Reflections On Service-Learning, Critical Thinking, And Cultural Competence

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Lynette R. Goldberg
Kathy L. Coufal

Keywords

Service-learning, reflective practice, teaching, critical thinking, cultural competence

Abstract

In today’s increasingly multicultural society, students need to be prepared for the work world they will encounter. Well-developed critical thinking skills appear essential to needed cultural competence. With its focus on community involvement, deep reflection and civic engagement, the possibility that Service-Learning (SL) could improve students’ critical thinking abilities, and thus contribute to students’ intellectual development and cultural competence, was explored. The critical thinking abilities of a group of 4th and 5th year university students were measured before and after 12 weeks of community-based experiences. The 4th year students were involved in an integrated SL course. The 5th year students had completed the SL course the previous year. There was a significant difference between the two groups with the 5th year students better able to think critically, particularly in deducing conclusions and evaluating arguments. Both quantitative and qualitative data from the two groups revealed a non-linear developmental trajectory of skills that provide insights for professionals in higher education.

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