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Running head: EDU 329 ARTICLE CRITIQUE

EDU 329 Article Critique

Lisa Maley
Molloy College

EDU 329 Article Critique
Learning is a social activity that requires interactions between people instead of mere
individual study. Education should be considered a dialogue instead of a monologue. One
exciting way to help young people to find their voice is through service-learning. Serriere, Mitra,
and Reeds article, Student Voice in the Elementary Years: Fostering Youth-Adult Partnerships
in Elementary Service-Learning, explores three different teacher leadership strategies that can
be employed to cultivate a meaningful service-learning experience for students at the elementary
level (2011).
Service-learning is a teaching strategy in which a young persons service to a community
is incorporated into the academic curriculum (Serriere, Mitra, & Reed, 2011). However, servicelearning is not merely community service or volunteering because the projects connect directly
to the curriculum. By introducing service-learning in the elementary years, the youthful window
of wonder makes children more likely to grow civic knowledge, skills and dispositions to
become informed, proactive citizens of the world (Serriere et al., 2011, p.542). The role of the
adult leader is crucial because it informs how student voice develops in these youth-adult
partnerships (YAPs), which are symbiotic relationships in which both youth and adults
contribute ideas to effect change (Serriere et al., 2011, p.543). The article examines real YAPs in
one school, Dewey Elementary School (a pseudonym), and explores the pros and cons of the
three leadership styles: The Synthesizer, The Catalyst, and The Commander (Serriere et
al., 2011, p.549).
The Synthesizers leadership style is the most student-driven and students lead the
project form design through implementation. Often, this style is disorganized because the leader
does not intervene appropriately. Ms. Owens is Dewey Elementary Schools Synthesizer, and

her students voted on the idea to help a local animal shelter, PAWS, for their project. Meetings
tended to be unproductive in terms of visible victories, but students were constantly engaged
in self-reflection, and felt like part of a community (Serriere et al., 2011, p.556). Students learned
how to make toys for the animals, categorize donations, and take inventory. Perhaps the most
valuable aspect of this style is that students learn democratic citizenship skills such as
deliberation, listening, and brainstorming solutions that they will take with them throughout
their lives.
The Catalysts leadership style is the middle ground between the laissez-faire
Synthesizer and the assertive Commander. Generally, the leader initiates the project idea, but
the students make choices in implementation. (Serriere et al., 2011). Ms. Howard is Dewey
Elementary Schools Catalyst, and she came up with the idea to focus on the African Library
Project that collected books to build a library in a primary school in Swaziland. Ms. Howard
integrated geography, mathematics, reasoning, literature, and group planning in her plan to
connect their project to the curriculum (Serriere et al., 2011, p.551). Each child, regardless of
age, had an important job to do. For example, the kindergarteners took inventory of the books
and practiced their arithmetic. The Catalysts style can serve as an excellent model for servicelearning because children are introduced to projects via scaffolding so they grow more
comfortable with their involvement over time.
The Commanders leadership style is very teacher-focused, and often, student input is
not valued. Ms. Clark is Dewey Elementary Schools Commander, and she took charge
throughout the project. She set the tone by selecting the project (planting trees around the
school), and she did not bother to learn the childrens names (Serriere et al., 2011). The children
were taken on nature walks, watched videos, and looked on as the teacher mapped out where the

trees would go. The children were learning very passively, and they did not know what their
mission was. Ms. Clark felt that service-learning was unnecessary, and the most valuable
lesson here is that service-learning is not effective if the leader does not believe in the process.
Service-learning has the potential to mold a new generation of empathetic, socially
responsible citizens. However, there are many obstacles that make service-learning hard to
implement in todays classrooms. First, the teachers in this article had to run their groups after
school, and Ms. Clark felt that the YAPs were distracting the students from the already short
school day. It might not be fair to ask teachers to sacrifice even more time outside of school
hours. Also, if the teachers who run the program are mandated to do so and they do not buy
into its mission, then the children suffer. Similarly, mandated service might cause resentment
from some students who are uninterested. A few apathetic students might be able to ruin the
experience for the children who are actually engaged. Another unfortunate side effect is the
promotion of racism. Service-learning projects tend to focus on impoverished countries, and
students might believe these countries are inferior and require saving. However, classrooms
today are very diverse, and I think that students would be interested in projects that help people
and countries that they feel connected to. A large class size might prove to be challenging, but I
think service-learning is a necessary pedagogy to improving student engagement and empathy.
The key to service-learnings efficacy seems to rely on early introduction in elementary
schools where students are open to the idea. There are myriad teaching styles, and Serriere,
Mitra, and Reeds article highlights three ways that a teacher can use his or her personality to
promote meaningful service-learning. There are challenges to service-learning, but servicelearning allows students to look outside themselves to enact meaningful changes in the global
community while building empathy, leadership skills, and civic responsibility.

Serriere, S. C., Mitra, D., & Reed, K. (2011). Student voice in the elementary years: fostering
youth-adult partnerships in elementary service-learning. Theory & Research In Social
Education, 39(4), 541-575.