Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute

This summer I had the privilege of participating again in the Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute offered by UIUC's College of Business and the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership and led by Assistant Dean Collete Niland.

What is the connection with Spanish community service learning?

I gave a talk on Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Among other things, I used the Spanish & Illinois program as an example of innovation in the not-for-profit (higher ed) sector. I also asked the representatives of the participating not-for-profits if they had innovated within their own organizations in order to meet the growing "market" of Latinos in Champaign County.

While most people think of innovation in terms of science and technology, innovation can be found everywhere and take many shapes. Community service learning is certainly an innovation within Spanish language , and it can be decidely low-tech (or not).

Furthermore, "innovation" does not have to be a totally new program or product. Partnerships and processes can represent very important innovations in how things are done, not necessarily what is done. For example, our community partners deliver instruction to the students, not just the professor/TA. Scheduling students' community service learning suddenly became so much more manageable when I innovated the process--self-scheduling on-line saved me many headaches and ultimately made the students more responsible and engaged in the community service-learning work in the first place.

Finally, I teach an entire course called "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," which I developed with my colleague, Darcy Lear, and the support of UIUC's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership. The main objective of the course is to teach students--through community service learning--how not-for-profits can meet the needs of Latino communities through entrepreneurial processes.

Where's the Learning in Spanish Service Learning?: Sabrina Uddin Tells Us on YouTube

Assessment in Spanish community service learning (and in CSL in general) can be the subject of much debate. In Spanish, some important questions are:

  • *How do you assess students' language skills? Differently than in a regular classroom?
  • *What language skills do you assess? For example, do we continue to assess "textbook grammar" when students are working with "real-world grammar"?
  • Students often report that Spanish CSL increases their confidence in speaking Spanish with native speakers? How can we assess "confidence"?
  • How do we assess student gains in cultural awareness? The "culture in a box" strategy presented in most textbooks and many classrooms is easy to test with simple comprehension questions. But how do you even know what to test from students' "live" interactions with Latino cultures in the community?
  • What is the role of written exams in a Spanish CSL course? Oral exams?
  • Precisely how do we "test what we teach and HOW we teach" in Spanish CSL?
  • How can we capture the real-world assessment that happens every single time a student communicates with native speakers in the community and understands/is understood--or not?
All these questions, and more, deserve research and discussion.

But for now, I'd simply like to show you, in one student's own words, what she believes she learned during her University of Illinois Spanish Community Service Learning course. Sabrina Uddin kindly gave me permission to post here a link to her "diario digital" on YouTube. It is amazing to see the depth of her learning--about many things--and her ability to reflect on her own learning.

Congratulations, Sabrina, on being such a great Spanish community service-learning student.

Ann Abbott