Citizenship, Curriculum, and Critical Thinking beyond the Four Walls of the Classroom: Linking the Academic Content with Service-Learning

Academic Article


  • This article explores how 12 classroom teachers, enrolled in one of the author's graduate social studies methods course, used service-learning as an instructional tool to help students practice active participation in their community and beyond, while also recognizing the relevance of academic coursework as they applied their knowledge and skills to meaningful issues and contexts beyond the four walls of the classroom. This study is separated into two distinct, but related phases. Phase 1 includes data collected from the twelve teachers. First, the authors present the methodology, findings, and conclusions for phase 1 in a sequential manner. Next, the data for phase 2 is presented, which emerged from one of the graduate student's projects discussed in phase 1. Phase 2 includes data collected from the classroom teacher's 4th and 5th grade students and uses narrative inquiry to tell the story of how the project developed and the impact it had on the students. The teachers involved in the service-learning projects evolved through reflecting on the process of implementation. Based on the findings, the authors conclude that the teachers in this study gained the skills to: (1) effectively integrate civics-centered curriculum and meet state content standards through service-learning projects; (2) facilitate student-led instruction in a democratic classroom; (3) increase effective communication and build partnerships beyond the classroom; and (4) use structured reflections as a tool for growth and evaluation. Based on reactions from their respective students, the teachers were encouraged by student leadership, collaboration, motivation, engagement and meaningful learning experiences. All 12 teachers in this study reported improved teacher dispositions and increased confidence regarding the implementation of a civics-centered curriculum. Findings from the second phase of the study suggest that projects that are situated in a real-world context focusing on community needs and student interest can impact students' level of involvement and sense of agency. Service-learning projects may have a catalytic ability to motivate students into using active democratic skills to better their surrounding community. (Contains 1 note.)
  • Authors

    Published In


  • Graduate Students; Methods Courses; Community Needs; Teacher Education Curriculum; Student Interests; Civics; Program Effectiveness; Grade 4; Grade 5; Elementary School Students; Student Leadership; Social Studies; Citizenship; Critical Thinking; Service Learning; State Standards; Partnerships in Education; Reflection; Student Attitudes; Teacher Attitudes; Student Motivation; Cooperation; Learning Experience
  • Author List

  • Ponder J; Vander Veldt M; Lewis-Ferrell G
  • Start Page

  • 45
  • End Page

  • 68
  • Volume

  • 38
  • Issue

  • 4