Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

The Impact of Partnership-Centered, Community-Based Learning on First-Year Students' Academic Research Papers

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

The Impact of Partnership-Centered, Community-Based Learning on First-Year Students' Academic Research Papers

Article excerpt

This article presents a control group study of the influence of a partnership-centered, community-based learning program on students' academic writing. The improved writing of first-year students in the Chicago Civic Leadership Certificate Program (CCLCP), we argue, results from the deeply situated learning that took place in the context of reciprocal, community-based relationships. We also argue that research on the impact of community-based learning should take into account the contemporary university's emerging paradigm of engaged learning and research, which calls for a redefinition of partnership and reciprocity.

Research in a Context of Partnership

Calls for more rigorous research on the impact of service-learning suggest that high-quality, quantitative evidence will persuade universities of service-learning's pedagogical value and thus promote greater acceptance (Bacon, 2001; Bringle & Hatcher, 2000; Bringle, Philips, & Hudson, 2004; Holland, Gelmon, Furco, & Bringle, 2005; Zlotkowski, 2000). Indeed, for those of us in the university, research characterizes "the kind of thing we do around here." (1) However, "the kind of thing we do around here" is changing in profound ways and this change shapes our study of service-learning classes and programs. To explicate the shifting context in which our research-based assessment occurred, this section outlines the ways that universities are reconstituting knowledge-making activities and reevaluating their roles in metropolitan communities. Considerations of the university's relationship to its community have been present in rhetoric and composition research for some time, and several key studies have built on sophisticated notions of reciprocity and partnership. To further lay the groundwork for the control group study presented in this article--a study that suggests that partnership-centered, community-based learning activities significantly enhance student writing skills--we will briefly introduce the Chicago Civic Leadership Certificate Program (CCLCP). We believe that the opportunity our program gives students to work within reciprocal community partnerships is the key to understanding why our program creates an academic advantage. Therefore, our description of CCLCP will emphasize how reciprocal partnerships have contributed to its development.

Both vernacular and academic sets of knowledge are contributing to new dialogues and unique perspectives that are resulting in radical changes in knowledge production. A transdisciplinary (Gibbons et al. 1994, p. 3) approach to research that is demand-driven, methodologically flexible, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and embedded in complex contexts is emerging. For example, a University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) professor has initiated the Chicago Public Art Group, which partners with "city agencies, private firms, and other organizations to produce community-oriented, site-integrated public artworks in which artists work with architects, designers, and engineers in the early planning stages" (Gude, 2000, p. 2). As part of its ongoing work, the art group seizes on a unique idea for developing a "place," begins by creating a dialogue among all stakeholders, and then continues by conducting research, exploring the site, working collaboratively to create a budget, actually making the space, evaluating its use, and celebrating its presence. This exemplifies how knowledge is produced in its "context of application" (Gibbons et al., p. 3) and must be evaluated for its contribution to that context. The contrast is striking to traditional, university-based disciplinary activity, in which knowledge production responds to internally-driven, scholarly agendas. This reshaping of knowledge-making activities has upset the routine of researchers who raided off-campus communities for data, and of universities that participated in the destruction of thriving communities under the banner of urban renewal (Muthesius, 2000; Wiewel & Broski, 1999). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.