Chiva-Bartoll, O. & Gil-Gómez, J. (2018) (Eds.). Aprendizaje-servicio universitario: Modelos de intervención e investigación en la formación inicial docente [University service-learning: Intervention and research models in initial teacher training]. (Marta Ruiz-Corbella).



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Chiva-Bartoll, O. & Gil-Gómez, J. (2018) (Eds.).


For just over a decade, Spanish universities have been very actively involved in projects regarding innovation in teaching. University teaching staff have gradually started to use different active methodologies in the teaching-learning process and have come to realise the value of experiential methodologies beyond subjects focussing on curriculum practices. ,

In addition, they have gradually taken into account the important opportunities for research that different ideas for innovation in university classrooms have provided. The consolidation, at the international level, of academic journals from the first quartile of SSCI (Web of Science) and SCOPUS that focus on publishing studies based on higher education is proof of this. These include Internet and Higher Education, Journal of Engineering Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Journal of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, and Studies in Higher Education among many others. None of the Spanish academic journals from the field of education listed in these two databases focus solely on higher education, but a growing number of articles with this keyword can be observed. The periodic celebration of academic conferences and symposia focussing on teaching research in university institutions has also been consolidated, some of them already having a very well-known trajectory. At the same time, we are seeing a change in outlook among university teachers. While research has traditionally been regarded as more valuable than teaching, and the study, analysis and reflection on the methodologies used in the classroom have not been given the importance they merit, this focus has gradually been changing. The key element in this change is the evidence that research and innovation in these educational scenarios are not competing activities but instead feed back into one other, as Chiva-Bartoll and Gil-Gómez note. Innovation in teaching in universities, in this case, is — and indeed must be — supported by research, while at the same time it enriches and consolidates ideas and processes for innovation. ,

This context is, in most Spanish universities, leading to the creation of teaching innovation groups that provide a very fertile ground for new ideas, which will eventually improve educational practice in higher education institutions. One clear example of this is the R&D project “Service-learning and life stories in the training of future primary teachers: methodological innovation in a public university’ – INNOVA+3”, launched by the authors of this book, both of whom are lecturers at the Universitat Jaume I. They start from the idea that university teaching cannot be approached from a single methodological perspective, nor can quality teaching advance without analysing the processes and results obtained to validate, improve, modify, etc., teaching strategies. This is why they believe it is “a fundamental principle that research should provide the foundations for endorsing or validating the introduction of methodologies in teaching” (p. 122), which is why Chiva-Bartoll and Gil-Gómez set up this INNOVA+3 project. The strands that define it, collected in the book we review here, are apparent in: ,

Within this framework, they propose strengthening the construction of teacher identity in primary-school teaching students on the basis of studying and reflecting on the situational experiences that they provide. INNOVA+3 intends to contribute to its progress, to generate the ideal framework for experiencing the situations that make them grow as teachers. Service-learning, on the basis of its open and social conception, facilitates experimentation in educational situations that also lead to improvements for the community. All of this, combined with appropriate pedagogical techniques, forms the ideal breeding ground for their status as a teacher to emerge and solidify, in other words, for their defining identity as an educator to emerge (p. 123). ,

This book, resulting from the progress of this project, intends to contribute to the training of university teachers and so includes a wealth of active and experiential methodologies, in particular the service-learning methodology in universities, aimed not only at training teaching skills as future education professionals but also at civic training and training in social responsibility. To this end, the authors have written a very clear and well-structured work, thinking especially of those teachers, students, or people interested in educational topics, who have never had contact with service-learning. ,

It is arranged in three sections, the first of which covers the strands that underpin and develop questions about what, how, where, why, who, etc., defines any service-learning proposal. They apply experience of the teaching-learning process to specific professional situations in which the construction of knowledge is fostered through the theory-practice interaction. At the same time, the authors provide the context of the origins and development of this methodology, helping the reader understand and better assess its richness and influence. We should note that the authors have not taken this point as far as they could. They have left out other teaching and research innovation groups that are developing service-learning projects in Spain’s universities, as well as the support a very wide range of institutions are providing by encouraging and recognising these initiatives. That said, we do see it as an approach to an emerging reality that is undoubtedly becoming consolidated. ,

Furthermore, the impact of these methodologies on the social dimension is very interesting, emphasising the social responsibility and social enterprise dimensions. It is right to insist on teaching as one of the main strands of academic activity, on the basis of which the socially responsible reaction by universities is strengthened. They underline the position that “service-learning includes, from the curricular and educational aspect, a strong dedication to social transformation that enables the university to connect with society and work to resolve shared problems” (p. 63). At the same time, they direct the gaze of service-learning towards social enterprise, enabling the identification of the specific characteristics of a teacher with a socially enterprising personality, noting that “with the methodological innovation proposed through service-learning the necessary and ideal conditions are established for students to develop these features and others” (p. 78). It is not easy to find these dimensions in the literature on service-learning, and so it would be desirable to include them, interweaving them with the social dimensión in this dual aspect. ,

The second section of this work considers research. The editors emphasised at the start the need to interweave innovation with teaching and research, and this is more than just an assertion as they dedicate this second section to research in service-learning. They provide an overview of the research and research groups that currently focus on this topic, showing its dynamism. They provide guidance for approaching this type of study, dedicating one chapter specifically to the application of qualitative methods and another to quantitative methods in this type of project. ,

The aim of this is to be able to evaluate and assess, with objective data, the impacts of the experiences implemented, which ultimately affect the quality of our students’ teaching and learning. However, they also note the limitations of this type of research, even though they believe its benefits easily outweigh the weaknesses they mention. ,

Service-learning is an inherently complex phenomenon and so research into it can be approached in many ways. Each focus makes it possible to uncover different types of information, which, along with appropriate implementation of service-learning, will undoubtedly enable us to continue to unravel and better understand all of the inherent possibilities of this pedagogical method (p. 116). ,

The third part of this book presents specific experiences developed in the framework of the INNOVA+3 project. They list as specific examples service-learning programmes implemented in the primary teacher training programmes at Universitat Jaume I. The idea of which, as the authors note, is that advancing in teacher training is essential if we are to improve the educational system and, by extension, society. Implementing service-learning encourages different learning dynamics to those found in traditional classrooms. If this is combined with the social improvement produced, it makes a decisive contribution to the creation of more effective and involved teaching identities (p. 131). This aim is undoubtedly fully achieved. ,

The authors successfully lead the reader, in a straightforward way, in knowledge of this active methodology, encouraging reflection on teaching practice in our university classrooms. And, above all, encouraging us to broaden our perspectives in our teaching and research activities, promoting the necessary social dimension of our efforts to train future educational professionals. ,

Marta Ruiz-Corbella

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