Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Children as the Textbook: I Was Knocked off My Pedestal. (the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Children as the Textbook: I Was Knocked off My Pedestal. (the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)

Article excerpt


This work examines the impact of using student interactions with children as one of the primary course texts in a Child Welfare Policies and Services class. Final course journal entries are analyzed using grounded theory to present themes. Pedagogical implications for prejudice reduction and presenting the resilience approach are discussed. The outcomes of this study demonstrate the multidimensionality of inductive, process-based teaching and its positive impact on students and teacher alike. Innovations to be implemented as a result of this investigation and recommendations for additional research are noted.


Learning begins with experience. The underlying assumption of this article is that learning and experience gained beyond the teacher as the disseminator of all wisdom has the most lasting impact for students. Bearing this in mind the author retooled a child welfare service-learning course in an effort to maximize student learning. The service-learning/experiential component is intended to enhance the knowledge and skills determined to be important within the context of the child welfare arena. Additionally, the service learning/experiential component, working with children, was intentionally presented as the third text for the class. All students worked at the same agency for 30 hours over the course of the semester in the after school program.

The goal of the third text was to examine a community based children's program from a resource, administrative, developmental, and programmatic perspective. The concept of the risk orientation versus the resilience approach or strengths perspective was presented to provide an additional lens to analyze the after school program as well as children's services in general. Risk orientation was presented as the application of a medical model for disease prevention to the broad human services field. The risk orientation posits that planned intervention strategies will minimize or remove various risk factors with the effect of reducing the social or educational risk leading to higher rates of success (Brown, D'Emidio-Caston, & Benard, 2001). Using the risk orientation for over 20 years has resulted in labeling youth and families as "at risk" to qualify them for preventative programs or services often before any pathology is demonstrated. The dizzying number of risk factors causes many service providers to view almost every client as being at risk for something. Baizerman and Compton (1992) observe that the application of the risk factor model creates a population of at risk youth that suggests that the youth and their families are both the problem and its cause. The 20 plus years of incorporating the risk orientation into education and service delivery impacted the thinking of the students in the course based on comments in subsequent sections.

The resilience approach or strengths perspective was presented as a counterpoint to the risk orientation. Long-term studies tell us that upwards of 70% of youth growing up in high-risk conditions develop a level of social competence adequate to deal with severe environmental stress. Social competence along with supportive relationships leads to a successful life (Brown, 2001, p. 17). The protective factors associated with the resilience approach or strengths perspective are more than just the opposite of risk factors. They represent a separate group of factors that most importantly do not adhere to the deviance assumption associated with the risk perspective (Brown & Horowitz, 1993). The key principles of the resilience approach are decision making, building on interests and strengths, linking emotions and learning, and a healthy democratic community (Brown, 2001, p. 19). Connecting the key principles with supportive adult relationships provides a framework for effective program development as well as a tool to analyze youth programming.

The third text was designed to enhance and expand the course content through a process of participation, observation, reflection, and hopefully, action either now or in the future when working with youth. …

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