Marquette University Student Featured in Journal for her Reflection on Service Learning Experience
Lindsay Finn, a Marquette University student, is currently featured in the Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research with her article, “Learning from Exceptional Children,” which features a reflection on her Service Learning. Through an independent study Psychology course entitled, “Working with Exceptional Children,” Lindsay completed many assignments in which she said her reflections “allowed me to take my experiences in the classroom and see how they fit in the context of the course material and its greater impact on society.” Her interest in the development and psychological complexities of children with exceptionalities allowed her the opportunity to work as a teacher’s aide to assist with children in inclusive third-grade and fourth-grade classrooms at Spring Creek Elementary. She said that she “had the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the challenges and successes inclusive education provides students at the elementary school level,” after which Lindsay became more passionate about working with exceptional children.
Lindsay was able to make a connection with the Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory as a way to reflect on her service learning by observing the level of community influence on the experience of children with exceptionalities. In her observations of the community interactions between teachers, faculty, and peers at Spring Creek Elementary, Lindsay found that she was “able to see how important establishing a strong, supportive community can be for children with exceptionalities.” Lindsay described an interaction she observed between two students who worked together to complete the task of writing a summary. She noticed that the ability of peers to help each other succeed highlights the strengths of inclusion by allowing students to invite their peers to feel like a valuable part of the classroom community. Lindsay reflected on the importance of peer support in the development of the learning community, which supports the learning process for children with disabilities. However, she considered the idea of the disability hierarchy, a perception that one type of disability is better or worse than another, and observed instances of this thinking in a classroom at Spring Creek. Lindsay expressed her concern about this mindset and said that that it “proves we have a long way to go in establishing a level playing field even in the lives of those with disabilities.” She remains hopeful that the positive peer interactions among the students can “push past some of the stigma surrounding disabilities.”
Lindsay expressed her gratitude for the Marquette University Service Learning Program, which she feels “offered an invaluable opportunity to learn by giving back to the local community.” She had previously never taken courses with a service learning component and was amazed how much she had learned from working with children firsthand. Through her service learning at Spring Creek Elementary School, Lindsay was able to observe “how a child’s personal characteristics, community, society, and culture can have a serious effect on the life of a child with exceptionalities.” After this experience, Lindsay realized that many people might not get the opportunity to see firsthand how inclusion affects children’s development. She said, “It then became important for me to share what I learned and what I saw because…it’s important for the community to do what’s best for its kids and without knowledge of how these practices function on a day to day basis it’s hard for anyone to know what might be the best policy moving forward.”
Through her observations of the development of community perspectives towards students with disabilities, Lindsay was able to see that “progress is being made toward successful total inclusion of children with exceptionalities in the general education setting.” Her involvement with the Marquette University Service Learning Program allowed her to gain valuable experience in the community in which she tested psychology theories discussed in her course. Lindsay concluded,
“I recommend that everyone take the opportunity to participate in Service Learning in their community because it brings new meaning to content taught in class. It has taught me to not just trust what is written in books but to go experience things for myself because my experience proved to be a much better teacher than the textbook ever could have been. For that I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in the Service Learning Program at Marquette University.”