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Students Benefit by Learning Outside the Classroom

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What if I could show you a way to get a closer look—a more realistic look—at how your students will behave and function in the real world? Would you want a sneak peek into their attitude, problem-solving abilities and temperament before you graduate them?

Researchers now state that, “Personality tests are better predictors of future career success than letters of recommendation, interviews, and educational credentials.”1 Educators are pretty good at assessing the cognitive domain (thinking) and the psychomotor domain (hands on), but many haven’t explored the most powerful domain for learning and retention: the affective domain (values, feeling and emotions).

How can we as educators improve a student’s personality? Their values? Their heart? Shaping and measuring their affective domain through community service—sometimes referred to as service learning—gives both the educator and student insight into what the future will bring.2

Community service is an instructional methodology that integrates community involvement with academic instruction. This focus allows students to think at a higher level, reflect on their core values and engage themselves in civic responsibility.

Educators must see their role in not just providing facts and figures, but helping to shape the core beliefs of their students. Provide experiences that allow them to compare and challenge their values with those of others. This is a small part of what community service offers: a chance to give students real life experience while connecting with the community.

Benefits
Three entities benefit the most from students engaging in community service: the students, the school and the community as a whole.

Besides garnering enhanced critical thinking skills, students benefit by having the opportunity for personal growth, improved self-esteem, personal satisfaction, a sense of community, and a better grasp of the problems and concerns of the people they hope to serve.

The school benefits because these students are now more prepared to meet the challenges of a stressful profession, have a stronger motivational and inspirational base, and have a more focused concentration on human needs. This results in a lower attrition rate due to an increased student satisfaction.

The community benefits from an improved relationship and increased involvement with the school, increased support and commitment, and a chance to preview the students before they join the public safety professional workforce.

Classroom Application
There are five simple steps to prepare your students to serve their community:
1. Brainstorm activities for your community needs (e.g., toy drive, book program, Habitat for Humanity, first aid stations).
2. Create and grade clinical forums. Treat this like any other clinical/field assignment, and make sure to build the grade into the class curriculum—ungraded actions signal to the student it’s not important.
3. Establish and enforce rules (e.g., be professional at all times, serve with courtesy and respect, don’t accept money or services, wear full dress uniform at all events, check in and out with preceptors at the site).
4. Encourage communities of interest to sit on your EMS Advisory Board. They can offer ideas and encouragement for the students.
5. Team up with other schools to increase cooperation and effectiveness. Show students the power of working together and involve them in powerful and productive ways.

Conclusion
The truest form of success for an educator occurs when a student applies what they learn in the classroom even after they’re no longer a student. The most powerful experience we can give students is the opportunity to find themselves, reflect on their values and shape their passion. Challenge them to care more of others than of themselves.

Community service can help us take one giant step forward in creating competent and compassionate health care professionals.

References
1. Rogers C, Freiberg J: Freedom to Learn, third edition. Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, N.J., 1994.
2. Chamorro-Premuzic T, Steinmetz C. The perfect hire. Scientific American Mind. 2013; 24(3):42–47.

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