Service-learning, a pedagogy linking community service with traditional academic work is becoming popular on college campuses. In one example of service-learning, preservice teachers from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls (UWRF) enrolled in Foundations of Multicultural Education tutor in inner-city public schools to raise the academic achievement of K-12 students. This service provides preservice teachers an opportunity to experience a diverse classroom first-hand and develop awareness of multicultural issues.

During my practicum as the UWRF service-learning coordinator, I qualitatively analyzed preservice teachers’ field journals and conducted several guided interviews to assess their growth in understanding of multicultural education, social identity development, and awareness of social justice issues pertaining to education throughout a semester-long service-learning experience. My findings are reported in this Capstone in an attempt to discover how service-learning can be utilized to facilitate social justice consciousness.

This research presents evidence that service-learning requires intentionality in design to avoid perpetuating the status quo. From a curricular standpoint, social identity development is found to be a precursor to understanding issues of social justice, and a critical task for preservice teachers. Findings also indicate that at UWRF, students have not been asked to consider the larger social context within which, and for which, they provide service.

A resulting set of recommendations are made that would move the Falcon Tutors program towards a “social justice” paradigm of service-learning. The recommendations are equally applicable across service-learning programs and provide a framework for service-learning practitioners concerned with providing responsible, responsive service while developing social justice learning outcomes.


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Politics and Social Change