A Goodbye

27 07 2009

I am coming to the end of my term of service as an AmeriCorps*VISTA here at Clarkson College. While I haven’t been able to keep the blog as current as I would have hoped, I have truly enjoyed my time here. I have learned so much about Service-Learning and education.  I am leaving our blog in very capable hands.  I can’t wait to continue to watch and see what becomes of the program at Clarkson.

I’ve seen our program revamp the Service reporting system and really get a more cohesive idea of what Service is to our Clarkson College community.  It’s been very rewarding!  I’ve seen our students complete 8417.5 hours of Service over the Fall and Spring semester serving approximately 63,000 people.  It’s amazing the impact our students can have!

I’ve learned so much from so many of you. It’s been so wonderful to see Service from your varied perspectives and I’ve learned so much.  Thank you for sharing with me. I hope we can all continue to provide wonderful Service experiences for our students!

Advertisements




Identifying the Learning in Service-Learning

27 05 2009

Welcome the third post in a three post series to help you decide if Service-Learning is appropriate for your curriculum and how to best implement it, thoughts on how to redesign your course to fit Service-Learning, and how identify what learning you will be facilitating through the project.  Be sure to check out the first post on whether or not Service-Learning will work in your class and the second post on what course design questions you should ask when adding Service-Learning to a class.  These posts are based on information from a worksheet produced by Ed Zlotkowski of Bentley University and all information is credited to him.

The last part of Ed’s process deals with how you will facilitate the learning that will take place during your Service project.  First, you need to identify what learning will actually be taking place or what you would ultimately like your students to get out of your course.

Begin by identifying some course related topics and competencies that could be related back to the Service project.  These are things that your students should be able to articulate in a class discussion, a writing assignment, or some other reflective component.  For instance, in a class on childhood development, identify some theories that the students would be able to apply to their work in a community setting with children.  It is often helpful to look at your course objectives again when trying to determine this.  With these identified, you have a physical thing that your students can use to illustrate the connections they are making.  This provides you a way to grade the learning they are achieving as opposed to the Service which is often much more difficult to assess.

Most instructors that use Service-Learning often hope that their students will gain more than just hands on application of classroom knowledge.  One thing we are frequently looking for is awareness of social issues and civic skills.  You will want to look at how this project you are proposing will help the students understand social issues better.   Will working in a low income neighborhood help them develop empathy and understanding skills?  In terms of civic skills, do you want the students to develop a better sense of how policy affects everything, better conflict resolution skills, or simply the confidence to speak up for issues they care about?  Identify and articulate these skills before you begin.  Having these expectations clearly put forth will help both you and your students to understand what they will hopefully get out of the project and what will be expected of them.

Instructors often cite personal growth as another reason they use Service-Learning.  Again, it is important to identify if there are specific areas you have in mind for the personal growth of your students.  Ed suggests picking three.  These personal growth areas that you are identifying may come in handy when you are designing critical reflection prompts for your students.  It will help to elicit the responses you need from them to prove a depth of understanding and learning.

As we all know, assessment is a key piece of Service-Learning and can be the most difficult piece.  Mr. Zlotkowski acknowledges this by suggesting that you identify the specific student and project outcomes you hope to achieve.  These need to be assessable.  To that end, be sure to create measurable indicators for yourself.  For instance, you want to increase the number of students that can be helped by a specific after school program, you will need to have a set increase you are aiming for (project outcome) and a way to measure any increase that may occur (project outcome indicator).

There are a lot of factors to consider before undertaking a Service-Learning course.  While these 3 posts haven’t touched on every aspect, we hope that they have helped you in your own process.  Please leave us some comments and let us know what you think!





Questions to Ask When Designing a Service-Learning Course

19 05 2009

Welcome the second post in a three post series to help you decide if Service-Learning is appropriate for your curriculum and how to best implement it, thoughts on how to redesign your course to fit Service-Learning, and how identify what learning you will be facilitating through the project.  Be sure to check out the first post on whether or not Service-Learning will work in your class.  These posts are based on information from a worksheet produced by Ed Zlotkowski of Bentley University and all information is credited to him.

Today’s post will deal with Ed’s ideas on redesigning your course to fit a community-based activity.  Once you have ensured that a project is a good fit for your class, it is sometimes difficult to decide on the format.  For instance, should it be mandatory or elective, group project or individual project, a major course component or a minor one?  It is important to make sure that you have a good rationale for your choices.

