Students Receive Frequent Performance Feedback
The multi-step nature of this service-learning project is intentionally designed to provide students with multiple opportunities for faculty feedback on their work. Furthermore, by partnering with a human services professional in the community, student teams receive feedback from an experienced, practicing professional throughout the development of their project. Finally, by working together in teams, students receive feedback on their ideas and contributions from their peers. Since feedback is ongoing throughout this long-term project, students have the opportunity to learn from the feedback they receive and to put it to use as they move forward with their project. As a result, students tend to be more engaged in the feedback and more likely to take it seriously as compared to feedback they might receive at the end of a single, stand-alone assignment.
Students Experience Diversity Through Contact with People Who Are Different from Themselves
The most obvious example of this feature is the client group the students are serving through their service-learning project. Client groups served by students in this course have included young, unprepared mothers-to-be; children and teens grieving the loss of a loved one; adults dealing with addiction issues; children living in poverty; and women recovering from experiences of domestic violence. The groups are commonly considered “at risk” in some way and frequently represent a variety of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. Not only do students interact with these clients by providing a program for them, but they are required first to learn a great deal about their client group and to develop a way in which their project can meet some of the group’s needs. This can be a powerful experience for students, not just to have contact with people who are different from themselves, but to develop real empathy for those people.
In addition to the clients, students experience diversity through working with their professional partners and with the other members of their team. A major goal of this project is for the students to learn how to collaborate effectively with a team. To complete the project effectively, students must work closely together over a long period of time. They may discover many differences between themselves and their teammates, but they also discover how to navigate those differences effectively.
Activities Have Applications to Different Settings On/Off Campus
As a field-based experience, this service-learning assignment has clear applications to off-campus settings. Each student team must establish a partnership with a human services professional and develop a program to be used in that person’s work setting. Thus, students apply the knowledge and skills they are developing in class to a professional setting in the community. The settings students have worked in have ranged from university-affiliated programs that serve community members, to local human services agencies, to organizations based in the next county. Students have worked in domestic violence shelters, public schools, Head Start programs, community centers, food banks, adult education centers, and more. Not only do they apply their knowledge and skills in the setting they have selected, but they also learn about the work fellow students are doing in other settings through the class presentations.