Service-Learning and Composition Studies: Theoretical Visions and Practitioner Realities

Service-Learning and Composition Studies: Theoretical Visions and Practitioner Realities

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Conversation in the scholarship of composition studies and the subfield of service-learning has flourished over the past several decades. This is due to the growing popularity of pairing composition studies with community engagement and activism. In service-learning writing courses, students either “compose texts for non-profit or community organizations, connect social theories with the experiences of disenfranchised groups, learn about literacy and community theory through tutoring experiences [and/] or develop collaborative problem-solving partnerships” (Ball and Goodburn 79). Many of us see promise in service-learning pedagogy as a tool for producing active and critical learning, especially when we see our pedagogical goals impact the way students in college writing courses think about social issues such as literacy and homelessness. With this said, most scholars and practitioners believe that connecting service-learning with composition courses can have a positive impact on universities and communities.
Much of the earlier service-learning scholarship such as Linda Adler-Kassner, Robert Crooks, and Ann Watters’ 1997 AAHE collection titled Writing the Community: Concepts and Models for Service-Learning in Composition focuses on how students learn and benefit from college writing courses and service-learning (“Sustainable” 42). However, composition theorists and practitioners have shifted the conversation to their growing concern about the community participants who partake in these academic endeavors at the institutional, group, and individual levels. For example, service-learning scholar/practitioner Ellen Cushman addresses the problematic social divide between community and university in her 1997 award winning essay “Th...


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...ete. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.
Johnson, Karen. “Mobile Sustainability: An Adjuncts Development of a Permanent Practice.” Unsustainable: Re-Imagining Community Literacy, Public Writing, Service-Learning And The University. eds. Jessica Restaino, and Laurie JC Cella. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2013. 135-58. Print.
Mathieu, Paula. Tactics of Hope: The Public Turn in English Composition. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers/Heinemann, 2005. Print.
---. “After Tactics, What Comes Next?”. Unsustainable: Re-Imagining Community Literacy, Public Writing, Service-Learning And The University. eds. Jessica Restaino, and Laurie JC Cella. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2013. 17-31. Print.
Ray, Ruth. Personal interview. Skype. 9 Nov. 2012.
Sayer, Cathy. “Juggling Teacher Responsibilities in Service-Learning Courses.” (2001): 20-23 Reflections: New City Community Press. Web. Feb. 22 2014.

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