ervice-Learning: Innovation for the Decade?
The ephemeral quality of topical workplace concepts identified by 
overworked buzz words and phrases is proverbial in every profession, 
but in none more so than in education. We academics seem to have a 
fatal attraction to the novelty of the slickly-phrased label 
identifying the current year's version of the educational 
philosopher's stone, and to an equal degree we seem astonishingly 
unaffected by and indifferent to its inevitable rapid decline into 
obsolescence or total oblivion.  

Sometimes, however, we get it right, and the topic of the semester 
or of the year takes on real life in our offices, collegiate forums, 
and classrooms, effecting real change and raising the quality of our 
teaching to higher levels. Service-learning, the topic of the present 
issue of Academic Exchange, may be such a concept.

In conversations with colleagues who are now implementing service-learning 
principles in their classes, one is almost always impressed with their 
enthusiasm for the method. They speak of how the work accomplished by 
students in their classes links the college to the community, a matter 
of primary importance to the two-year institution and many others which 
may define their missions in large part in terms of the service function. 
One instructor with whom I spoke recently cited 800 hours of 
community-related work completed by students in a class. A favorite topic 
of these teachers is the sense of accomplishment generated in the students 
themselves as they see subjects discussed in the classroom setting coming 
alive in real-world situations that matter in the lives of other people. 
Faculty also speak of the pleasure they personally experience in seeing 
attitudinal changes in their students--how initial reluctance is quickly 
transformed into real enthusiasm and ultimately into materially improved 
academic performance. Through service-learning, say the teachers who have 
assumed the risks of building classes around the idea, students can take 
abstract ideas and make them real, extending the classroom into a 
non-academic world of professional responsibility and real-life experience.

The efforts of educators to experiment, to innovate, and to improve 
teaching methods and enhance student learning will always be risky, 
facing conceptual and practical obsolescence; susceptible to social 
change; and, in may cases, producing only ambiguous results, but these 
efforts have value and must be encouraged through creative scrutiny, 
analysis, evaluation, and afforded moral support. It is only in this 
way that the valid and permanent can be sorted out from the irrelevant 
and temporary. This is the intent of this issue of Academic Exchange, 
dedicated as it is to the theme of service-learning.

Louie Edmundson
Senior Editor