ENGAGE STUDENTS – Promoting Social Responsibility of Students by Embedding Service Learning into Education Curricula

The ENGAGE STUDENTS project focuses on social responsibility of higher education institutions at student and teacher level. Strengthening the social dimension in education has been an important European priority (COM (2006) 208 final, 2013/C 168/02), that has been accentuated even further by the Commission in the renewed EU agenda for Higher Education. Innovative curricula and teaching approaches are seen to contribute to reducing the current high-level skills gap between students and labour market needs. Especially the integration of extra-curricular experience into study programmes is identified as solution for enhancing students’ transversal skills, better preparing them for finding a job (COM (2017) 247 final).

The service learning approach aims to strengthen the students’ relationship with the community, with a view to their personal development and civic engagement (Menezes, 2003, Barber, 1991; Colby & Damon, 1992; Dewey, 1966; Waldstein & Reiher, 2001). The essential elements of this learning approach entails the active involvement of students in solving a need identified in the community and intentionally providing spaces for reflecting upon the experiences (Leming, 2001; Trainor, Muscott & Smith, 1996). These approaches can be integrated into the curricula of students or they can be extra-curricular.

In the Anglo-American university culture extra-curricular activities have a long tradition and a value when it comes to students looking for a job. Showing a potential employer that you have already engaged in extracurricular activities is seen as an advantage raising students’ employability. In Europe, there have been initiatives to enhance the engagement of university students in the communities they live in, i.e. civic engagement centers, volunteering centers, community research or community-related projects.

In many European countries this approach is rather new and the system is more formal, credit- and curricula-based becoming more and more important in the last five years. For this reason, we argue that social responsibility of students should be promoted through integration into curricula – this needs specific teaching approaches, namely service-learning, project-based learning and teaching about action research. Moreover, HE teachers need to be trained in how to incorporate these activities into their course concepts.

Project objectives:

To empower the social dimension of higher education by increasing its relevance for society through embedding service-learning as a common pedagogical approach within education and research practice

  • To explore the existing methodology of service-learning and other forms of community-related learning and research
  • To develop a methodological toolkit and a pedagogical workbook to be used by teachers
  • To build the critical mass of knowledge and resources in partner HEIs in order to foster the use of service learning and other community-related learning methodologies
Project results:
  • Needs analysis in the local communities
  • Design the web-tool for community engagement and service learning
  • Service learning methodology toolkit
  • Workbook “How to do service learning”
  • Study on Students’ Experiences with Service-Learning
Project contributions SDGS’s:

GOAL 4: Quality Education,

GOAL 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Project partners
  • University Politehnica Bucharest (RO)
  • University degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (IT)
  • University of Porto (PT)
  • University of Vienna (AT)
  • Dublin City University (IE)
  • Kaunas University of Technology (LI)
Project website:

http://www.engagestudents.eu/

Contact person: Grabriel Dima

Email: gabriel.dima@reu.pub.ro

Project start date: 01/09/2018

Project finishing date: 31/08/2021