Dwight E. Giles, Jr.
University of Massachusetts
Professor of Higher Education, College of Education and Human Development, Senior Associate with the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Future service-learning historians will likely note that Dwight Giles stands out as a seminal change agent responsible for shifting service-learning to a scholarship anchored form of experiential learning. Dwight published a 1988 paper where he argued that service-learning must be anchored in and guided by a philosophic or theoretical framework. He felt Dewey’s theory of experience, embedded within his broader philosophy of pragmatism, would serve that function. Reprinted in 1991 and roundly toasted in a commentary to that paper, he persisted to advocate for moving service-learning fully into the academy and the faculty pedagogical portfolio.
He demonstrated that service-learning research had national value by securing over $675,000 in grants, usually in partnership with Janet Eyler. This research provided evidence to support his proposition that Dewey’s notions of continuity and interaction were foundations to the critical reflective discourse needed to demonstrate the learning aspects. His funded research with Eyler was unprecedented and provided further evidence that service-learning could be transformative for students, providing them collaborative skills and practical experience that would breathe life into their academic work. His work, driven by Dewey’s theory of experience and overall pragmatism laid the groundwork for 21st century service-learning, academic service-learning, study abroad, IARSLCE, and in many respects, albeit indirectly, the emergence of all facets of community engagement scholarship.