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Teaching Ethics

Volume 10, Issue 2, Spring 2010

Nathaniel J. Brown, Anji E. Wall, John P. Buerck
Pages 37-46

Vocation and Service Learning
Fostering Reflection and Citizenship in an Informatics Curriculum

This paper proposes a new definition of vocation that honors the concept’s ancient roots, is consistent with how the term is used in modern contexts, and also expands the concept for greater versatility. We discuss the centrality of service in the concept of vocation locating it as part of the bridge between a student’s core values and their embodiment in community life. The commitment to one’s profession begins before independent status as a practitioner of that profession. It begins in training during which service-learning is a laudable and increasingly popular way to connect to the charitable aspects of professionalism. We further discuss how the concept of vocation is especially appropriate in the context of citizenship. Citizenship is a way of belonging to a community. It is a relationship that requires giving and taking. Service-learning is an ideal way to practice good citizenship on a local scale, and prepare future professionals for understanding their communities and commitments morebroadly. We discuss how these concepts are being emphasized in the medical informatics master’s degree program at Saint Louis University through the incorporation of a service-learning module. We describe the module, discussing how it can be applied to curricula at other institutions and modified for inclusion in other types of courses.

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