Service learning in communication: Why?

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



American Association for Higher Education


At a 1993 convention session honoring his work, Howard Giles recounted his attempts to introduce his students in a more practical way to accommodation theory He would send them out from campus to visit nursing homes, where they would interact with elderly residents, paying particular attention to their own and their interlocutors' speech patterns. Such crossgenerational discourse opened their ears to the accommodation normal in everyday speech. Seen in this way, communication should strike most people as a natural academic area for service-learning.

Service-learning "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" (Jacoby 1996:5) systematizes Giles' insight by regularly connecting the students to the community beyond the boundaries of school and academy. As in Giles' case, many others have recognized service-learning's value as a pedagogical device (see Droge and Murphy in this volume). As a pedagogical device, service-learning provides a particularly apt instrument in the communication teacher's tool chest. In addition, it enriches the communication student, the communication department, and, one hopes, the community.

Chapter of

Voices of strong democracy: Service-learning and communication studies


David Droge
Bren Ortega Murphy