A Student-Driven Service Learning Model
Purpose: The purpose of this special interest report is to present an alternative model of a service learning program within one entry-level DPT program. Description: Service learning has become an integral component of health professions education over the past several decades. The incorporation and expansion of service learning in physical therapy (PT) education has provided students with important perspectives on societal health and resource needs that augment their academic and clinical experiences. While the models of service learning differ among academic programs throughout the country, all share the common goal of facilitating a reciprocal teaching and learning relationship between students and community stakeholders. Group activities conducted under the auspices of academic faculty and/or community organizers represent, perhaps, the most common structure of service learning programs in health professions education, including PT education. Maintenance of this program design, however, often requires more academic and/or community resources than that which is available. The alternative service learning model addressed in this special interest report involves students bearing the responsibility of independently engaging in service activities as individuals or in small groups, absent the presence of academic faculty during said activities. Summary of Use: The educational effectiveness and perceived value of this service learning model is supported by data sources including, but not limited to, the type and extent of student participation in non-mandatory service activities, qualitative analysis of comments provided in student reflective journals, and the significance of student participation as revealed by community stakeholders. Importance to Members: This service learning model poses both advantages and challenges for entry-level DPT programs invested in the promotion of health equity, community engagement and professional responsibility among its students. For academic faculty, students, and community members the alternative service learning model can provide valuable educational experiences for both students and community stakeholders, serve public health and wellness needs, and support professional endeavors while leveraging and optimizing limited resources.