Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Triangulating Findings from an Instruction-Based Community Engagement Project

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Triangulating Findings from an Instruction-Based Community Engagement Project

Article excerpt

This paper reports on the assessment of initial data from an ongoing, award-winning service learning project called "Computer Training for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities." The project was researched, designed, and implemented by Masters in Library Science (MLIS) students at a large southeastern university. The two explicit goals of the project were to assess the effectiveness of the core curriculum in preparing students to undertake such a project and to provide technology literacy to clients with intellectual disabilities. However, the three implicit goals were to benefit the students, the clients, and the community partner through the process of engagement. The data reported are based on the first eighteen months of the project and are gathered from an exercise mapping the students' perceptions of the usefulness of the core curriculum, their written reflections concerning their participation in the project, and their records concerning client progress through the instruction. The student data are corroborated through an interview session with the community partner. The methods and results reflect a qualitative text analysis protocol since the first phase of the project was exploratory and the population was limited. Quantitative data reflect only simple descriptive statistics due to sample size and lack of comparative data. Results indicate that the goals of the original project are being met, and other corollary effects, such as students' attitudes concerning underrepresented populations were affected positively and constructively We also identify necessary revisions and challenges as the project progresses, and numerous avenues for further research.

In another 2011 article, we described a project design and conceptual framework for a service learning component of the MLIS program at a major southeastern university. (1) This project, which brings technology instruction to clients with intellectual disabilities, is intended to supply an applied model for instruction-based service learning, something which has been lacking in the literature and in the pedagogy, forcing instructors to "reinvent the wheel" for each instruction based service learning course opportunity or project. While many course specific models exist, providing individualized approaches to incorporating service learning, there was no model which linked service learning programmatically to a core of courses which could be used to guide generalized development and improvement of service learning initiatives. The benefits of such participation for LIS students are well documented and can lead to increased involvement with community partners when students enter the profession. (2) Indeed, LIS education provides a natural fit for such service learning endeavors.

The purpose of this article is to report an initial assessment of the service learning project, after the first 18 months following its inception. This assessment will assist in determining needed revisions and additional mechanisms for expansion of the project, as well as providing future avenues for research. Ostensibly, the community service partnership fulfilled the twofold purposes of enabling hands-on application of principles learned from the Masters in Library Science (MLIS) core curriculum (planning, design, management, technology, and instructional skills) and providing basic computer literacy skills to intellectually disabled clients through a partnership with a nonprofit community service organization. In addition, the community partner benefited from association with the university. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide students with a context for lifelong community partnership endeavors as change agents to the communities in which they serve as library professionals. The context for our evaluation, through collaborative endeavors with other LIS programs, will be based on an ongoing and award-winning service-learning project titled, "Computer Training for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities" (CTPD). …

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