The level of institutionalization of a service-learning (SL) experience can be seen as a factor that makes it possible to show the degree to which the implementation of a particular experience is part of the pedagogical proposal of the educational institution and, therefore, goes beyond the isolated initiative of a single teacher or authority.

The institutionalisation of SL experiences is a key factor in the quality of projects and the level of commitment to community interventions. How can the process of institutionalising SL be evaluated? What methodological approaches should be used?

The starting point is the identification of dimensions and indicators that account for this process. The following dimensions are closely linked to the process of institutionalization:

  1. Journey of the experiences,
  2. Support within the institution and
  3. Integration in day-to-day teaching and learning practices

For each of these dimensions, a set of indicators needs to be considered in order to facilitate evaluation.

Dimension 1: The journey of the experience

This dimension highlights the strategies implemented by the institutions and teachers responsible for giving continuity to the educational service experiences over time. In this sense, two groups of indicators are taken into account:

a) The duration of the experience:

The assumption is that the durability of a project over time implies the development of different strategies that facilitate the sustainability of the project in the face of difficulties, not only intra-institutional, but also those inherent in working in and with the community. Since it is a simple variable, it is measured directly.

(b) The recognition that the experience has received:

Generally, quality projects manage to transcend institutional boundaries and be recognized by other local or external actors. Regarding this group of indicators, local recognitions are considered (resolutions of interest from local executive or legislative agencies, recognitions from civil society organizations, companies or governments with local impact, etc.) as well as national or international awards or prizes.

Dimension 2: Support within the institution

This dimension shows the degree of support that the teacher responsible for the experience finds in other teachers and in the management team for the development of the project and to achieve its insertion as part of the institutional educational offer. The following groups of indicators are considered in this sense:

(a) Involvement of the management team in decision-making about the project.

(b) Teacher participation: Although in most educational service projects the coordination and leadership of the project is centred on one person, the participation of other teachers facilitates the continuity of the experience over time. The number of participating teachers should be analyzed not only in a nominal way, but also in terms of the total number of teachers that the institution has.

(c) The integration of the project in the Institutional Plan.

(d) The explicit appointment of a teacher as project coordinator.

Dimension 3: Integration into teaching-learning practices

When the experiences become part of the permanent activity of the institution, we can talk about its institutionalization. The mere permanence in time of these experiences does not imply the insertion of these experiences in daily teaching-learning practices. In this regard, it is necessary to analyze various groups of indicators that will allow us to establish an approximation to this aspect:

(a) Student involvement:

Due to the enormous disparity in enrolment, the number of courses involved can be taken as a criterion for analysis. Therefore, it will be possible to determine to which degree the educational solidarity experience is concentrated in a specific instance of the curricula or is conceived as a global institutional project.
It should also be considered whether participation is voluntary or mandatory. Mandatory participation makes it easier for the involvement in the project and the products achieved within the framework of the project to be considered in the evaluation criteria of the subjects.

(b) Institutional times:

Regarding this group of indicators, one can visualize the timing of the project with respect to the academic calendar/school cycle, the existence of fixed weekly hours, the amount of curricular and extracurricular hours destined for its realization, among others.

(c) Curricular spaces involved:

Not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of profile (theoretical, theoretical-practical, workshop, internship, etc.)

KEYWORDS: institutionalization, evaluation, schools, service-learning.

Source: Ierullo, M. (2012) Evaluación de los procesos de institucionalización de proyectos de AyS en escuelas, CLAYSS- Centro Latinoamericano de Aprendizaje y Servicio Solidario.