On 16th and 17th September 2014, the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University in Ho Chi Minh City (USSH HCMC) organized a Training workshop on “Service Learning and Curriculum Integration”, within the project “Building capacity of applying service learning into teaching and studying for teachers and students at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University in Ho Chi Minh City“ (2014 – 2015) supported by Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.
In May 2014, an orientation workshop for selected faculties and departments took place with the participation of representatives of the Board of Presidents to raise their awareness about the Service Learning concept and the project as well as to ensure their support and commitment to the project. The training course on service learning was the follow-up event for interested faculties, staff and students identified from the orientation workshop in order to build up committed working groups for the implementation of the first phase. Participants of the training were representatives from the Board of Presidents, representatives from the Department of International Cooperation, lecturers from different Faculties as Sociology, Social Work, Pedagogics, Psychology, Foreign Language and a number of senior students.
Dr. Ngo Thi Phuong Lan – Vice President of USSH HCMC said at the opening ceremony, “I hope the faculties and students will actively participate in the activities of the training program in order to innovate the content and teaching methods, contribute to improving the training efficiency and building up USSH HCMC as a research university, through research and training activities that apply theory into practice to address social issues.”
MA Nguyen Thuy Diem Huong, Vice Head of the Faculty of Social Work and Dr. Peggy McFarland from Elizabethtown College (USA) with over ten-year experiences applying service learning were the facilitators and trainers of the training. In day one, MA Huong and Dr. McFarland delivered to the participants a very comprehensive overview about service learning as well as the characteristics of the integration of service learning into the curriculum; the benefits of service learning for schools, students, communities and the principles of how to organize service learning effectively.
“Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes.” (Jacoby, Service-Learning in Higher Education, 1996)
The training also created the opportunity for faculties and students to listen to each other’s opinions, the expectations of students and proposals for the program, about subjects possible to be integrated into service learning and how to integrate those. Through this useful workshop, lecturers also realized the necessity of having more activities in exchange among different faculties.
Continuing to the second day, participants were divided into small groups, including both students and staff of faculties to practice designing syllabus integrated service learning. The groups all actively participated in the discussions and presentations of the results as well as mutual comments. Then, Dr. McFarland shared her experiences about what factors are contributing to a high quality service learning curriculum and the methods of assessment of students learning.
Nowadays, there is a strong need in the Vietnamese system of higher education to find feasible, recognized and acceptable ways of connecting classroom experiences with the external demands of the society. Service learning is one effective pedagogical tool that can be used to address this. As a result, USSH HCM aims to design this project in order to train and assist faculties and students to implement service learning experiences as part of their teaching and studying, to develop and expand community connections and community-based service activities. The long-term goal of the project is to support the University in the establishment of a service learning centre, though it is still a long way to go.