Communities for Growth: Cultivating and Sustaining Service-Learning Teaching and Scholarship in a Faculty Fellows Program

Article excerpt

We analyze a two-year Faculty Fellows Program designed to enhance the service-learning pedagogy and scholarship at a regional comprehensive university. The impact of the program was analyzed using initial questionnaires, meeting notes, final reports, and faculty reflective essays. Participation in a faculty fellows cohort program provided a sense of campus community, led to professional and personal development, and improved community and student outcomes. Findings indicated the supportive culture created through the program was central to its powerful impact; other positive outcomes were grounded in the sense of community that developed.

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Given the current debates about higher education's role in promoting citizenship, advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning, and enhancing faculty development--expanding research about the faculty role in service-learning and analyses of service-learning faculty development are timely and appropriate. We provide context for considering faculty development by examining the shifting role of contemporary universities and their faculty. Addressing the recognized need for further scholarship on the faculty role in service-learning (Driscoll, 2000; Jones, 2001; McKay & Rozee, 2004), we follow the stated context with an analysis of a two-year Faculty Fellows Program designed to enhance service-learning pedagogy and scholarship at a regional comprehensive university.

Two current debates in higher education provide a helpful framework for considering service-learning faculty development: the role of universities in promoting civic engagement, and the changing definition of faculty roles and responsibilities. The continued call for universities to examine their role in students' civic education (Brukardt, Holland, Percy, & Simpher, 2004; Erlich, 2000; Kezar & Rhoads, 2001; Ramaley, 2000) is important for those working in the service-learning field. Ramaley (2000) argues that becoming an engaged university requires institutions to reexamine their expectations for themselves as scholars and administrators, aspirations for students, and relationships with communities. Doing so, she maintained, requires recognition that community-based scholarship and collaborative discovery, as well as learning approaches linking educational goals with the challenges of life, can be achieved through community-university alliances. This shift has been framed as a return to higher education's historical roots (Mauresse, 2001), and is promoted as a means to reenvision and reinvigorate higher education. A report from the recent Wingspread Conference (Brukhardt et al., 2004) stated that working toward a reinvigorated focus on civic engagement requires integrating it into mission statements, teaching and learning, forging partnerships to enable engagement, and creating radical institutional change. A concomitant outgrowth of this first shift in higher education is the second topic we consider--the "catalytic" (Hutchings & Shulman, 1999) impact of Boyer's (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered and the efforts to further refine his definition of the scholarship of teaching and learning (see, for example Cambridge, 1999; Diamond, 2002; Hutchings & Shulman, 1999; Kreber, 2001a; Richlin, 2001; Smith, 2001; Zahorski, 2002). Faculty who engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning synthesize their knowledge about how to best facilitate student learning with their knowledge about the interaction between the learning process and the content of their discipline (Paulsen, 2001).

These two shifts are closely connected--to fulfill the mission of civic engagement requires a radical change in the approach to teaching at the university level. Engaging faculty in the scholarship of teaching and learning necessitates attention to faculty development issues such as professional growth, career development, and faculty vitality. Criteria for assessing such scholarship includes shared public accounts of teaching, emphasis on learning outcomes and relevant teaching practices, discipline and pedagogical knowledge, and innovation (Theall & Centra, 2001). …