Shared a poster in the Community Development Society annual meeting and conference in Dubuque July 20-23, 2014.
My poster is basically a reflection on the last five service learning courses I co-instructed in the past four academic years. Please read my posts on my past service learning courses for more information about them.
In the mean time you can view an image version of the poster.
In summary, here it is my poster is about.
Service learning is one of higher education civic engagement approaches. But the civic engagement aspect has not been thoughtfully embraced by instructors of a service learning course.
I have found the following three common issues:
- When knowledge is the most important, then students would still be the focus and the community is not.
- Students often viewed as unpaid labor. As a result, the “civic engagement” activities have become volunteering activities and about delivering service. Students are not considered as a collaborator where there is the opportunity to co-produce knowledge between students and community.
- Both academics and community organizations have busy schedule. Often times, they underestimate that the course planning requires patience through (1) thoughtful partnership building and (2) strategic program planning. They need to consciously make the time.
What can be done better?
Really understanding your community and know the end goal of the partnership. And by really understanding community partner I mean understanding where they come from (culturally and socially) and thoughtfully translate their words into a plan that would help build them a better community.
Only this way (knowing the destination) we will know what it is the goal of the partnership, then *move-backward* to what strategies we would design, what skills are necessary for students to have, and only then we can focus what students need to learn about some background knowledge to support the skills and execute the strategies.
Note that we do not start with what we need to teach students. Rather, we start with what we need to deliver by the end of the semester; thus a project-based course.
Second, it is a collaborative partnership. We are not in a consulting business where students will offer alternative strategies by the end of the semester, independently and without community partners participation. It is a process where both community and students will sit together from the beginning until the end. Both students and community partners have strong ownership in every step of the activities. Of course, community partners will not be present all the time. But they will have to be involved in key decision makings.
Thoughtfully design a civic interaction between students and community partners. I have found for multiple times that students visited a site with minimum interaction with the people that make that site. Without positive interactions, students would not know enough about what it means to be civically engaged in the partnership process.
- Freire, Paulo. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
- McCartney, A., Bennion, E. & D. Simpson (2013). Teaching Civic Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen. American Political Science Association: Washington, D.C.
- Prentice, M. & G. Robinson (2010) Linking Service Learning and Civic Engagement in Community College Students. American Association of Community Colleges: Washington, D.C
- Stoecker, Randy. 1999. Are Academics Irrelevant? Roles for Scholars in Participatory Research. American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 42.