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Service Learning as a Framework for Competency-Based Local/Global Health Education

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Service learning is a field that can provide the foundation for emphasizing the relevancy and realities of local/global health. Service learning is now widely accepted as a form of experiential education in which students “engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.”1 Service-learning courses are not just regular courses with community service for homework; rather, they are courses that unite service and classroom and include a rigorous pedagogy to maximize student development, as well as community priorities. As a result of these carefully drawn distinctions, service learning has survived throughout the years as a formal construct that allows for academic foundations, community engagement, and assessment. With the recent expansion in global health competency sets, including those with interprofessional applications, service learning becomes an increasingly relevant construct for competency-based global health education.1 Service learning is a construct that optimizes the relevance and effect of local global health education and community engagement.

Global service learning (GSL) is a specialty within this field. GSL focuses on service learning in international settings, as well as cross-cultural engagement wherever it occurs. Like global health, GSL is not geographically specific or only applicable internationally. It builds on lessons and practices from domestic service learning, but borrows from both international education and international development literature to develop a distinctive set of values and principles.