Service learning is a concept wherein counseling students are given the opportunity to have short-term projects that make them learn while interacting with people who will need their help. This article authored by Jennifer Baggerly, published in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development last October 1, 2006, gives an idea on how service learning can help the counseling students, the university and the communities by conducting play therapy with children.
The abstract was very clear in telling what the study is all about. It provided all the major details of the project that other researchers trying to learn from the field would have wanted to know. It said that the article included definitions, rationales, procedures for implementation on service learning with poor children, and methods of facilitating multicultural counseling competence to an example group of 11 African American children.
The author introduced the article well because she showed the need for counselors to provide more services to the poor. She gave good statistics that showed how much higher the poverty rate of Hispanics (22.5%), Blacks (24.4%), and Native Americans (23.2) are compared to the White Americans (8.2%) and Asians (11.8%) in the U.S are based on the year 2003. She also gave statistics on how poverty causes more problems for the poor to rise above their situations. She also reported on that poverty prevents people from getting mental health services like insurance and competent counselors who understand their plight and have no middle class biases. She believes that service learning can help not only the neighborhoods affected by poverty (NABPs) but also call counseling students to be leaders in showing multicultural counseling competence.
Baggerly defined service learning as a way of putting both the curriculum voluntary community service and guided reflection into one project that would enrich the counseling student’s learning experience. She provides three rationales for this: (1) the approach helps universities fulfill their social-civic duties to their communities; (2) service learning helps students learn more about multicultural competence; (3) it encourages counseling students to realize society’s needs and can spur them into action. With complete information in hand, the researcher concludes her introduction and gives the reader a concrete understanding of what the research is for.
Baggerly was not able to give a good literature review regarding other studies connected to hers but she provides an excuse by saying that there are not enough. Instead, she provided an example of how a local African American community was helped by the University of South Florida through the students’ documentaries for public awareness, letters sent to politicians for the different advocacies, group play therapy projects wherein the children were taught how to resolve their difficulties. She also showed how those counseling students who underwent the service learning approach realized how much they learned through the experience of dealing first-hand with the poor and how it made them realize their competence in solving the problems.
The study was conducted by allowing a class of counseling graduate students to provide group play therapy to children in a community center of an NABP. The students were guided by ten procedures. The students were given syllabi that included the objectives before they met with the community leaders to determine the needs of the children. The administrators of the center revealed that lack of transportation and money were major problems for the children to receive mental health services which made the professor and students agree that group play therapy would be the best means to resolve the issue. The next steps were guided procedures by the professor in helping the students understand the problems further through logistic analysis and in-depth structuring of the sessions. Each student then handled 2 to 3 kids from the 4 boys and 7 girls aged 5-8 years old in the African American NABP’s community center. Reports from the students showed that they were able to connect to the children. An example was of a young girl who had a dilemma when she wanted to share her toy food with her sister but it meant that she would lose her share because of poverty. The students were then able to understand the problems and find ways in helping the girl cope with her issue. Another student expressed concern that the project was too short and that they had to do follow-up sessions to be able to make a difference in the children’s lives. On the other hand, tests after the project also showed that some of the children’s scores on the Children’s Depression Inventory and Revised Manifest Anxiety Scale became lower. The project also garnered a subsequent $15,000 grant for another project.
The study’s three rationales were evidently attained in the responses given by both the counseling students and the children. This greatly shows how other counseling students and professors can enrich their curriculum by having the service learning approach and at the same time help a community.
Multiculturalism and poverty are best understood by immersion and this made the project very effective. I believe that only through experiences like these can counselors truly be effective in dealing with their own various future patients. These very enlightening activities are what make competent and great leaders in the counseling field.
Baggerly, J. (2006). Service learning with children affected by poverty: facilitating
multicultural competence in counseling education students. Journal of
Multicultural Counseling and Development, Vol. 34 N4. 244-256.