Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Giving Students a Voice in a Service Learning Course

One student team at work during class.
by Ann Abbott

In a previous post I explained how I allowed students to choose the chapters of the textbook that we would study this semester. That is one way to give students voice in the course.

Yesterday I walked into class and said (in Spanish), "Pull out a piece of paper and a pen. Write down what you want to do during today's class. In other words, what do you need at this point in the semester and at this point with your consulting projects?"

These were the results, in descending order of frequency:
  1. Spend time working with their team.
  2. Discuss their posts. Specifically, some people wanted to inject more variety in their posts and get new ideas.
  3. Manage client relationships. Specifically, one person wanted to change the frequency with which the team sent posts to the client (from every week to every two weeks), and another simply wanted to work out a better process for communicating with the client.
  4. See the work that other teams have done for their clients.
  5. Do work from our textbook.
  6. Learn more about how to work within Twitter and Pinterest--not just Facebook.
  7. Talk about strategies for gaining new followers.
  8. Discuss grammar.
  9. Discuss culture. 
Numbers 1, 2, parts of 3 and 4 are easy for me to accommodate.

Managing client relationships is extremely complex, and I'm not fully aware of all the issues. I do know that this is extremely important, and something that I definitely need to work out better--for the benefit of all involved. This needs some real thought on my part--to define the issues, locate resources that address those issues, and think about the best way to teach them.

The fact that two students wanted to do work from our textbook suggests to me that some students might feel uncomfortable with the split we have in this course. On the one hand, we are still dedicating time to covering five chapters from the traditional Business Spanish textbook. On the other hand, we are running a consulting business. I'm not surprised that students might find that unsettling.

I will develop lessons and activities for numbers 6 and 7.

I'm not sure what to do about numbers 8 and 9. We do discuss culture. For each chapter of the textbook, we dedicate one full day to the "Lectura cultural." And "culture" is such a slippery word that I'm not even sure that I know what that student meant by culture. And grammar. Well, it's absolutely necessary, but how to work it in? How can students be resourceful about using grammar tutorials that are on-line, such as Prof. Jason Jolley's YouTube channel?

Frankly, I'm kind of reeling from the variety of needs and wishes that students have. There is a limit to what you can accomplish in one single course. I can satisfy most, but not all of the students' requests. I need to be very thoughtful about how and where I do this.
  • During class, I can give them time to work together.
  • Outside of class, I can create some video tutorials about the specific subjects students want to know more about.
  • In general, I can provide students with on-line resources that can help them help themselves (i.e., grammar).

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