The University of Verona organizes for students of the Master’s Degree in Primary School Education an SL program, that assumes the form of a “Community Service Research Learning” (CSRL) because students achieve academic outcomes through a service action aimed to respond to a specific need of a community (in this case a school community) but, in the same time, they are also called upon to develop an educational research related to their service action (Mortari, 2017).
Aims, Verona CSRL has a double aim:
- to promote learning as a service for the classroom in which the students are engaged in their apprenticeship;
- to make students able to develop an educational research starting from the significant problems posed by the contexts.
The program involves: (a) students of the last two years, (b) in-service teachers coming from different schools and (c) an academic team that has collectively assumed the role of supervisor.
Steps and actions
The CSRL Program is implemented in five-step
1) In the first step, students attend the Course of Educational Research (60 hours) and the related Workshop (15 hours) in order to become familiar with the SL theoretical basis and with the methodological tools needed to plan, observe, document and analyse their SL experience. More specifically, they learn how to identify a school need, how to design an intervention starting from it, how to use qualitative observation tools, how to create a qualitative report of the experience and how to analyze actions to improve their efficacy.
2) During the second step, every student is put in connection with an in-service teacher, paying attention to the fact that a good relationship should be established between a student and his/her mentor, since they have to share two years of school together.
3) The third step is focused on the identification of the community’s needs. What differentiates the Verona Program from other SL programs is that this identification does not precede the entrance of the students in the context. On the contrary, the community need is defined jointly by the in-service and the pre-service teachers during the first weeks of their induction as a result of the cooperation between them.
4) The fourth step concerns the service action: pre-service and in-service teachers, by mutual agreement, design an action (an educational program, a teaching program, an evaluation program, etc.) aimed at responding to the previously identified needs. In this phase, the academic team supervises the design of the action, supports pre-service and in-service teachers in case of need and mentors the pre-service teachers in order to guide the gaining of their academic outcomes and the development of the educational research that they are called upon to conduct.
5) The fifth step of the Program regards the development of the dissertation that students are called upon to write in order to achieve their Degree. Thanks to this writing they reflect on the practice and really learn a pedagogical posture. In this regard, it is worth to emphasize that, during the SL Program, students are required to write a reflective journal in which they write thoughts, feelings and actions related to their SL experience.