13 Contribution and Language Learning: Service-learning from a Sociocultural Perspective
Howard Grabois [+]
East Carolina University
Grabois’s chapter ‘Contribution and Language Learning: Servicelearning from a Sociocultural Perspective’ considers one possibility of concretizing Magnan’s proposals to expand the boundaries of foreign language instructional programs into everyday communities where the target language is used. Grabois examines the reflections of students who participated in an advanced Spanish university service-learning course from the perspective of SCT. In particular it considers the concept of ‘contribution’ as described by Stetsenko and Arievitch (2004). These researchers suggest that contribution is a more useful way of considering Vygotsky’s contention that internalization of cultural artifacts and concepts from a community has a flip side to it – externalization – or the giving back to the community what one may have appropriated and modified. This under-researched aspect of the developmental process derives its relevance according to Stetsenko and Arievitch from the fact that a contribution, as opposed to externalization, has a goaldirected aspect to it, which the latter notion does not. Grabois documents through the extensive commentary produced by the Spanish students who participated (here he brings in Sfard’s (1998) study of the participation versus acquisition metaphor) in various activities with local Hispanic communities that learning through contributing to the well being of others can change student knowledge of and attitudes toward target communities, while elevating the meaningfulness of language learning activity to levels rarely attainable in the classroom. He further shows that situating language learning in relation to personal development and social consciousness also has significant influence on student motivation, attitudes, confidence and ability to successfully interact in the target language.