Hexagon_BWThe Future of Service-Learning and Community Engagement: Asset-Based Approaches and Student Learning in First-Year Courses

Tamara Bauer, Lori E. Kniffin, & Kerry L. Priest

Given the particular challenges of first-year courses, it is all too easy to default to an approach that unintentionally sets students on a problematic path … We call for attention to asset-based approaches that, from the beginning, help undergraduates see themselves and others on an equal footing and learn to look for, appreciate, and build on their own and others’ strengths.


 EXCERPT

It has become clear to us that how students experience SL in the first year is especially important in shaping their attitudes toward service and community and their roles as learners and engaged citizens while on campus and in the future. Thus, it is also especially important for faculty to be mindful of SL design in the first year. How can we enhance SL experiences so as to help students make progress on the mindset and practice of civic engagement while scaffolding them toward more challenging commitments and also engaging in a meaningful way with social concerns? …

Many of our students come from high school having done community service; for those whose past service experience has not been tied explicitly to meaningful learning, we have noticed it can be even harder to engage them in the first year – their assumptions about the process at times leading them to resist or lack confidence as they begin to sense the more difficult and riskier work of SL. And, arguably, for most first-year students, an orientation toward SL that includes engagement with the systems underlying social injustices is challenging, insofar as it pushes them to unfamiliar levels of analysis and action.

Our experience suggests that, given the particular challenges of first-year courses, it is all too easy to default to an approach that unintentionally sets students on a problematic path in their interactions with communities…. We call for attention to asset-based approaches that, from the beginning, help undergraduates see themselves and others on an equal footing and learn to look for, appreciate, and build on their own and others’ strengths.… setting the stage for future community involvement while on campus and after graduation and advancing social change and student learning about social justice.


TAMARA BAUER is an instructor with the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University. She currently teaches undergraduate courses focused on personal leader development and civic and adaptive leadership and coordinates the Peer Leader Practicum. Her scholarship interests are in leadership curriculum and instruction, specifically best practices for significant learning in leadership education.

LORI E. KNIFFIN is the advisor of Academic Programs for the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University where she teaches and advises students in a civic engagement-focused leadership program. Through service-learning she addresses food security, racial equality, and student health and well-being. She works with globalsl.org, a website that amasses tools and research to advance best practices in global learning, community-university partnerships, and sustainable development.

KERRY L. PRIEST is an assistant professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University, where she teaches undergraduate courses emphasizing civic leadership development and practice. Her scholarship explores the intersections of leadership and learning, including leader identity development and leadership pedagogy/high impact practices for leadership education such as learning communities, service-learning and community engagement, and peer leadership.


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3 thoughts on “Asset-Based Approaches in First Year

  1. Lori E. Kniffin says:

    My colleagues and I are constantly changing our curriculum, especially in our first-year course, to support asset-based thinking around social issues. We would love to hear from others what you are doing to frame, implement, and assess SLCE in your first-year courses from an asset-based lens. What have been some challenges and successes?

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  2. Harold McNaron says:

    It’s great to see other institutions utilizing asset-based frameworks! At Lewis & Clark College we have a service day as part of new student orientation, and this post reminds me to figure out a way to better frame this day for our new students. Separate from this program, I regularly facilitate an asset-based community development (ABCD) activity as a mechanism for taking inventory of personal strengths and connecting those with communities for generative work. While I’ve received positive feedback about students appreciating the chance to reflect and create individual action plans, I’m uncertain about our success rate re: students following those action plans to public/community benefit.

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    1. Lori E. Kniffin says:

      I agree, it is great to see other institutions trying to bring this asset-based thinking into the classroom. I’m curious about the individual action plans your students create. Are they created with community? Or do they just consider the assets of the community but are done in isolation? This is something we have not yet figured out in some of our other classes, so I’d love to hear your approach.

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