Embracing a Deeper Vision for Service Learning: AISA PL Event Goes Beyond the Usual Offerings

POSTED: April 4, 2022Category: AISA Articles, NewsBY: Steve

The past few years have been tough on our service learning and global citizenship programs. Covid has disrupted our school schedules and learning experiences; teachers and students alike have struggled to maintain personal wellness and balance in the face of online learning, restricted travel and face-to-face connections, and personal and collective losses.

Some schools have put their community partnerships on hold and others have seen curricular integration of service learning slow down or take a backseat to more pressing logistical concerns.

As the 2021/22 school year moves into the spring season, it’s a good time to take stock of what we’ve learned during the past two years and imagine how we can reinvigorate our service learning programs.

  • How can we resuscitate aspects of our programs that may have suffered during the past two years?
  • How can we redesign components of our programs to be even more robust and dynamic than they were before?
  • How can we challenge ourselves, our fellow teachers, and our students to rebuild service learning in truly equitable and inclusive ways? What might all of this look like?

If you find yourself nodding in response to any of these statements or questions, the upcoming AISA Service Learning Conference Day on April 27th may offer some of the solutions and ideas you’re looking for.

The theme of the day is “Going Beyond the Basics: Service Learning to Disrupt and Heal”, and four guiding questions will frame our sessions for the day:

  1. How might we redistribute power for everyone involved in service learning experiences to create truly reciprocal partnerships (where all participants learn from and teach one another)?
  2. How can we help students question and become aware of the root causes of social inequality in the community and the issues/needs that exist in communities (local and global)?
  3. How can we foster active listening spaces where students learn from community partners and eliminate problematic framing (us/them, server/served, helper/recipient) in our service learning partnerships and experiences?
  4. How can we acknowledge issues of identity, power and privilege, and the role these have in our service learning experiences (including confronting assumptions and stereotypes, discussing biases, owning unearned privilege, and acknowledging inequality and oppression as real and omnipresent)?

If we can explore these questions in meaningful and purposeful ways together, we will be able to reshape and redesign our service learning programs in much more deliberate, critical ways. And critical service learning is key to sustainable, purposeful, and ethical service. As quoted in an article by Stanford University Professor Tania Mitchell: “the development of critical service learning, whose goal is to contribute to the creation of a just and equitable society, demands that we become critically conscious of the issues of power and privilege in service learning relationships.” (Click on link below for the full article.)

Source Article: Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models

It’s crucial that we ask challenging questions to ensure the service we are involved in (with ALL our service partners) is equitable, inclusive, thoughtful, and critical. At this point in time, whether our service learning programs have been on hold because of Covid or whether they have maintained momentum throughout the pandemic, it behooves us to pause and evaluate where we are and where we’d like to be.

Click Here to register for the AISA Service Learning Conference Day, and if you have any questions about the Service Learning Conference Day, or about the AISA service learning program in general, please don’t hesitate to email me at

Let’s connect, learn, and grow our programs together.

by LeeAnne Lavender
AISA Service Learning Advisor

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