Service learning for sociology students at Nottingham Trent University (NTU)
Sharon Hutchings leads on service learning for MA and BA sociology. We work with our local not-for-profit community partners and students on social justice projects determined by the community. There are approximately 25 partners and 120 students each academic year.
Service learning for sociology students at NTU
Simply described students work on projects determined by local, not-for-profit organisations on which they reflect upon and connect to their disciplinary understandings within the wider disciplinary framework of public sociology.
Service learning and the community
The local context of Nottingham is critical to the service experience. Nottingham City faces significant social and economic problems; it is the eighth most deprived city in England (IMD 2015). We endeavour therefore to engage and collaborate on work that will lead to change. This benefits both the community and the students by creating opportunities for:
- Authentic, positive, meaningful learning moments benefiting partners and students.
- Addressing complex problems in complex settings rather than simplified problems in isolation.
- Gaining insights beyond generalized or abstract knowledge (Eyler & Giles, 1999).
- Supporting organisations with resources from the university.
- Sustainable relationships and mutually beneficial work.
Critical service learning aspirations:
An integral part of our service learning is the key principle of mutual benefit between the community and the university. This value guides our practices and ensures we do not simply utilise the community as a ‘cultural commodity’ for academic gain/student experience. (Sandermann et al 2012). This is the ideal and of course the service learning experience is far from ideal at times but we strive towards a critical service learning experience for the community and the students.