Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Time at Connecting Campuses with Communities: The Service Learning Institute and Research Academy

KumferCynthia Kumfer, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education

Time is such a valuable commodity in our lives. The thought of “spending” or “investing” a week of time was a significant decision for me in May of 2012. I had just finished a very intense semester, with extra administrative responsibilities, a full load of practicum students and a post-graduate course in curriculum design. I was ready for a break . . . but I realized I was presented with the chance to focus some uninterrupted time on the re-design of one of our Early Childhood Education courses into a service learning course, something I had wanted to do for a few years.

Here was my opportunity!

The variety of resources shared by practitioners, as well as, the time spent reading and reflecting gave me the opportunity to review course objectives and begin to build a service piece into our Family-Teacher Partnership course with professional assistance. This is such a good fit for student involvement in a real sense, not just in a lecture/lab setting.

The speakers gave very practical, ready to implement suggestions, guidance, and wisdom. Integrated into the day were times of discussion and brainstorming with good feedback from colleagues involved in the same process. I felt a sense of camaraderie as the days passed.

Much of the information centered around the aspect of assessing student outcomes and helping students to share and own what they experienced and gained in their service learning projects. The assigned readings and “homework” focused my thought on examining how the objectives of the course could be measured and implemented with families and teachers in a real way, rather than in the usual “mock” situation presented in traditional courses. I know we have something valuable to offer our community partners related to this course.

Connecting Campuses with Communities offered much information around methods of evaluating effectiveness of the approach of the course design. I found this to be an introduction to research in the topic of service learning and civic engagement, something I had not previously spent much time thinking about.

So as you are planning your professional development opportunities for the summer, think about giving yourself time to question, reflect and plan around designing or improving a course. Your time will be multiplied in the service and learning your students experience.

The 5th Annual Connecting Campuses with Communities: The Service Learning Institute and Research Academy will be held in Indianapolis May 13-17, 2013. Deadline to apply to be a participant is March 15, 2013. For more information, please visit http://www.tinyurl.com/SLIRA2013/

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Indiana Campus Compact is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for significant funding in support of programs, training,and resources for our member campuses that allow them to deepen their commitment to community engagement and service-learning.