For example, if you decide to make the service project mandatory, what current piece of your course will it replace?  Service-Learning is meant to be a tool, not an extra something to add to a class.  Could Service-Learning help your students learn some of the principles of your course that you used to assign in a paper?  On the other side, if you made the project an elective part of your course, how do you ensure that the entire class will benefit from the experience?  Would they benefit from an online forum discussion?

The same thought processes apply to determining rationale for individual vs group project and major vs minor course components.  It will depend on the course objectives you are trying to meet and the type of project you are doing.  It may be easier for you to keep track of 10 groups than it is to keep track of 50 students.

Another question to consider is whether or not you need to adjust what will be going on in your classroom to better fit the community-based components of your course.  For instance, you might want to move some of your syllabus items to earlier in the semester to address situations your students may encounter in the community.

As educators, most of our time is spent preparing our students for something: the next phase of the course, a profession, life in general.  Before we set our students loose on the community, we need to ensure a level of preparedness on our students part.  We need to identify the content-related knowledge they will need before they leave the classroom.  If they are working with a non-profit to help them build a website, do they have the proper tools?  Another area of preparation that is sometimes overlooked is personal and social preparedness.  Stereotypes, safety, and anxieties will need to be discussed before students begin their projects.  If there are special or unique situations that will be encountered, would it be wise to bring in a community member to assist with some of the preparation?  It might benefit the students to be able to ask specific questions of someone familiar with the organization they will be serving with.

There are so many questions we must ask ourselves before we can fully integrate a successful Service experience for our students!  I hope these posts are helping to spark that inquisitive nature we need to possess sometimes!  Stay tuned for our next post which will talk about facilitating the actual learning through community-based learning.





Can Service-Learning Work for My Class?

14 05 2009

old class photoI am sometimes approached by faculty members asking if Service-Learning would work for their class.  In truth, it old class photowon’t work in every situation.  We’ve put together a three post series to help you decide if Service-Learning is appropriate for your curriculum and how to best implement it, thoughts on how to redesign your course to fit Service-Learning, and how identify what learning you will be facilitating through the project.  These posts are based on information from a worksheet produced by Ed Zlotkowski of Bentley University and all information is credited to him.

The first part of Ed’s development exercise deals with establishing a Community-Based Project and it’s value.  Before this can be done however, you must identify your course objectives.  Make sure they are clear, measurable objectives.  Now taking those objectives, can you identify a community project that could complement those objectives?  If you can’t find a project that meets your objectives then Service-Learning is probably not a good fit for your class.  That’s okay!  Service-Learning won’t fit every situation.  It’s a tool and like all tools you can’t use the same one for everything.

If you have come up with a potential project for your class great! Now, how will the project enhance your class?  Really think about this and come up with some concrete reasons.  This may be in the form of reinforcing course content or skills such as critical thinking.  Think about what you will tell your students.  What is the rationale you would give them for doing this project?

The last piece for today involves your community partner.  Have you talked to them at all? If not, now is the perfect time!  Have a discussion with them about whether or not they have needs that can be met through your proposed project.  Establish the concrete benefits for the community agency and/or the community in general.  In order for Service-Learning to be effective, all partners must benefit equally so this step is key. (Check out #4)

Our next post will discuss course design so stay tuned!!







So What is that Orange Button Anyways?

10 03 2009

Some of you may have noticed the big orange buttons on the top right of the blog. They look  like this:       rss-icon1

Ever wonder what it does?  If you click on that button, it will bring you to page where you can subscribe to our RSS feed for free.  In other words, you will updated automatically when something new is posted here.  You can subscribe in a feed reader or through your email.  Want to know more about RSS feeds?  Check out this In Plain English video.

There are many different types of feed readers out there.  I like to use Netvibes but there are lots of great readers and aggregators out there.  When you click on the RSS feed button, it will bring you to a page that will allow you to pick your feed reader from the list presented there.  If your reader of choice isn’t there, you can grab the url from the address bar of your browser and add it manually to your feed reader.

Feed readers are ideal for people who follow lots of blogs because they can help you manage multiple subscriptions.  You have options to mark the posts  you have read and haven’t.  It lets you keep your fingers on the pulse of what you are interested in.  For instance, if you are into quilting, you might follow five quilting blogs.  A feed reader will pull all of those feeds into one central location for you.  Instead of visiting five blogs, you only have to visit one page.

The email subscription option delivers our new blog posts right to your inbox as soon as they are published.  This is a great way to keep up with blogs if you are only following a small number of blogs.  As long as you only follow a small number of blgos this way, it will keep you informed but won’t overwhelm your inbox.

So subscribe today and don’t miss a thing!