Ethics and Service Learning at European Business School in Germany

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACreating a generation of responsible leaders is not just about teaching topics such as ethics and CSR, it is about providing students with the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice and make a difference in their communities.

At the EBS University of Business and Law in Weisbaden, students have the choice of two service learning experiences that aim to provide students at both the undergraduate and graduate level with the opportunity to learn about these topics, while also having an impact on their local community. I recently had the chance to speak with Marcus Kreikebaum at the European Business School in Germany about the “Do It” and “Educare” courses.

1.    What is EBS’s approach to teaching ethics to students?

When it comes to educating business administration students in ethics two things need to be considered; first, how can ethics be taught and second what kind of ethics should be taught?

In my mind, the answer to the first question is: It cannot. Ethical reflection is possible if experiences that move and shake are made. The second question is more complex. There are many ethical approaches. The most prominent approach is utilitarian one, usually understood as “CSR” or “Triple-Win” and the like. That’s okay, but it’s only less than half of the coin. Other ethical theories on discourse, virtues, justice, or relationships are equally important. This is why we offer an academic oriented service learning and personal oriented service learning programme: “Do It” and “Educare” courses.

2.    Briefly describe the “Do It” and “Educare” courses?

Students have a choice of two courses. The first, Do It, allows students to choose a welfare institution to work with. The second, “Educare,” gives students the opportunity to create their own project. In both, they have the chance to employ already acquired skills in order to contribute to a more sustainable economy and a more inclusive society.

We piloted these programmes as voluntary courses, but because of positive feedback received from students, we have now integrated these into our Bachelor and Masters curricula. Both programmes require a minimum of 40 hours of service and 50 hours of reflection. All students are encouraged to reflect about their experiences and are required to hand in learning diaries, essays, and presentations. About 60 students per semester take these courses.

Some of the projects have included a survey among clients of a local soup kitchen, mentoring children, and working with an NGO from Uganda. Some of the students’ own projects have included finding ecological and social innovations in logistics that contribute to a more sustainable world and developing and analysing options for making EBS’s foods and operations more sustainable

3. What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The outcomes are also very diverse and depend on the service or project taken. There is, however, one common key element, which I would call the cognitive dimension, All students should be enabled to experience their own ignorance by loosing their self certainty regarding the possession of something, may that be food, shelter, health, or wealth. This is the root for reflection. We use this reflection to “polish” experience, like you polish a jewel.

Participants of these courses have already provided over 6,520 hours of community service. Since the average economic value of one hour of volunteer work may be estimated at fifteen euros, the programmes correspond to an economic added value of close to one hundred thousand euros.

The biggest challenge for me is, of course, to finance this work. I do this by organising a business ethics roundtable, which meets twice a year and whose members support our programmes.

4. What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place.

My advice for other schools would be to provide the teachers, students, and the communities more space to discover how to develop more self-efficacy for themselves and others. Everything else will follow.

5.    What’s next?

In the upcoming academic year, the “Educare” team will be launching various projects worldwide in collaboration with the CSR departments of various international and Germany companies and NGOs. Students are also taking on larger and larger projects, for example establishing foundations for underprivileged children or organising supporter networks for international NGOs.


2 thoughts on “Ethics and Service Learning at European Business School in Germany

  1. As Marcus Kreikebaum says, reflection is crucial to service learning projects. When we created the Do it! program in the early 2000s, we gave highest importance and attention to a sound and methodologically approved approach that emphasises reflection, developing a framework that is now at the basis of the students’ projects within social organisations. Only if the experiences made in the social organisation are “polished”, as Kreikebaum calls it, transfer into academic/job-related context is possible.

    But the transfer of experiences is not the only benefit students gain by participating in such projects. Service Learning can also open up new job perspectives: Johannes Kuther, former student of the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt, participated in Do it! in 2011, where he worked for one week in a home for eldery people managed by Diakonie Schweinfurt. After he graduated, Johannes started to work for Diakonie Schweinfurt as a member of the board responsible for controlling. As he says, Do it! made him think about values and led him to his decision to work for a social organisation. Read the whole story about Johannes’ Do it! experience in the article, “Soziale Kompetenzen – Woher nehmen, wenn nicht lernen”, which you can find here:

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