor proofread the translation work of the students and identified the grammatical or vocabulary concepts in which students need to improve. Then the teacher created lessons to help them learn/practice those concepts. Also, the students received points in class for completing the translations accurately in the form of a project or assignment. This was the assessment of the student learning goals.

Research Questions

Q1:Why should we promote service-learning?

Q2:Why is it important that service-learning be incorporated in the traditional curriculum?

Q3:How can service-learning be incorporated in language learning syllabus?

Research Hypotheses

H1. Service learning is a cutting edge methodology that helps not only the community but educators and learners also it can be adapted to any course that is taught in the school.

H2. Service learning helps students understand better the content of the course because they learn by doing which fits in with the goals of the Bologna process.

H3. Service learning gives students an opportunity to use their knowledge in a socially meaningful context which improves the relevance and applicability of their knowledge.

Research Design and Methodology

Data Gathering Procedure

This present study will make use of implementing procedures to achieve the purpose of the study:

4.1 Participants

Participants in this research will be students of the English Language Department at SEEU in Tetovo, and Mechanical Engineering Faculty University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje. The students will be chosen based on their experience and results, and also based on their teachers' reference.

Methodology

The research methodology that will be used in this research is quantitative method that will be gathered through: students' and teachers' questionnaire and focus group.

The questionnaires will be distributed to the students at the SEEU and Mechanical Engineering Faculty. In both institutions Service Learning has been introduced since 2006, and the selection of the students will be done based on their 5 year participation in this program. Teacher's questionnaire will be used in order to evaluate teachers' involvement in SL programs and their motivation for SL projects.

Focus group is a group activity for students' development and the aim of this method is to measure how they will meet the course content and the increase learning through SL projects.

Finally, figures, charts, and tables will be included and analyzed in the research paper in order to have a clear picture of the study.

4.3 Procedure

A student's questionnaire will be distributed in order to obtain data related to student's background and their perception of SL. Students will be given instructions and the researcher will explain the purpose of the questionnaire.

Afterwards, a teacher's questionnaire will be distributed in order to gain general information in relation to teacher's attitude towards SL and the way it is implemented in ESL classroom. Again, the purpose of the study will be explained in detail.

Finally, there will be a focus group and the students will be given the opportunity to share ideas about SL projects that they will be assigned to, this will serve as an appropriate tool of assessment. The students will be thoroughly briefed firsthand about the program, the project that they will be assigned to and the expected outcomes of it.

Analysis of Data

Some instruments will be used in the investigation part of the research paper in order to collect the data. It is expected the data analysis will result with the usefulness of SL program implementation as an innovative idea in education and its aim to develop the students' learning into something substantial to them by offering hands on teaching and learning by doing outside of the classroom. Quantitative method will be used in the research paper in order to illustrate the results obtained from both teachers and students.

Interpretation of Results

The research will expose the learners' perceptions about SL projects and show its importance in language learning. Additionally, the study will show the teachers' attitude towards SL program and the way they tend to implement it in the curriculum. Another part of the research paper will include the answers from students' and teachers' questionnaires and the focus group results.

Master Thesis Content:

TABLE OF CONTENTS…………………………………………………………………………………..

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS…………………………………………………………………………………..

ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………………………………...............

Chapter I: INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………..

Background of the Study……………………………………………………..

Significance of the Study……………………………………………………..

Aims and Objectives of the Study…………………………………………....

Description of Thesis Organization…………………………………………...

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………….

Chapter II: LITERATURE REVIEW………………………………………………..................................

………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………………

Chapter III: PREVIOUSSTUDIES ON SERVICE LEARNING………………………………..

3.1 ………………..…………………………………………..........

3.2.……………………………………

3.3 …………………….………………………………………………

Chapter IV: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

4.1 Purpose of Study……………………………………………………………..

4.2 Research Questions…………………………………………………………..

4.3 Research Hypothesis...……………………………………………………….

4.4 Research Design and Methodology………………………………………….

4.4.1 Participants……………………………………………...............

4.4.2 Instruments………………………………………………...........

4.4.3 Procedures……………………………………………………....

Chapter V: ANALYSIS OF RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS……….……………………………..

5.1 Students' Questionnaire……………………………………………………..

5.2 Teachers' Questionnaire……………………………………………………..

5.3 Focus Group…………………………………………………………............

5.4 Comparison of Results……………………………………………………….

Chapter VI: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS…………………………………………

Chapter VII: LIMITATIONS OF STUDY……………………………………………...........

REFERENCES……………………………………………………………………………………………..

APPENDICES………………………………………………………………………………………...........

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