Learning through Community Service In 2004, a group of academics began to develop a unified system of academic service learning for the University of Western Sydney, College of Arts. The goal was to make service learning an integral and distinctive part of teaching and learning across all undergraduate degrees in the college. The core element of this system was a 20-credit point unit that can be studied by any second or third year undergraduate or any international student in any program in the College. Additionally, a 20-credit point unit gives ample time for opportunities for students to carry out projects that will be of substantial benefit to local community agencies. In 2006, the elective Learning through Community Service, known as LCS, began running in both the first (1H) and second (2H) semesters. It included common orientation sessions, an online mentoring system for student support, and a well-structured assessment system leading to academic credit. The academic service learning (ASL) system created is innovative, in that it comprises a multi-disciplinary community of staff and students who are pursuing common goals in a common structure, while engaging in quite different projects. It has led to significant learning about academic service learning and is of on-going benefit to UWS and Greater Western Sydney community agencies.
Essential Elements • Learning through Community Service is a 20-credit point (double subject), semester-long unit, that is run by the College of Arts. It can be taken within any undergraduate degree. • The basic premise is students go into community agencies, learn through experience and guided reflection, extend themselves, and create links between UWS and the Greater Western Sydney community. • The unit is designed to support students as they learn through experience; it is new and different and is delivered through a flexible delivery mode. • It is an online learning unit taught through the Web. At the beginning, for each intake, there is a three-day orientation symposium which is conducted a few weeks before the semester starts. Orientation sessions consist of group lectures on the theories of service learning, ethics, professionalism, cultural diversity and reflection, and then the group splits into tutorials based on their project choices. Following this orientation week, there are only two more face-to-face sessions—one mid-semester and one at the end of the semester. The rest of the time the students are working with their community agencies. Each semester a range of cohorts run, coordinated by a number of academics in the College of Arts. Each cohort is designed by an academic staff member who is the cohort leader for the semester. Cohorts have included: MADD about the Arts; Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE); Equity Buddies; International Student Support; Community Language School Development; Video Production; Literacy Buddies; and Serving Children, Families and Professionals as Children Start School. The enrollments for this unit have slowly grown over the last three years.
There are four assessment tasks. The first three tasks are 1,500 word reflection pieces spaced about three weeks apart through the semester. These relate to what the students are observing, problems they encounter and how they solve them, background information on the community agency, the student’s design of the work they will do for the agencies, and a report on how well this worked out. Student work is assessed by the cohort leader and returned to the student. The final reflection is a 5,000 word essay that is a culmination of the whole project. The Learning through Community Service unit is an innovative, flexible initiative that is organized into separate cohorts which are coordinated under the one-unit title. There have been three distinct stages in the development of the community service which has included: (1) organizing the cohorts for the unit in consultation with various academics; (2) a unified, Web-linked database for connecting staff and students with multiple community agencies; and, (3) development of an evaluation study and other research based on the Learning through Community Service unit. To continue and maintain the impetus of the unit and thus enhance engagement with the local community, academic staff are encouraged to evaluate the work of the students and their development of skills and knowledge while working in the field. To date, a number of research papers have been presented at a range of conferences highlighting the benefits of the service learning. Dr. Diana Whitton Associate Professor Head of Regional and Community Engagement School of Education University of Western Sydney Locked Bag 1797 Penrith South 1797 email@example.com
