National University of Singapore (SINGAPORE)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 6658-6667
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Since the early 1990s, experiential learning in higher education combined with community service to form ‘service learning’. In higher education, service learning involving partnerships with community agencies, civil society and industries and have been increasingly used as a teaching tool. However, partnerships with the civil service have been much less explored at the post graduate level. Professional degrees in the fields of public policy, public administration and public management are particularly suited for this type of partnership for academic service learning, though these have yet to form an integral part of most curricula. Although these partnerships take place, in public policy and public administration, they are usually done in an integrative context. For example, they take the form of an end of semester capstone exercise or a policy analysis exercise equivalent to a Master’s thesis. Students choose or are assigned a policy question and work in collaboration with a counterpart or ‘client’ within the civil service, in view of integrating the learning from various courses. However, at the course specific level, service learning by Master’s or PhD students of public policy or public administration is still uncommon.

Given that, in recent years, the class composition of graduate courses in public policy includes an increasing large pool of recent graduates, without work experience from which to ground their learning, service learning in partnership with the civil service and civil society in general becomes even more valuable. Yet, there are missed opportunities as very few linkages between academic lecturers, students and professionals are made for the purpose of teaching at the post graduate level. Moreover, the design of teaching tools through partnerships is often perceived as overly time-consuming and there is an overall lack of awareness on relatively simple approaches to follow. This paper addresses this missed opportunity and presents an innovative and straightforward model that can be implemented in various fields.

Collaborative learning involves designing learning activities to foster experiential learning through service learning in partnership with the civil service or civil society. Three steps are required for a successful partnership: establishing mutual trust, ensuring mutual incentives and lesson sharing. Within this framework, two types of graduate courses in public policy serve to illustrate these models, one qualitative and the other quantitative. The first course is in development policy, giving examples of coursework such as the design of a policy analysis exercises on the good governance of development processes in collaboration with a development organisation. The second course is empirical analysis, involving a quantitative study based on community-based data analysis projects. The paper describes how learning activities can be jointly designed by with the institutional partner and focus on current policy issues and public programs dealt by professionals at the national or local civil service.

collaborative learning, institutional partnerships, public policy.