Practise What You Preach: The Service Learning Project

Project Description Adapting to Other subjects & Contexts | Teacher Reflection | Student Reflections

service-learningThe Service Learning Project was about learning to practise what we preach, namely what it means to be a Catholic by encouraging students to find ways to put Catholic values into practice. Students were tasked to design and prototype service learning projects for Rosebank College that encompassed the Catholic Ethos of the College and was inspired by the life of a saint. The project included a presentation to a panel of adults (including school leadership), a learning process journal and a project plan.


Project Description

Context: Yr 7 Religion

Unit: What it means to be a Catholic

Time: 10 weeks

Learning objectives: To practice what we preach. To teach the content of the program – What it means to be a Catholic (Catholic Ethos of the College, Good Samaritan values, Benedictine values, life of Saints) – by encouraging students to find ways to put these Catholic values into practice. To develop presentation skills, encourage creative thinking, and form critiquing skills. To learn to give, listen, appreciate and act on feedback. To appreciate how ideas develop and improve through the collective intelligence of the group. To learn how to pitch ideas and present in an engaging way; to understand how crucial pitching skills are and to realise that great ideas can lose impact with poor pitches.

Product: In pairs, students had to come up with a service learning project idea for our school that was aligned with the Catholic ethos of the College and inspired by the life of a saint. Students had to participate in peer critique sessions to further develop their idea, and it was also expected that they conduct research to present an informed and realistic project plan. Students had to pitch their final idea to a panel of adults, who would bring the best service learning project to the College Leadership Team for possible implementation.

Hurdle Tasks:

  1. Jigsaw mini-lessons prepared in pairs and delivered to whole class (on all content outcomes)
  2. Project plan with all relevant information (eg. idea, costs, locations, times, connection to Rosebank’s Catholic ethos, saint etc) to be shared in small groups for peer feedback on project idea
  3. Practice pitch presentation in front of 6 students for peer feedback on pitching skills

Exhibition: Pitching service learning idea to a Panel of adults, and answering follow-up questions. Best ideas shared with the College’s Leadership Team.

Deliverables: Pitch; Project Plan; Learning Process Journal

Co-constructed Assessment Rubric:

Do you have any questions about the project description? Click here  to add them to the comments section.


Adapting to Other Subjects and Contexts

The original project, as well as the suggestions below, can be a multi-disciplinary project. For example, English could focus on pitching skills and persuasive talking  and Design & Technology could focus on presentation tools and techniques.

Science: pitch a new environmental policy/plan to the school leadership team to save energy and reduce their impact on the environment.

Business Studies/Commerce AND Personal Development, Health & Physical Education: pitch a new concept for a canteen, including a menu, to the Parents & Friends association of your school.

Do you have any other ideas teachers could find helpful? Click here  to add them to the comments section.


Teacher Reflection

This was my first experience teaching religion (and my first attempt at a solo PBL project). I t was very important for me to be able to remain true to myself through what I was teaching, and to be passionate about how I was going to teach it. I wanted to find a way to truthfully and deeply connect to the Catholic content I was about to teach. I feel very strongly about putting values into practice, rather than just talking about them, and I am very passionate about service learning, so I combined these things together to create a project based learning experience that I would find engaging and exciting.

Because I found a way to connect the content of the course to my interests and passions, I thoroughly enjoyed every lesson. I was constantly walking around the classroom, stopping by each pair to listen to their developing ideas and provide ongoing feedback. Being able to talk to students in small group settings, rather than spending the majority of my time lecturing at the front of a class, meant that within a few weeks I got to know all my students very well.

I was in particular very impressed by the insight students showed when critiquing their peers’ projects. It made me realise teachers have a room full of skilled critics sitting right in front of them, and in all my years of teaching I had never made use of this amazing human resource that could add so much value to learning.

Having a panel of adults watching the presentation, and knowing there was a chance of their project becoming a reality made all the difference. It was a big motivator for my students, who saw the project as something that was truly worthwhile (despite it not being an actual assessment task). Similarly, for me having colleagues agree to being part of the panel and hearing that the best projects would indeed be pitched to the College’s Leadership team made me feel that my project had value. In a way, it represented the “authentic audience” and “real purpose” for my personal learning experience as a teacher.

It was also valuable to have the adults on the panel marking the presentations as the marks were more objective. There was an obvious discrepancy when it came to students who pitched poorly: I awarded them higher marks than the other panel members and I realised this was because I had a more intimate knowledge of their projects and was also more emotionally attached. I decided to ignore my marks, and consequently some students failed the task. I felt bad but at the same time I knew that by failing them they had gained more than any other student in the class, as they had truly learned a valuable lesson for their future careers: you can have a fantastic idea, but if you don’t pitch it well, others will fail to see its value.

The service learning projects of some of the students were truly impressive and I felt immensely proud of them. Sometimes we really underestimate the ability of our younger students. I feel that this type of learning really brings out the talents and skills that traditional learning sometimes fails to uncover.

Have you ever had to teach a subject you were not qualified for and for which you had little interest? How did you deal with the challenges? Have you ever taken advantage of “the room full of critics” in your classes? Click here  to contribute your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.


Student Reflections

“My project first started off as a plain and boring idea, which I personally didn’t like.
but by hearing ideas from my classmates we came up with an idea that any age group would enjoy. Without all our warm and cool feedback the project wouldn’t have been what it is now. I am really happy with our final result.”

Alessia, Yr 7

“The process was very interesting because not everything worked. It was a fun process because you just had to keep ‘chipping at it’ to finish it, it was also a hard process because if one slight thing was out of place you had to fix it so that’s what made it kind of difficult. Over all the project was fun/interesting/difficult and I quite enjoyed it and if I had to do it again I would.”

Domenic, Yr 7

“I am really happy with the fact that we could make, design and show a project instead of doing worksheets, and I’m hoping we can do another project like this in the future. I found it really interesting that Ms. Corsini basically made us in charge for our whole project, it made us feel like she put a lot of trust into us, which made us feel more adult. It was fun to research our idea, and plan our budget, it also builds quite a lot of team work, for both of the people because it means you can’t just put the whole workload onto yourself, but may mean you get more stressed out, because your partner may have a different perspective or idea to you, and will challenge your team work.”

Hugo, Yr 7

Clear here to read all Student Reflections



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