Service Learning at UWSS—Using the Framework of Students in Free Enterprise As part of Learning through Community Service the University of Western Sydney created various structures to meet the needs of the students who work in the community. One framework is through an organization called Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). Background to Students in Free Enterprise Students in Free Enterprise is a global organization which all universities may join at no cost to the university or the individual students. The development of the students comes through encouraging them to participate in service learning, which sees links develop between the students, the community and the university. The organization aims to encourage students to integrate financial and social entrepreneurship, education and community service into their service learning programs. SIFE aims to have students utilize “the knowledge they are gaining at university to teach others something that will benefit them” (SIFE Web site). SIFE’s mission is to challenge students to make a difference in their own lives by developing their leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Students are encouraged to do this through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise so as to empower others in their communities and enhance their economic progress. This may be undertaken through the development of personal financial literacy skills, establishing education programs for youth, assisting a non-government organization to better develop their strategies. It is the freedom of choice of the groups that ensures the students are challenged and remain interested in their projects. Thus, as participants in SIFE, students are required to devise, develop, deliver, and document all the projects they wish to undertake under the guidance of a university mentor. Once a year each university team is offered the chance to showcase the work they have undertaken in the local community at a national meeting. Then annually one university represents each country at an international conference. Mission The mission of SIFE is to provide tertiary students with an opportunity to make a difference in their communities and to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the tenets of their academic discipline to enable others to participate more fully and effectively in the economic and social life of their nation. Philosophy SIFE teams accept that true leadership grows out of the team environment and that “people support what they create.” Through working and completing projects in teams, students learn to value individual members’ contributions and to be team leaders. The overarching concepts of SIFE come from two maxims—(1) * Tell me and I will forget, show me and I might remember, involve me and I will learn; and, (2) * Give me a fish and you feed me for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime—in which teaching and learning are interlinked to improve the students’ lives and those of others through ethical practice by supporting the needs of the local community with their skills and knowledge. The Benefits The benefits of each stakeholder group will vary from project to project; however, all will gain something positive from every project undertaken. Students benefit by: • practicing the skills learned at university which are needed to achieve their ambitions, • making connections with community leaders who can help open the doors of opportunity, • knowing that they have helped improve the life chances of others, and • deepening their understanding of the personal responsibility that underpins working within community and business sectors. Academic Mentors have: • opportunities to network and establish contact with other academics in related disciplines and with community and business leaders, • their teaching practice enhanced through facilitating a process that helps students effectively bridge the gap between classroom theory and real world application, and • opportunities available to research the development of the students in their community engagement. Universities benefit from: • increased exposure to and engagement with the local, national and international community through the teaching and learning projects being conducted by their students, •the enhanced reputation of their programs and courses as models of effective learning with vocationallyrelevant outcomes, and • the opportunity to establish or deepen links and networking with the community and business leaders. Businesses and community groups benefit from: • the opportunity to be involved in the development of hard working, highly motivated students with the potential to recruit the excellent students, •providing their existing staff and volunteers with valuable experiences by having them act in an advisory capacity to SIFE teams, and •their opportunity to be a part of the process of educating students to participate more fully in local community.
An example of one SIFE project at UWS The book Old Feet, New Paths addresses the community need of education. The concept to create a picture book that gave Aboriginal children skills to cope with change was developed in collaboration with the local Aboriginal Working Group. Old Feet, New Paths engaged the community on multiple levels as a large amount of involvement was required from various members of the community. Workers and community members were consulted through the Minto Aboriginal Working Group for approval on all matters, two prominent and respected Elders were given a voice to guide young Aboriginal children through the hard time they are facing, and fourteen Aboriginal children ranging from 6-12 years were given the opportunity to be part of a lasting resource for their community. The aim of the project was to highlight the financial needs and issues that students face today and to provide them with vital financial information regarding these areas that are easily overlooked. Dollars and $ense provided succinct information on relevant financial topics which are specific to university student life. It was a project run by students for the benefit of students; the information was researched by and created for university students. The efficacy of the information on the CD was through the completion of a survey by each student who viewed the information.
