Tag Archives: reflection

On teaching, learning, and service


My current community-based project has brought lots of reflective thinking. On one hand, I am blessed. On the other hand, I could not really avoid them. Here is my latest reflective thinking that I recently shared with my “partners in crime.”

If done right, community-based project is one of the most frustrating projects. Sometimes, one of the most successful is among the most frustrating. People might argue it doesn’t have to (be frustrating). I would argue back, I am not sure if he/she truly understands the complexities of a true community-based project.

One of the possible source of frustrations from this process is that I follow a learning process/theory called popular education (see Paulo Freire and Myles Horton if interested). While the very large majority of instructors follow traditional learning approaches called pedagogy (teaching for children) and/or andragogy (teaching for adult). Popular education is mostly adopted and continued to be developed in a specific area of sociology and community psychology. While pedagogy and andragogy are exclusive in school of education. Most of their strategies are contradictive.

In addition, I am *very* flexible, but I realize it does create confusions and messiness around me sometimes, and maybe they could be counter-productive. But as long as it produces good impacts on community partners and their immediate communities, that is all that matters to me, to be completely very honest. I don’t mind at all with all the messiness, I will have to deal with them.


” … to put simply, I am lost” : the reality of “unreal” world


” Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.” – Steve Jobs, 6/12/2005

This week, I completed my first sessions working with a total of 51 undergraduate students; out of 275 or so total students  enrolled in the course .  In short, the course is to address students’ anxieties about the “real world” so they can strategize their college years.  The INTER-LS 210 2nd Yr Career Course “Taking Initiative” largely builds on the idea of liberal arts education that encourages students to think creatively about themselves, and eventually about the environment they belong to.

Rightly so, reading my students initial reflective writing, which is one of the assignments in this course, I have learned overwhelming  number of students experiencing fear about the “real world.”  One student wrote, “I have never understood how the real world works.”  This leads me to think, are we (students) now in an unreal world?   This post is my elaboration on the question. Continue reading ” … to put simply, I am lost” : the reality of “unreal” world

Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

Reciprocity, just like many other terms such as equality, justice, participation, have become a rhetoric where we are often stuck with the talk rather than the walk. Because, in each of these terms, it involves at least two completely difference universe.

Let’s talk about it in the context of community-academic partnerships, and I would use a very specific case when people have differing opinions  leading to arguments. A phrase I was told says that “an argument is a moment of a productive conversation.” In this case, at least I would try to explain that the idea of reciprocity means almost nothing. This is because academics and community members are in two very different social constructions when committing to argumentative conversations.

Continue reading Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

A Step Richer, Scholarly and Administratively


December 20th was when all of the senior capstone courses for Environmental Studies major at the Nelson Institute gathered.  It is the final day of the semester for our collaborative project with the South Madison Farmers’  Market.  In every course that I was part of, I have always learned new things, and I could only be grateful for the opportunity.

Continue reading A Step Richer, Scholarly and Administratively

The most important in collaboration is, to me, being patient.


According to a MacBookPro’s dictionary :), here it is a definition of ‘patient’ as an adjective:

able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

Image of people collaboratingLast Thursday in our community-based research (CBR) class, we reviewed a recruitment email that needed to be sent to our research subjects.  At one point I thought, let’s just use this version and move forward.  But students were starting to offer inputs share discomfort with the original email version.  Feeling the energy from students in improving the email, I then asked, “do you want to split and work in two smaller groups so that we can work on two different tasks, or do you want to stay in a bigger group and work on this email together?”  Students anonymously indicated their desire to stay together, and I agree.  Consequently, I had to delay offering a training on how to create an encryption folder with a TrueCrypt software to students for the third or even fourth times, which was completely fine to me.

Continue reading The most important in collaboration is, to me, being patient.

This is why literature review may not be necessary in a full semester CBR course.


This semester I am co-instructing a community-based research course with the South Madison Farmers’ Market.  Last week in the Midwest Knowledge Mobilization Network meeting, I was sharing with one of the event’s participants that we would not ask students to conduct a literature review as part of our research report.  I explained that literature review can be done anytime and they already have the skills in doing that kind of work.

This participant was surprised, and thought that literature review should be part of the research activities.  This participant went on to say that literature review helped inform researchers to”negotiate” the scope of “collaborative” research with their community partner.

I have been doing some thinking since then and thought there are a couple important points.

First, one of the main purposes of offering a community-based research course is to give opportunities to students to gain knowledge from community.  Literature review will violate this spirit since students will “still” be gaining book or literature knowledge.  Please read also what Lynet Uttal suggested about local theorizing.

Second, community-based research is an attempt to direct academic research that addresses real community problems.  Community know the exact problems that need solving.  Researchers do not negotiate on that.  Rather, researchers work together with community in framing the problem to a research question that can produce actionable research findings.  That is, research findings that can be used immediately by community to support their program planning.

I welcome your thoughts in this.