Community-based learning increases at WSU

[/media-credit] (Left) WSU students can expect to see more classes with community-based learning requirements since more teachers are adding a service component to their courses each year. (Right) Students work together with Habitat for Humanity for a community-based service project last Spring.
Since 2006, the number of classes and teachers at Weber State University who participate in community-based learning have steadily increased. More and more teachers require their students to do service projects or service hours.

The number of teachers who added this requirement to classes has increased from 46 to 66 from 2006 to 2011. Over that same period, the number of sections within each course has risen from 23 to 197. Since 2008, the number of courses has gone from 24 to 61.

The course is the class being taught, while the sections are the different times and teachers teaching that one class. Though 46 teachers were teaching community-based learning in 2006, the courses they were teaching had not yet been designated as community-based learning courses.

According to the director of the Community Involvement Center, Brenda Kowalewski, there are a few reasons why this increase might have happened.

In 2008, the Carnegie Foundation named WSU as a community-engaged campus. Since then, many teachers have decided to add community-based learning into their curriculum.

“The faculty has always been committed to community engagement, but they’ve been more committed, I would argue, since 2008,” Kowalewski said.

Kowalewski also said the community-based learning has increased because the CIC is able to encourage that kind of learning within courses. The CIC has a fellows program that helps teachers learn how to incorporate service learning into their curriculum.

Another reason why these numbers have increased, according to Kowalewski, is the Millennial Generation coming to college now.

“One of the things that we know about the millennials is that they are very interested in service; they are very interested in working with and for the community,” she said. “They’re here, they are in college now. There is an expectation on the part of students to even be good stewards of the community.”

Kowalewski also said teachers are seeing results.

“Students are learning what they want them to learn, and they are doing this in (a) hands-on kind of way, in a real-world setting that is beneficial to the student and to the community,” Kowalewski said.

Valerie Herzog, associate professor of athletic training and the graduate athletic training director at WSU, said community-based learning is woven throughout the entire program.

“In every clinical class, which they have every semester once they’ve been admitted into the program, they do service hours.”

Herzog said many of the students have said they will continue doing service after they graduate.

Students can go to the CIC for advice on what makes a good service project for class.

Kowalewski said there are two kinds of students who go to the CIC. The first kind is students who go because they want to be involved in the community. The staff asks students what their hobbies are and can suggest projects that match those interests.

The second kind of students are those who are required to do service projects for classes. Kowalewski advised that these students find projects that meets the course objectives. For example, students taking zoology could go to Youth Impact, which focuses on youth development for at-risk children. Students could go teach the children about what they have been learning in their zoology classes.

Fahad Almutairi did a service project for his social problems class. He went to schools and mentored children in computers and soccer. He said he learned new things about computers while he was there, because the children would ask him questions and he would sometimes have to look up the answers.

“It teaches them the importance of giving back to the community,” Herzog said, “but also, there is a huge educational benefit.”