CBL Reading Group: Session 1 (January 21-28)

Welcome to our online reading group pilot.  We are so happy to have you here!  I (Zapoura Newton-Calvert) will serve as moderator for our first session.

In this session, we will be discussing Dr. Edward Zlotkowski’s latest article “Twenty Years and Counting: A Framing Essay.” This piece is a reflection on community engagement over the last twenty years since his 1995 piece, “Does Service-Learning Have a Future?” 

Please join in a discussion about these articles, about PSU’s twenty years and counting with engagement, and what the future holds.  This is the first in a monthly series of discussions exploring diverse perspectives on the subject of community-based learning engagement.

Prompt: To get the conversation started, just jump in and share something from Zlotkowski’s article that really stood out for you, resonated with you, or raised questions for you.  Post any time from January 21 through the 28.  I will write a wrap up post at that point!



10 thoughts on “CBL Reading Group: Session 1 (January 21-28)

  1. There is so much in this reading that resonates with me. The first thing that stood out was the emphasis in the 90s on “academic legitimization” of this CBL work.

    The second was a call by Hicks, Seymour, and Puppo to “propose replacing the traditional faculty-community partner pairing with more genuinely ‘democratic relationships’ among all stakeholders, our focus shifts from academic expertise and community needs to what the latter authors refer to as ‘collaborations not limited by the usual hierarchies implicit in relationships among faculty, students, and community members.'”

    Do you feel like our work is legitimized in the academy? Do you feel like it needs to be? And, do you feel like working to transform “academic culture” is the real work? Or something else?

    In my own work, my main focus is on a mutual relationship among students, community partners, and me; working to provide greater access and connectedness to higher education both to the students we partner with and to my own students (via social justice practices in online learning); and on helping students to activate themselves to become lifelong participants in social change. But I have not focused on changing our institution, except for more recently researching and speaking up about a lack of access in online learning to those students who may need this kind of flexible access the most.

    These are my first thoughts. I’d love to hear from you all, too.

  2. I am still unsure about how online learning gels with service learning–students are reluctant to go out in to the community. The instructor has to be seen and heard most often. I hope to learn more.

    • As someone who has been teaching CBL writing courses and Capstones for the past few years, I know that this teaching pedagogy can exist in online courses. In fact, I believe that it MUST exist in online courses because it is integral to a college education, and we have so many students who are or will be taking more classes and degree programs complete online. As a starting place, check out this post with a solid review of the literature on online service-learning: https://teach4communityonline.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/resources-list-community-based-learning-online/. I look forward to discussing in more depth!

      • I agree with you, Zapoura, CBL is integral to a college education. I also appreciate Priya’s comment about students being reluctant in going out to the community. Here in OAI’s library we have a book titled “Students as Colleagues” which may be of interest in this conversation regarding roles in the classroom and engaging students. While not written specifically about online courses, many of the points translate. Here’s a link (http://www.worcester.edu/Currents/Archives/Volume_2_Number_2/CURRENTSV2N2WittmanP99.pdf) to a review of that book to give you a taste of their perspective.

  3. ARg! I just typed a long response and then lost it with the swipe of a key! I’ll try again.

    I think PSU is doing pretty well when it comes to the type of collaboration between community, students, and faculty he talks about in this article, though I think it would be great to have more CBL opportunities for undergrads before the senior capstone. One of the barriers for me is the time it takes to get a CBL component up and off the ground. Ten weeks feels too short a time, especially in an online class when it takes a week or two for students to get acclimated to the online environment.

    I really liked this question “Will higher education live up to its democratic purpose and undertake the kind of deep change in institutional culture needed to create the conditions for sustained civic engagement?”

    I hope so! In the face of anti-education rhetoric from presidential hopefuls and the cynicism that engenders, I think our only hope for the future is for the education system to become a training ground for citizens and activists. Even if you’re here to study engineering, you should be learning to be a civically engaged engineer! CBL is one way to accomplish that sort of thinking.

    I am interested in his point about an SLCE movement that speaks more directly to the interests and needs of students of color.

    It is interesting to me that the online CBL class I teach is comprised of almost all students of color, including immigrants and refugees.

    One of the things I worry about is that these busy students, under-resourced students are being asked to work for free. One of my students is the only volunteer at the clinic where he works. Everyone else doing his job is a paid employee. I’ve had previous students in similar situations. What do you think about requiring volunteer work or unpaid internships?

  4. Sorry for chiming in late in the discussion. I’m getting over the flu… Anyway, I don’t see CBL classes as students just being asked to work for free. Yes, volunteering is certainly one aspect, but it’s more about the reflection and learning that comes from the process, itself. If students choose courses that fit their interests and future career goals, they can also serve as the ever important check-mark in that “experience” category on their vitaes. I see it as a positive for everyone – learning, reflection, experience, and the impetus for life-long community service.

    • I think that it’s much easier to ensure that the community partnership is sound and equitable when we have a long-standing relationship with that community partner. With good communication with the partner, it’s easier to understand what the student work will be. I really see the volunteer work as course content, as another text, so it’s definitely not “work” because of the way it’s integrated into the course. However, there are certainly circumstances where these relationships can be one-sided…

    • Kimberly, I echo the distinction you point out between the experience students have with CBL versus working for free. While students may interpret the experience as free work, supported reflection can help a student understand the concept of service and volunteerism within a larger context of the connected social issues. If students are “working” at the same level of paid employees without support, the organization is ultimately breaking labor laws. Students can perform the same duties as paid employees if it is a supported educational experience (for credit, faculty supported, curricular or co-curricular internships, etc). If the student is just “volunteering” for something that is a paid position, the organization could be at fault.

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