Service-Learning has mainly been an extra-curricular activity in our university. Students participated because they want to help. Perhaps there was also a sense of adventure for the more exotic projects. How about the staff then? Mostly because they believed in it. Because they derive personal satisfaction from participating in the service themselves. And also from the perceived benefits for our students. We really didn’t get a lot of credits from the university for doing it. Sometimes we did it in spite of discouragement from management. Why? The motivation was more intrinsic than extrinsic, as discussed in Daniel Pink’s “Drive”.
Soon it will be a compulsory credit-bearing subject for all students. Teaching such a subject, and taking the students on service projects, will then be recognized as legitimate teaching activities. Some of the previous obstacles will be removed. Even then, teaching Service Learning requires quite a bit more effort, and different types of effort, compared to teaching a regular subject in our own discipline. Hence, motivating academic staff to develop and offer Service Learning remains a big challenge.
Hopefully, there are enough intrinsically motivated academic colleagues around. Also, the university will be smart enough to realize that Service Learning is not just routine teaching. That it requires a lot of creativity to develop and to execute. That we are motivated not so much by monetary or other material rewards. That we crave much more a sense of autonomy, mastery over the challenge, and above all, an opportunity to pursue a higher purpose.
That is my prayer.