Getting help from colleagues

Thanks to OSU’s Civic Engagement expert Emily Bowling for recommending Thomas Means’ books, to John Morris from our College of Business, and to our graduate student Allen Sprague for sharing his research. I now have much better idea about assignments for community based learning in a business writing class in which the writing will be mostly WITH the community partner members, but also FOR the members, and maybe partly ABOUT the community too. These concepts are essential for understanding the project as a whole. This cohort has been great sharing ideas.


Which community will we partner with?

In thinking about ways to integrate SL into business writing, my first thought was the “service” part in which our students would partner with a local group and “help them” by making a newsletter or other document for them, thereby learning about audiences, research, listening, customizing, etc. This seemed useful but daunting because of having to find groups and facilitate.

I also thought more about the concept of community – the OSU community and the Corvallis or regional community. If community based means we work together with each side learning from the others, then I could not see this working as well with some local non-profits. What were they learning from our students? Where exactly was the partnership?

So I thought about a project that one of our GTAs did while teaching Business Writing winter term. He partnered with INTO OSU to focus on intercultural communication and had students pair up for conversation. At least some of the business writing students featured their international partner in their final newsletter project.

Partnering with the INTO OSU community to forge a stronger OSU community seems like a good possibility, so I contacted INTO and will meet with them on Tuesday. I see several advantages to working with them. It helps our two student groups get better acquainted. It helps domestic students understand about global workplace communication and it helps international students understand about the American workplace. Many INTO students are business majors, so this could be useful for them. I am now thinking that the partnership could focus on the Jobs Unit, which involves reports on jobs and organizations, cover letters and resumes. I’ll know more after meeting with them Tuesday.

Another reason I like this idea is that there would be no need for off campus transportation. That will save on time and money.

So tonight I’m working on some specific community based learning outcomes to add to the syllabus. I’m looking forward to everyone’s ideas when we meet tomorrow.


How to integrate SL into a course

I am currently in the middle of teaching a 200 student undergraduate Soil Science course with a service-learning component.  The service learning component is something I and  another instructor (who teaches this course fall and winter terms) added to the course about 2 years ago.  I’m really excited to be doing this workshop.  Being in the middle of teaching (wrestling with?) a service learning course reminds me of how many important aspects we have not yet figured out, despite the fact that we have already implemented this experiential learning strategy.  Taking the time now to reflect and improve is very important to me.

Here are some of the challenges I struggle with.  First, we’ve had trouble “editing” this course- we only seem to add and add and add.  I love the idea of spinning off the service learning into a 1 credit “extra”, mentioned by a couple other members of this group.   This is more appealing than eliminating other parts of the course, because I already feel serious obligations in terms of content and skills to cover because this is both a foundational science course (part of ~20 majors) and a Bac Core course. I need to clarify for myself what workload for students outside of the classroom is appropriate for a certain number of credit hours.  There are a couple of concerns that come to mind, however.  One is whether the additional 1 credit for the service learning should be optional?  We would obviously sacrifice some of our impact if the only students who were exposed to community engagement were students who were already interested in community engagement.  My second concern is about adding to what already seems absurd level of complexity of our course requirements at OSU.

My hopes and concerns…

I am intrigued by Sara’s suggestion that a community partner actually come to our classrooms; depending on the community served, I think this might be a powerful way to expose young people to university culture and plant a seed of anticipation, aspiration…

My concerns are similar to Sara’s. I envision having to spend countless hours researching, meeting with, and arranging schedules with community partners; moreover, time is really stretched thin in our creative writing courses, which are advertised in the catalog as workshops, and which therefore carry the expectation that a significant part of the class will focus on critiquing student writing. They are not 4 credit classes, either, so I cannot build the service learning part into a fourth hour. At my prior institution, such workshops were capped at 15; here they are capped at 27, and usually gather a wait list. Yikes. The more I write about this, the more I am wondering if it is even feasible! 

Has anyone ever looked into the possibility of adding a 1 credit Service Learning practicum unit to existing courses, which would provide time for the hands-on experiential learning component?  What would be neat about this (but perhaps create its own supervision nightmare) is that students across sections of WR241 (and even 341/441, and perhaps even the graduate workshop), for instance, could opt for the service learning credit, and would come together for this shared work. That would be amazing!  The other concern I have is that, with 27 members in the class, there would not be enough meaningful service for each student…or we would inundate and overwhelm our partners…

Well, it sounds like all I have are concerns, but I think that experiential learning creates many opportunities for thinking outside the box–innovative ways to bring students from all levels of a discipline, and even from multiple disciplines, together for a common learning experience. 

Getting started for spring term

I’m really excited to join the spring cohort of exciting faculty with many great ideas already. Our OSU Business Writing / Writing for the Workplace class seems like a great place to start connecting our students with real world experiential learning, building bonds with the community and learning together. It’s what they are going to do anyway.

Already some of our WR 214 classes ask students to imagine that they are collaborating with local non-profits and other organizations, so this will be for real. Making it a real connection will help them take seriously the question of audience awareness. There will be real people right there; nothing hypothetical. And they can learn from each other, not just from me. It’s a win-win situation.

My concern at the moment is how to make the contacts with community organizations and whether that is going to take more of my already scarce time. I’m also concerned about travel. Travel is not easy for me nor for my students. I wonder if we can ask the organization to come onto campus to meet us in the class during class time. Maybe that goes against the whole idea of going into the community? But how can we ask students to go outside of the regular class time. They may have jobs in addition to other classes. And the catalog won’t prepare them for this. Well — I’m sure I will find out soon.

Looking forward to this great opportunity.

Continued Reflection

As the service learning workshop draws to a close,  I really appreciated the opportunity, and I especially appreicated the feedback from the whole group on the last day, regarding my syllabus.  It was really tempting to add a variety of assignments, but I have to remember the 10 weeks really goes quickly and to scale back.  I also really appreciated the suggestions about reducing the class time and making assignments available on Blackboard.  I thought about this particular aspect a lot, and it really makes sense to not go completely from a practicum with no class meetings to a class with regular class meetings.  I am going to work on adding assignments in Blackboard, and possibly try some out for Spring Term!

Public Health Service Learning

After reviewing the principles and standards of service learning, specifically in relation to academic courses, I believe it is the perfect fit for the Health Field Work Experience Course.  Integrating a strong service learning experience that is in the community centered around diverse public health issues including access to healthcare, women’s health, mental health, poverty, and food insecurity would provide the students with a comprehensive understanding of the field of public health.  The first objective and outcome for the revised course would focus on the students being able to demonstrate comprehension of current public health issues through a specific service learning experience.  The second objective and outcome for the course would center around the students participating in the planning and implementation of messages and programs to promote health.  The two main outcomes would involve the community and specific health related organizations to benefit. Through the application of academic readings and assignments, particularly reflection papers, the students would get a significant learning experience to assist in preparing them as a future public health professional.