University of MInnesota (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 607-616
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
I have worked with more than 50 non-profit organizations on service learning projects (such as identity designs, brochures, posters, etc.) over the past 16 years. All projects included student involvement through class projects. The model for such engagement usually starts with a need that is identified by a non-profit organization, and staff from that organization will contact the program faculty through various channels. To me, the partnerships with these organizations have been rewarding and students have embraced this kind of real-world experience. However, a different structural model could create a more robust and interdisciplinary service learning experience for our students complementary to the existing model, not necessarily as a replacement.

The objective of this project is to investigate and create an alternative, complementary model for integrating service learning into our curriculum with a community centered approach. The ultimate goal is to develop a sustainable and systemic interdisciplinary approach that will promote long-term service learning or public interest design opportunities into our teaching and ultimately provide a long-term impact on students’ understanding of their roles in the community. It is hoped that through this active model approach, students can learn from each other and build on the service learning experience year by year. The primary research question of this pilot study is to investigate if an alternative model of service learning with community centered approach could be implemented and integrated into our design disciplines and how to sustain such a model.

A partnership was developed with an organization called Taking Steps Together (TST) in the fall semester of 2013. TST is an educational program that is part of a local county medical center, and it provides support in areas of nutrition and healthier lifestyles for families who are living with or are concerned about childhood obesity. We have identified three main design projects that will help to promote the program: a promotional video for fundraising purposes, the identity for the organization, and an infographic structure that will summarize quantitative data into visual graphics in facilitating comprehension. With this pilot study, the design process of the projects is community centered with focus on identifying problems, causes, and solutions together with the community partnership.

A survey was developed and distributed online to students of all three classes. The goal of this survey was to collect constructive feedback from students regarding to their experience of working through the projects. Another survey was also developed for the TST staffs in order to gather feedback from community partnership perspective.There were a total of seven questions in the student survey, and 42 students from the 3 classes responded to the survey (out of 50 students) and the response rate was 84%. Results indicated that the model that I experimented in this study that worked with the same organization and built the projects and knowledge in multiple layers enhanced the sustainability of the community partnership. In fact, the interconnection among these projects provided students the insight on examining design problems in a rounded approach.
Curriculum development, service learning, community partnership.