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 ■