Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

Reciprocity: The Heart of Service-Learning

Dr. Lea Ramsdell.

Service-learning is a pedagogy deeply grounded in John Dewey's conceptualization of civic engagement and Paulo Freire's model of transformative education (Deans 15). In recent years, the value of such a pedagogy to institutions, students, and the community has been heralded in countless studies that have proven its effectiveness (Vogelgesang and Astin 25). Yet, as Lori Varlotta observes, few people on university campuses are able to articulate what is meant by service-learning (83). Indeed, they often conflate the term with other related approaches to student involvement outside the classroom, such as community service, civic engagement or experiential learning. A probe of the distinctive character of service-learning necessitates an examination of the theory and practice of reciprocity. The following discussion of the theoretical importance of reciprocity is accompanied by practical guidelines for designing a service-learning course. The application of these guidelines to an actual course, Advanced Spanish Composition, is then described in detail. This case study reveals that reciprocity, while not easily achieved, is the key ingredient in the success of the service-learning experience.


Dr. Lea Ramsdell  (United States)
Assistant Professor of Spanish
Department of Modern Languages
Towson University

Lea Ramsdell teaches Spanish language and Latin American Studies courses at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland. She emphasizes student interaction with the local Latino community at all levels of instruction. Her primary research interest is the cultural production of Latinos in the United States.

  • Service-learning
  • Reciprocity
  • Latino community
  • Spanish language courses
  • Social responsibility

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)