Education Fieldwork

 Author: Farhat Khan

This project description gives you an overview of Shirina's Community Service-Learning (CSL) course in the from of education fieldwork. My aim is to demonstrate to you an excellent example of a program with CSL integrated into its requirement. This information was relayed to me an interview with Shirina under the appropriate ethical standards. More information on the benefits of this CSL experience can be found in the article Education Fieldwork.


Defining Education Fieldwork as CSL

You might be wondering how education fieldwork is Community Service–Learning. The truth is that education is like CSL sharing many of the same attributes. One of the main objectives of CSL is to apply theory learned in class practically to real situations with real implications and consequences both positive or negative. This is exactly what Shirina had to do: what she learned in the lectures held at the University of Calgary in her Masters of Teaching program was then applied to the grade 1 & 2 classroom. This was all in an effort to help her in understanding the children and more importantly helping them learn and grow.

"My specific curriculum included observing a grade 1/2 class and having class discussions about the course work in lectures. This helps determine what kind of a teacher you want to be. Overall it makes you a better teacher because you realize it’s not about you, it’s about helping students. You’re not in control because it’s the students that are teaching you."

Like in CSL, Shirina also grew as a person and learned that she was able to apply her knowledge gained throughout the experience to other aspects of her life. The only difference between education fieldwork and CSL is that there is no outside community involved in education fieldwork. Instead, the focus is on the student’s future career as a teacher where they are learning to be a competent educator to benefit children in the school setting.

Shirina's Role in the Masters of Education Program

You, as a student, can use education field work as an excellent example of CSL in action. Shirina is a current University of Calgary student in her second year of the Masters of Education program.  In her first year she was placed at an Elementary school called Douglas Harkness Elementary School. Here she was required  to apply the knowledge and theories learned in lectures from professors at the University of Calgary to teach the students in a class with grades 1 and 2 at Douglas Harkness Elementary School. 

Shirina’s role in her first year was primarily as an observer and a little teaching at Douglas Harkness Elementary School.  The point of observing teachers as they taught was to learn different teaching styles, how students are diverse in their learning, and seeing the varied teaching theories in action that she had  previously learned in class. Recognition of diversity from people is an important aspect of CSL because dealing with real people entails different consequences.

Importance of Self Reflection

"Green Apple" by PiccoloNamek, August 2005. From Wikimedia Commons

Shirina’s regular schedule included lectures from the professor at the University of Calgary for two days and going to Harkness to observe and participate in teaching for two days. An essential aspect of this process was the act of journal writing assigned to her whenever she attended Harkness. Her journal entries consisted of careful observation of everything she saw, thought and did. This was important for the act of reflection in which she would critically assess her own thoughts as well as the thoughts of her classmates.  

Reflection is one of the defining characteristics of CSL because you need to be aware of your increasing knowledge as you practically apply it. In a classic CSL setting, exams and papers do not show the instructor the knowledge you are acquiring—it is your active reflecting of the experiential learning you are doing that gives you the marks. It also catalogs the improvement of yourself throughout CSL.

Shirina's Insight on Her Specific Education Case Studies Course

Shirina gave a specific example of a course she took titled Case Studies Course in which she had to read different articles that philosophers had written on their thoughts of what they believed to be the most important aspects in being a teacher. She came across two very different teaching styles: the directive teacher and mutual learning. Like it sounds, directive teacher is where the teacher teaches the subject to students and thus is a one way learning process in which the students learn from the teacher. On the other hand and the one Shirina personally preferred and thought was the best way to teach is mutual learning in which both the teacher and students are learning from each other. She thought this teaching style was more valuable because she believed that a teacher is always a student that continues to learn from their students every day.

She also learned through the observation process the many different ways of teaching. She gave the example of diversity and multiculturalism where if as a teacher you have to teach a student on the topic of senses and the child does not understand or speak English as a first language, then what do you do? By attending lectures, the class would discuss such topics and through this she was able to formulate a personal opinion. This applies to all CSL courses where discussions are constantly held to tackle difficult situations. The process of discussion helps you formulate your own opinion and you are able to understand the course material better.

Importance and Recommendation of a CSL Course

Shirina's only recommendation to improve service learning was to have a set guideline because she said this would have given her a sense of security. However, at the same time what she liked about her fieldwork was the unstructured layout. Since there was no set guideline on how to complete assignments and on how to engage in class discussions, it gave her more freedom to formulate her own ideas and a chance to be creative. It also allowed her to come up with her own philosophy of teaching.  This is true to all CSL courses because by taking your own initiative is what makes CSL different from traditional courses. It also helps you retain knowledge better because you came up with the idea or answer by yourself.

When asked if she would be involved in such courses again, she laughed and said “Obviously yes!”. She also stated that she would recommend this to other students because she believed that the education system needs more creative thinking and this is a chance to figure out how to do that.

Shirina’s education field work helped determine her teaching philosophy for the future, which generally applies to all CSL courses. Doing CSL cements and creates philosophies on how you want to learn or teach. The space CSL provides for you to be creative, forthright and reflective will positively impact you.

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PiccoloNamek. (2005, August, 27). GreenApple.png. [image]. Retrieved March 16, 2010 from Wikimedia Commons website at GNU Free Documentation License.