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A guide to introducing service learning in the economics classroom

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Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted February 2003.

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Service learning is an experiential learning pedagogy that enables students to integrate their study of economics in the classroom with service activities in their communities. It can enhance both economic literacy and the quality of our communities by helping to make economics more accessible to an increasingly diverse student body, increasing student citizenship skills, and improving the relationship between colleges and universities and their communities.
The two parts of this volume provide a theoretical basis for service learning and offer lessons gleaned from applying it in the classroom. The theoretical chapters outline the learning theory and models of service learning as they can be applied in economics. Service learning is introduced here as a technique that teaches students to "do economics." Also included are specific models of service learning and an overview of assessment issues. The applications chapters detail various examples of using service to enhance learning. These range from using a single service experience in a class to courses that use service experiences as the focus and context for learning economics. Course topics cover environmental and natural resources, statistics, econometrics and research methods, principles and economic issues, labor, the economics of gender, forensic economics, and development economics. Each application provides details regarding the institutional environment in which it was implemented, type of course, enrollment, and process through which student learning was enhanced. Handouts and abbreviated syllabi are included.
Economics educators have a stake in improving their students' long-term economic literacy. Service learning offers significant benefits beyond those offered by pedagogies traditionally found in economics classrooms and should be considered as a teaching strategy by economics professors everywhere.
Kim Marie McGoldrick is Associate Professor of Economics, University of Richmond. Andrea L. Ziegert is Associate Professor of Economics, Denison University.