Thus, the work undertaken by students is challenging but meets the needs of all stakeholders and ensures the practical application of theoretical knowledge of students. * For additional information please see <sife.org> or <sifeaustralia.org.au>. Dr. Diana Whitton Associate Professor Head of Regional and Community Engagement School of Education University of Western Sydney Locked Bag 1797 Penrith South 1797 firstname.lastname@example.org
Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s Workforce
By Stancia J. Whitcomb–Jenkins University of Missouri–Kansas City
Labor statistics continue to reveal that the fastest growing part of our job market is for skilled workers. In 1991, 45 percent of jobs were classified as “skilled” and required some postsecondary education. By 2005 that number had increased to 62 percent and the trend will continue to grow. Job candidates armed with a professional or associate’s degree and at least some technical training will have the best chances of getting a foothold in an increasingly competitive labor market. Competition by our nation’s youth in a global twenty-first century economy will require preparation for postsecondary education as well as the workforce. Giving youth the academic foundation they need to be ready for college, a career, technical education or work has never been more vital. Those entering the technical field, or who wish to obtain an advanced degree, will require even more education and training as well as increased levels of aptitude in math and English. Unfortunately, data offers a distressing picture of college and career readiness for many of our nation’s youth. Too many young people fail to graduate from high school or graduate lacking the academic foundation and competence required to be successful in postsecondary education or careers. Although a number of young people do graduate from high school and enroll in postsecondary education, many require remediation and may leave school without the requisite skills or competencies needed in today’s economy. Without the necessary education and skill set, many of them may face high unemployment or joblessness and serious difficulties in getting a firm foothold in the labor market. The data on education and achievement disparities for African American and Hispanic U.S. teenagers compared to national achievement statistics are even more disturbing. Data shows that the educational attainment gaps between Whites, Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians is widening. If these disparities are not addressed, the anticipated demographic change will have a major impact on the educational attainment of our nation’s population. Fortunately for Greater Kansas City area youth, help is on the way through a partnership between the University of Missouri–Kansas City and the Greater Kansas City YMCA called Young Achievers. The program is part of the YMCA national “Black Achievers” program which originated in 1971. However, today, the YMCA Black Achievers program is like the national YMCA movement—multi-racial and gender-balanced. YMCA Young Achievers is an academic achievement/career development initiative for high school teens of color and teens from disadvantaged histories. The goal of Young Achievers is to help teens of color set and pursue high educational and career goals resulting in high school graduation, acceptance into and graduation from an institution of higher learning, and successful entry into a career of their choosing. The program also provides effective career guidance and education programs that expose young people to the jobs of the future in real-world settings and guides students to the appropriate courses for college and career choices. Components of the program include: Academic Enrichment, College Preparation, Career Exploration, Workforce Development, College Tours, World of Work/Job Shadowing, SAT/ACT Preparation, Tutoring, College Scholarship Development, Leadership Development Programming, Service Learning Education, and College/Career Fairs. The “Career Clusters” component of the program exposes participants to a variety of fields including arts and entertainment, business, communications, computers, education, engineering, health and medical, law and government. As a corporate partner and sponsor, UMKC will assist with the connection to Adult Achievers –faculty, staff and alumni – who will share information about their field of expertise. Through this connection UMKC alumni will share their experience and wisdom with youth participants. The program will launch on UMKC’s campus September 2008 and will run through the academic year annually. During the first program year, UMKC anticipates serving 150 high school students on campus the second and fourth Saturday of each month. By year five, the YMCA and the University anticipate serving 500 area youth. Young Achievers success is apparent in the outcomes which are measured by tracking students that matriculate through the program. Results show that 9 out of 10 high school seniors that participate in the program enter postsecondary education, nearly 100 percent of Achievers entering higher education do so with some form of scholarship assistance, and ACT scores and advanced placement enrollment used to determine academic success has shown that Young Achievers program participants seem to academically outperform their peer group while closing the achievement gap. Part of the University of Missouri–Kansas City’s mission and vision is active engagement with its city and the region as well as the development of a professional workforce. By being a Young Achievers partner, the university plays a role in addressing the education and achievement disparity among minority and disadvantaged teens in the community it serves, re-enforces its relationship with its surrounding community through investment in youth, and makes a lasting impact in the urban core that it serves. In addition, African American and Hispanic students are exposed to “university life,” and there is an increased visibility of UMKC faculty, staff and alumni in the community. Over the next year, the Greater Kansas City YMCA and UMKC look forward to connecting teens with the information, resources and people that will empower them to develop into influential, successful adults. Through this partnership, area youth are given a vision for what the world has to offer and a path for how to achieve success. Sources: www.UMKC.edu http://www.ymca.net/
