Service-Learning in Slovakia
Cooperation with community partners in service-learning projects at Matej Bel University.
At Matej Bel University, we are collaborating with different social entities. Mainly with providers of different types of social services in the region and with non-profit organizations in different areas (for example, community foundations, cultural center, NGOs working with Roma children in separated areas …).
We have several ways how we are contacting our partners. First is through the mapping of community needs organized as a part of the service-learning implementation done by students.
The second is thanks to the cooperation in the fieldwork of students, mainly in social work and teaching professions. The third one is in cooperation with the Volunteer Centre, which has the office at the university. We are aiming at establishing long term cooperation with the partners. In some projects, we are continuing with other groups of students or students are working with the beneficiaries of the partner’s organizations on different topics according to their actual needs.
The involvement of the social entities in the monitoring and evaluation of the project depends on the university subject. Each project is also evaluated by the partners, but in many cases, it is just informal evaluation. Currently, we are working on the evaluation form for the community partners which will be used in all service-learning projects (it will be recommended to use it). We are also in the process of collecting quantitative and qualitative evaluation data from the partners.
The community partners are mainly involved in the evaluation of
the service objectives; Assessment
of the learning objectives is done by teachers. There have been a lot of service-learning projects implemented at MBU since 2013, but we do not have any official evidence of the students and beneficiaries. We can estimate that more than 300 students and more than 1000 beneficiaries were included in SL projects.
Our research shows that service-learning experience has an impact on the development of key competences of students as well as on the development of personal and social responsibility.
They are many reasons for the cooperation with the university, mostly partners have some needs regarding organization or beneficiaries and they need help to fulfil these needs. After the experience community partners are many time more open for closer and more intensive cooperation with the university. From our experience service-learning shifts the relationship with the community partners. The university is many times contacting community partners with some requests, for example, the university is asking to help with research or to offer space for the fieldwork of students. Within the service-learning collaboration, the university is offering something to the community partner, not requesting from the community partner and it opens new spaces.
By Alžbeta Brozmanová Gregorová,
Matej Bel University