Sunday, December 16, 2007

Impact of Spanish Community Service Learning

For the fall 2007 semester I experimented for the first time with allowing honors students in any Spanish course to do community-based learnng for their James Scholar Learning Agreement. I was afraid that without the learning that takes place within the classroom in a fully integrated community-based learning course, student learning outcomes would not be what I would want. Well...

It definitely was more work for me. Students still had to write weekly diarios escritos; that component I certainly couldn't give up. But I had to read and respond to them.

Some students felt that requiring 28 hours of community service learning work was too much, especially if they didn't settle on their honors project until later in the semester. Those students simply picked a project for a different course, or with a different faculty member.

A few students did their work in the community rather reluctantly. In these students' diarios escritos I could sense that that attitude colored their interpretations of their interactions with the community partners and community members. I had to be alert and aid their learning without the teaching space of the classroom, just e-mails.

Other students threw themselves into the work and really enjoyed it.

For their final diario escrito I asked the honors students to write in English and compare this honors project to others they have done. I was really struck by Samantha Dwyer's diario (read it here). In it, she is able to really trace a learning "arc" that took place over the semester. She's also honest: she doesn't say that it was easy or that she always liked it. But the realizations and changes in opinion that she states are very powerful proof of how Spanish community service learning reaches students in ways that a traditional classroom simply cannot.

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