Community service meets usual curriculum

Caroline Laska

Kent State faculty members and students gathered at Eastway Friday to hear international scholar Robert G. Bringle speak about the benefits of community-based learning.

Bringle, who specializes in teaching service-learning theory at Purdue University, spoke at the event sponsored by the Kent State Faculty Professional Development Center.

“Service-learning is really about teaching,” Bringle said, “even though we are helping communities as well.”

Bringle said service-learning is an “educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets community needs. It also lets the student reflect on the activity to gain further understanding of course content.

“Faculty members have been doing an excellent job educating students,” Bringle said. “However, educating out of the classroom not only prepares the student for the road ahead, it also expands teaching as well.”

Service-learning as a teaching technique lets students have hands-on experience outside the traditional classroom. Bringle said the technique not only helps students, but it also allows for an expanded community role in higher education.

Nicole Willey, Tuscarawas campus assistant English professor, used community-based learning in her English I class. Her students participated in a semester-long project, visiting the local homeless shelter and writing about their experiences in journals.

“Service-learning is a wonderful way to engage students in learning and to also help the community,” Willey said. “There was also a sense of community in my classroom. Every day, students would be talking to each other planning events at the shelter and helping one another.”

As the project unfolded, students had an “enhanced sense of personal values, civic responsibility and a broader appreciation of the discipline,” she said.

Some of Willey’s students from the class came to Friday’s event and shared the experience with the audience.

“I learned more about my writing and formed relationships through this project,” sophomore English major Chris Zanon said. “Getting outside the classroom gave me an opportunity to change the way I view homeless people. I never would have had the chance to do this without this English class.”

Bringle encouraged more faculty members to take on community-based learning as part of their curriculum.

“I would love to hear more people say the word ‘service-learning’ in a sentence other than me,” Bringle said.

Contact social services reporter Caroline Laska at [email protected].