Great Ideas

Using Service-Learning and Differentiated Instruction to Help Your Students Succeed

by Pamela J. Gent, Paul H. Brookes, Baltimore, Md., 2009, 296 pp., $34.95 softcover

Great Ideas: Using Service-Learning and Differentiated Instruction to Help Your Students Succeed is a rigorous, research-based book that provides detailed practical suggestions on how to use true service learning to promote full inclusion and to differentiate instruction for students of varying abilities.

Great Ideas

The book begins by clearly differentiating among community service, volunteerism, school-based service and service learning. A key to service learning, says author Pam Gent, is that it “is part of the school day; it is not extracurricular; it is not a mandated add-on; it is not a capstone project or a course. Service learning is a teaching method mediated and directed by a teacher and thoughtfully and deliberately linked to the curriculum, academic standards and IEP goals.”

Gent, a professor of special education at Clarion University in Pennsylvania, lists six components for service learning and fully documents how to accomplish each. Many rubrics, forms and templates in the book will make it easy to carry out the suggestions. The sample documents help us see what is expected at each step.

Although the focus is on service learning, the book also gives a thorough explanation of differentiating instruction that is both as beneficial and as strong as ones found in books focused solely on that topic. Gent offers clear information about effectively including students with disabilities.

Great Ideas also discusses grant writing and lists the many organizations that fund such projects. Twenty pages of references serve as great resources for follow-up.

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, professor of education, Brandman University, Irvine, Calif.