Volume 34, Issue 3, September 2011
Ramona Ilea, Susan Hawthorne
Beyond Service Learning
Civic Engagement in Ethics Classes
In this essay, we describe a form of civic engagement for ethics classes in which students identify a community problem and devise a project to address that need. Like traditional service learning, our civic engagement project improves critical thinking and expressive philosophical skills. It is especially effective in meeting pedagogical goals of engaging and expanding student agency and independence while connecting class materials with individual students’ interests. The project can be adapted to a variety of ethics classes and institutional settings. We demonstrate its effectiveness by examining student projects and class evaluations, as well as reporting our own observations, with emphasis on the skills that students develop. We also address details of implementation and answers to theoretical and practical objections. Although students often find this project challenging, they also see it as deeply rewarding; they have been impressed with their own performance and the skills they develop.