Fuentes, J. L. (Coord.) (2020). De la teoría a la práctica en el compromiso cívico [From theory to practice in civic engagement] (Paula Álvarez Urda).

Fuentes, J. L. (Ed.) (2020).

De la teoría a la práctica en el compromiso cívico [From theory to practice in civic enga­gement].

Octaedro. 198 pp.

The idea that universities should be flagship institutions requiring a strong commitment to their social setting is a position about which people there is in­creasing awareness. Therefore, it is vi­tally important to reflect on strategies and methodologies for strengthening the role of the university in relation to social factors, depending on the specific context. Service-learning is probably one of the most suitable methodologies for achieving these objectives, and the book De la teoría a la práctica en el compro-miso cívico, edited by Juan Luis Fuentes, provides an exhaustive analysis of this strategy and its possible applications in the social sphere.

This book is structured around three strands, thus allowing service-learning to be considered from different perspec­tives in order to understand the method­ology as a whole. The first part comprises two introductory chapters that provide a historical overview of its emergence and origin and its main reference points and reflect on its possible implementa­tion, adapting it to current circumstanc­es. The second part consists of the next three chapters. These consider in depth the theoretical foundations that under­pin this strategy and the most important reasons for which it is necessary to im­plement service-learning in the field of education, in particular higher education. The third part contains the last chapters, which focus on the practical application of service learning, based on experiences that aim to develop innovation and cre­ativity, as well as proposals implemented in institutions to consolidate it in the ed­ucational and social sphere.

The first chapter is divided into sev­eral sections that set out to illustrate and reflect on Jane Addams, one of the leading figures in social work, civic en­gagement, feminism, and pacifism. It comprises: a brief introduction; a basic literature review covering essential areas for understanding her life and thought, the historical context of her time in the USA, the influences created by Hull House (the first settlement house she created to help the most disadvantaged members of society); and a final part re­flecting on her engagement and efforts in relation to social work and its possi­ble applications and modifications in the current and future context.

The second chapter covers the de­velopment of Marian congregations up to the emergence of service-learning in Jesuit universities. It starts by providing a chronological description that covers everything from philanthropic education in these organisations to their social and educational influences in the second half of the 20th century, and it offers an ex­planation of the origin of service-learn­ing. Finally, this technique is illustrated with the example of the Universidad de Deusto, one of the first to introduce this technique in Spain.

The third chapter centres on citizen­ship and character and their relationship to service-learning. On the one hand, it introduces a series of key points and re­flections that are necessary for becoming a good citizen, and it follows these with an assessment of the influences service-learn­ing could potentially have on the achieve­ment of this social and educational goal. The authors also analyse a series of values or virtues that are inherent to the develop­ment of this methodology and can provide guidance for educators who are interested in discovering the ultimate meaning of this type of project.

The fourth chapter contains a series of interrelated theoretical, pragmatic and teleological reflections, aimed at analysing the role the university must fulfil to meet social demands. Consequently, it focusses on the importance of implementing this methodology in higher education to enable the development of critical thinking on the basis of eminently pragmatic and pedagog­ical principles in students.

The fifth chapter continues along the same lines as the previous one, con­sidering the theoretical aspects of ser­vice-learning in greater depth. On the one hand, it explains the concept underlining its connection with critical thinking. On the other, it analyses the specific keys and contextual determinants that moti­vate the implementation of this strategy at university. Finally, it considers possible emerging issues in teaching, both theo­retical and practical, that service-learn­ing involves, albeit leaving the door open to questioning and dialogue between them in order for the results to be better consolidated.

Next, chapter six analyses the imple­mentation of service-learning with re­gards to the framework provided by the European Higher Education Area from a pragmatic perspective. The first part is a study of concepts, giving important data about their interconnections and display­ing a sharp focus based on educational competences to comply with what has been established. The second part pro­vides a critical explanation of the ECTS, the instructional time required, its compe­tences, and the possible pragmatic imple­mentations of service-learning.

Chapter seven focusses on the train­ing in service-learning students require. Firstly, the authors provide clarifications, experiences, and examples of the applica­tion of this methodology at various Span­ish universities, while at the same time recognising that it is still far from wide­spread. Secondly, they set out the results of an in-depth analysis of the last two levels of obligatory secondary education, the Baccalaureate (which emphasises the teaching of philosophy and ethics), and the first year of university with the aim of establishing the students’ knowledge of service-learning. It also includes an analysis of the aspects of Spain’s Organic Education Act (LOE) and Organic Edu­cation Improvement Act (LOMCE) that relate to this methodology. Proposals for achieving a better education at university are also included.

Towards the end of the book, chapter eight, complementing the previous one, re­flects on the importance of service-learning in teacher training. To do this, it described a project implemented by the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in collaboration with other educational centres in which this methodology was implemented with the aim of fulfilling clear objectives and adapting to the specific social needs of the contexts of each centre. Although the eval­uation carried out had some difficulties owing to bureaucratic limitations, on the whole this experience clearly points to the positive social impact of implementing this type of project.

Chapter nine is more specific as it fo­cuses on service-learning in Madrid’s council, a rationale for implementing it, the implications and essential objectives for coordination by the institution, the principal projects and activities carried out in this field, and the agreement approved with the public universities of Madrid and the corresponding specific subsidies for its implementation.

There is no doubt that this book is al­most essential reading for any teacher or educator (or indeed any other citizen) who is looking for innovative ideas in the field of education and greater social en­gagement. It directly and precisely analy-ses, explains, contextualises, and gives examples of service-learning relating to its influences on universities and society as a whole, as well as the urgency of imple­menting it, especially in higher education to ensure that this sector is committed with the needs of its surroundings and so plays a key role. Thanks to its clear or­ganisation, it achieves full cohesion and coherence and invites the reader to reflect profoundly and consistently on both the theoretical and practical spheres.

Paula Álvarez Urda