The PBBA at Westminster College Westminster College sits on a 27-acre campus in the heart of Salt Lake City. With an enrollment of 2,800 students, the college has long prided itself on the personal, hands-on education those students receive, whether in a traditional liberal arts field or in one of our professional programs in nursing, education, and business. In the past several years, we have added to this personalized culture an intense focus on student learning. That focus, manifested now in our curriculum and co-curriculum, points all students towards achieving campus-wide learning goals that prepare them for success in their personal and professional lives. Our focus on student learning has also made it possible to begin responding to one of higher education’s biggest challenges—the escalating cost of earning a college degree. Over the past two years we have developed a new academic program, the Professional Bachelor’s in Business Administration (PBBA), which cuts tuition costs in half. Looked at one way, the PBBA’s low-residency, competence-based education is a radical departure for Westminster. Looked at in another way, it continues Westminster’s commitment to creating learning environments that result in deep, durable, relevant learning. The PBBA got its birth in conversations between faculty in Westminster’s Gore School of Business and local business leaders who talked with us about what they look for when they evaluate employees. We found that, in addition to a mastery of business principles and skills, employers also wanted employees to demonstrate competence in more general areas. As a result, our program is designed to help students achieve and demonstrate business skills and our campus-wide learning goals related to communication, critical thinking, creative capacities, leadership and collaboration, global consciousness and social responsibility. To test our concept, we identified a narrow target market: nontraditional-aged students who had the equivalent of an Associates Degree and wanted to complete their undergraduate education in business. These students are highly motivated, but face a myriad of obstacles—full-time work, family commitments, and the need to learn at their own pace. The program we designed for that market has as a distinctive feature: graduation is tied not to courses, credits or grades but to the achievement of competencies. Students earn the degree when they successfully complete a series of business projects that require them to apply specific knowledge and skill sets (competencies) to real-world business issues. On top of whatever knowledge and skills they may have accumulated through life and/or professional experiences, students develop these competencies by undertaking specific learning exercises and experiences recommended by faculty. The projects and learning experiences are undertaken in an online format under the guidance of faculty mentors and supplemented by intensive two-day residencies on the Westminster campus. The result is a program that meets real needs, draws on technological innovation, but is rooted in Westminster’s culture. While still in its infancy, the PBBA offers great promise: it can be replicated in a variety of different academic fields, offers a quality educational experience at reduced cost, and allows us to both model and encourage the shift from teaching to learning. Dr. Gary Daynes Associate Provost for Integrative Learning Westminster College
Non-Traditional Teacher Preparation Program Nets Great Results Urban Teacher Education Center.
The California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) Urban Teacher Education Center (UTEC) has won the California Spring 2008 “Quality Education Partnership for Distinguished Service to Children and the Preparation of Teachers.” UTEC is a collaboration between CSUS, the Sacramento City Unified School District, Jedediah Smith Elementary School, and the Seavey Circle Panthers Tutoring/Mentoring Center. It was created in 2004 to prepare future teachers for teaching in low income, culturally and linguistically diverse urban schools. The threesemester teacher preparation program prepares 60 student teachers each year at 15 elementary schools in the district and is based at Jedediah Smith School. Jedediah Smith serves children from two public housing projects, and its demographics are 100 percent free-and-reduced lunch, 96 percent students of color, and 60 percent African American.
Field-Based. UTEC student teachers spend most of their teacher preparation program in schools and
communities in order to better understand the realities of urban education, including the social, political, and economic conditions impacting the lives and education of urban children and their families. By taking courses at a school site, students and faculty are able to draw on the knowledge and experiences of classroom teachers, school personnel, and community members in an authentic environment relevant to their course work.
Community-Oriented. UTEC’s main principle is that in order to effectively educate children in
urban settings, teachers must not only know how to teach in classrooms, they must also learn about and engage in the communities of their students. Students learn about the community agencies, community groups, and neighborhood efforts to provide support for children, their families, and their schools, and take part in the important work of these groups. Students also learn about sources of knowledge and strength within racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse families and communities and learn how to draw on that within their own work as educators.
Activities at Jedediah Smith School. UTEC faculty and students tutor in the neighborhood
tutoring center (Seavey Circle Panthers Center), created and help operate a Family Resource Center for families at the school, opened the school’s library one year when there was no money for a librarian and currently assist in the library, teach in the after-school Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement program (MESA), created and run an after-school arts program, helped lead a field trip to CSUS, and help facilitate a Family Literacy Night for children and their families. The Coordinator of UTEC, Dr. Jana Noel, spent her sabbatical as a “community liaison” between the neighborhood housing projects, the elementary school, and the university.
Outcomes for University Students. Surveys of UTEC students, as compared to traditional
teacher preparation programs on the university campus, show evidence of greater motivation in UTEC students to teach in urban schools (35 percent vs. 67 percent) and greater desire to teach in areas of poverty (33 percent vs. 65 percent). And in a pre- and post-program survey, UTEC students increase their desire to work with families and communities when they become teachers (increase from 54 percent to 95 percent). Dr. Jana Noel, email@example.com CSUS Community Engagement Scholar, www.csus.edu/cec Co-Coordinator, Urban Teacher Education Center, www.csus.edu/utec