Juan de Vicente Abad

Counselor and teacher 

"Students must learn to know, to do, to live together and to be"

See the full video here.

I discovered service learning thanks to my students, who at one point were very used to participating in school. As a whole, the student body is used to playing its part in resolving conflicts. When there's a problem, the children have strategies to settle disputes. They also play an important role in observing how well people are getting along. They get involved in a lot of things and are accustomed to using their initiative.

The learning service is a teaching and learning method that joins two elements into a single project: The learning we do in the classroom in different subjects with the community service. The service aims to tackle social issues and times when a person's rights may have been violated because, sometimes, people's social rights are not respected. What's interesting is that children learn about these things and get to have an impact on their environment through community-based action. Then, merely because this service and community-based action exists, what they learn comes alive, they can put it into practice in a context where it's useful, they're no longer just reading about these things in books or on a computer screen; therefore, they become meaningful. Service learning can be used to change a situation.

The ideas for a service learning project comes from a wide range of sources. Sometimes they come from teachers who say: “I think I could use what I have to teach in the curriculum to focus on something in my area, which is physics, because I'd like to do something related to science. I think I could do that." So, they have an idea and they put forward ways to implement it. Sometimes, they come from the students themselves. In our municipality, we have two service learning programs that feature animals, because the students said: “We want to work with animals. So, we're going to think of a project we could do that's linked to what we're doing in school but that focuses on animals."

"The learning service is a good answer to inclusion and attention for diversity in schools "

The elderly — grandparents — have an essential role to play. because what they convey through their relationship with their grandchildren or the students they work with on these types of projects has far-reaching effects. The children often tell us that they feel happy when they're with them. The main thing they convey is affection.

As teachers, our challenge is to ensure that all our students learn something, not just the 80% or 70% who usually get their diplomas and go on to further education. Furthermore, we want them to learn as much as possible. What service learning does is We will work together on projects, as a team, in diverse groups, and work in such a way that some will rely on others. This gets more children involved. Furthermore, one of the things that encourages more children to get involved in these initiatives is that, as well as working in teams, they get a much better understanding of the reasons why they're studying certain subjects in class. So there is a motivational element that makes you feel more like taking part. We have discovered that students become more motivated when they participate in these projects. Children who don't normally show any interest in class become engrossed in these projects and their motivation improves. Children have to understand what they're learning in class. They also have to learn how to do things for themselves, get along with each other and how to be themselves. Service learning projects focus on these four areas. If children don't get involved in these projects, they'll find it more difficult to develop their sense of self. When I say they have to "learn how to be themselves", I mean they have to learn to be autonomous and to be responsible by making a commitment to a service or another undertaking. They also have to learn how to self-regulate and know what they want to achieve. These projects help children learn how to get along with each other because they have to work in teams and try to resolve any conflicts that arise as a result of the activities they perform. If they don't get involved in the activities, they won't be able to take advantage of these opportunities. They'll learn to do things for themselves, because these projects focus heavily on reflective action, which enables children to show that they've learned something.

Juan de Vicente Abad is counselor and teacher in the public high school IES Miguel Catalán in Coslada, Madrid. He won the "Certamen D+I al Docente más Innovador de España" (R+D award for Spain's most innovative educator) in 2016 and is an authority on the service learning methodology, which is used to improve school environments.