Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Do You Segment Your Community Service Learning Students

There are many ways we can segment our Spanish CSL students. What ways are most helpful?
by Ann Abbott

This week, my "Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship" students read the chapter on "Understanding and Attracting Your Customers" in Enterprising Nonprofits. As I often do, at the beginning of the class I asked students to pair up and simply summarize in their own words what they thought the most important concepts were.

(I love to sit back and listen to volume rise higher and higher as they talk to each other.)

Although the students mentioned many really important things (e.g., getting to know your clients as well as your competition) I had to remind them about the importance of market segmentation.

In small groups, students segmented the clients of the organizations where they do their community service learning (CSL) work in the community. Brianna segmented SOAR (an after-school program) students by year in school. Grace segmented the Refugee Center's clients by nationality.

Then I asked the students to segment my "clients": themselves. They came up with several examples: majors, year in college, Spanish proficiency and community partner they work with. Those are all good examples.

But then I asked them to consider why segmentation is important. Or not.

Segmenting my "Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship" students into year in college doesn't really matter to me. Whether a student is a freshman or a senior (as long as they meet all the requirements for the course) does not impact the service I offer.

Segmenting my students into male or female doesn't really matter either. I'd love to have more male students in my classes, but I wouldn't teach any differently or change the CSL experience in any way for males versus females.

Segmenting my students who have or have not taken the prerequisite course "Spanish in the Community" is, however, very important to me. That factor impacts how I have to deliver my service. (Every year there are some students who ask me to take the class even though they haven't taken "Spanish in the Community." If they have a high level of Spanish, have studied abroad and have done volunteer work, I usually let them in.)

I asked students to pair up and analyze why that segmentation really matters.

They hit the nail on the head. If you haven't taken "Spanish in the Community"...

  • you may not know about the immigration issues presented in that course.
  • you haven't done the exercises in Comunidades that train students to reflect on their CSL experiences.
  • you haven't been trained in how to provide culturally-appropriate service in the community.
  • you don't already have 28 hours of experience working in the community. That means that you don't already know about all the community partners, how to choose one, how to get off campus, etc. 
  • You also haven't built up your Spanish proficiency--and confidence--by speaking with native speakers for 28 hours.
  • you don't already know how to use our wiki, our Facebook page and our Compass quizzes.
In short, that segment of my "clients" creates a lot more work for me. 

Then I asked my students to go back and consider their community partners and what segmentation actually is important for them.

For Brianna's example in SOAR, year in school is still a good example. The kids in kindergarten and first grade need to be matched with volunteers who speak Spanish. The older kids have more English fluency and can be matched with a volunteer who is a monolingual English speaker.

For Grace's example at the Refugee Center, native language may be a more important category than nationality. For example, there are Guatemalans who do not speak Spanish and therefore must be served by different people and with language-specific materials.

In what ways can you segment your CSL students? What kinds of segmentation would help you teach your course better/more easily? What segmentation would ease your administration of the CSL component?

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