Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Learning to teach for social justice through engagement

Learning to teach for social justice through engagement


Course Directors: Dr. Elaine Keane

Dr. Elaine Keane is a Lecturer (Sociology of Education, Research Methods) and Director of the Master of Education programme in the School of Education at NUI Galway. Her research focuses on diversity issues in both post-primary and higher education contexts. Prior to coming to the School of Education, she worked as a researcher in the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, also at NUI Galway, on EU-funded national and international projects in the area of access to higher education, and as a post-primary teacher of French and Civic, Social and Political Education. She regularly facilitates workshops with academic staff in higher education institutions on the topic of widening participation in higher education and implications for learning and teaching. She is deeply committed to the advancement of social justice through education.

Programme: Postgraduate Diploma in Education
Subject: Learning to Teach for Social Justice (Elective Unit)
Year: Postgraduate Diploma in Education Students
Participants: 6 - 12 students
Hours: A range of hours in the relevant community organisation, minimum of 15 - 2. Approx. 10 hrs support sessions (briefing, reflection, debriefing, presentations) through tutorials on campus.
Credits: 2.5 credits as part of the PDE
Length: 2 Semesters
Community Partners: Galway Traveller Movement, Bohermore Family Service & Galway Refugee Support Group.

‘Learning to Teach for Social Justice' has been developed as an elective Specialist Teaching Methodology Unit within the Professional Diploma in Education (PDE). Most of the participating students have worked, in the past, with Galway Traveller Movement's "Pavee Study" project, through which homework and other academic support is provided to Traveller students from post-primary schools throughout Galway. In recent years, students work with relevant community organisations in Galway or in (approved) organisations located throughout Ireland, which can be more convenient for the students while away on Teaching Practice. Students gain academic credit if they meet the criteria for satisfactory and sufficient engagement in the activities of both the relevant community organisation and the School of Education and complete the assessment - a Reflective Paper. Experiential learning takes place in the community organisation, at times negotiated between the student and the organisation. Special tutorial sessions are designed to prepare students for, and support them, during, the community-based experience and to assist them in reflecting upon that experience and communicating their learning to others. Preparation and training is also provided by the community organisations in respect of their specific needs and expectations.

This collaborative project has been developed as part of the School of Education's commitment to teaching and learning though civic engagement. The initiative is consistent with particular aspects of our mission - namely, to serve as a resource to the educational and wider community. While providing a service to a community partner - in response to needs identified by the organisations - it provides student teachers with unique experiential learning opportunities. The experience is designed to connect with those aspects of the PDE (specifically, ‘Education, Diversity and Social Justice') which are concerned with issues of diversity, interculturalism and educational disadvantage. The initiative allows student teachers to begin to connect theory to practice and to consider how they might adapt and implement inclusive, intercultural philosophies and methodologies in a practical, real-world context. Members of the partner organisations also play a valuable role, in terms of the contribution they make to sessions for the PDE.

The initiative has a number of longer term goals beyond the immediate outcomes for participating students and partner organisations. These include a) exploring how the pedagogy of community-based/service learning can be embedded in the curriculum of the PDE, b) developing good practice in this area, and c) contributing to a research agenda informed by the principles of the ‘scholarship of engagement'