Good morning and happy summer! It is a bright, beautiful early-summer day and I am taking some time to write my first blog for my Teaching and Learning grant (which is actually my first blog ever!) My summer project will add an optional service learning component to the Degree Completion Program Psychology course, Program Evaluation, which is a core part of the curriculum for the DCP Psychology degree. This component adds an applied activity to this already existing course: allowing students to work together to complete an actual program evaluation of a local program in need.
I piloted the course with the service learning component so that one cohort of students had the opportunity to conduct an actual evaluation of a program to assist the program. This involved modifying the course to include service learning, partnering with a program, conducting the modified course, and gathering quantitative and qualitative satisfaction data from students. This pilot project received an Honorable Mention from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues’ 2013 Innovative Teaching Award (http://www.spssi.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=1680&nodeID=1).
By conducting this course with a service learning component, students were able to complete a full program evaluation of an actual program (an applied experience which does not always occur in Program Evaluation courses), were able to assist a valuable community program in their pursuit of improvement, and were able to contribute to all stages of a program evaluation.
So, why was I interested in this project? I love the Program Evaluation course because I think it is so important for programs (e.g., educational, social service, etc.) to be effective. Otherwise, they waste valuable time and money while not really helping anyone. Additionally, I love service learning. I have always enjoyed serving my community and service learning allows students to help their communities while achieving learning objectives in the process.
Throughout this summer I will be writing the curriculum for this course with the service learning component so that other instructors can use this method. The students who piloted this method had a great time helping a program that was local to them (in Pottstown), so I think this curriculum could be a great resource for other instructors. I also hope that it will keep me active in service learning literature so that I can add service learning components to other courses.