Submission

Team

Limitations in the Pursuit of Education
Title

Limitations in the Pursuit of Education

Summary

Although there is a significant body of research pointing to service learning as a High Impact Practice, HIP, (Kuh, 2008) for college students, there has never been a formal, institutionalized Service Learning Program at Modesto Junior College or in our community. A limited number of MJC faculty members in diverse disciplines have always used various forms of service learning in their courses; however, neither the MJC faculty members nor their students have benefitted from any organized service learning resource tools to support this innovative, experiential approach to contextualized teaching and learning. With this in mind, it is common for many high schools to advocate local opportunities for students to participate in or even create a requirement for a certain number of community service hours to be completed for graduation or school-sponsored events. Furthermore, with an increasingly competitive job market for any field or career, the requirement for experience in any job has created new barriers for students and members of the current workforce. As such, there lies a deficiency in post-secondary education with the lack of service learning resources because of the decrease of experimental learning in post secondary education. Bibliography Kuh, George. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Team Information
Community Catalyst
Category
Education

About the Problem

Problem Category

Education

Problem Context

At Modesto Junior College or MJC, there is no web or app based, easy to access resource providing a comprehensive list with descriptions of volunteer activities in the community or region, and a method to record and monitor activities when students are participating or assigned service learning. Furthermore, there is not an existing online teaching resource for MJC instructors or other teaching professionals who want to implement service learning in their courses. With this in mind, MJC does not have an ongoing and coordinated effort in place to connect local community organizations in need of regular volunteers with MJC students involved in service learning and faculty promoting community engagement. As a result, local businesses and regional organizations who coordinate and/or sponsor worthy projects have not been contacted to support service learning efforts at MJC. Without access to service learning resources at Modesto Junior College or in the community, a limited number of instructors incorporate service learning activities into their courses or curriculum. Consequently, students’ education and developmental opportunities in any educational institution are limited by outdated and static material.

How did you identify this problem?

In the Fall of 2021, our project manager Kaitlyn, enrolled in an English 101 course taught by Professor Annaliese Hausler – Akpovi at MJC involving service learning, and although she was able to complete her service learning project about ocean acidification, she majorly depended on her professor for guidance because it was difficult for her to find experts and opportunities in her community involving ocean acidification. The issue of the lack of service learning resources at MJC has always existed since there is not an office or department for service learning on MJC’s campus or in the community. Thus, students assigned service learning rely on their instructors to direct them to volunteer activities and/or community needs, or they must find activities involving service learning on their own. Notably, in the Encyclopedia of Education (Vol. 6. 2nd ed) by Richard J. Kraft and Janet Eyler, edited by James W. Guthrie, service learning is described as “…only limited by the creativity of its practitioners…” and given modern technology, such as the internet, laptops, and phones, one of the most effective ways to further the implementation of service learning in the community would be to create an online resource where students, instructors, and the community can network and collaborate. Bibliography KRAFT, RICHARD J., and JANET EYLER. "Service Learning." Encyclopedia of Education, edited by James W. Guthrie, 2nd ed., vol. 6, Macmillan Reference USA, 2002, pp. 2202-2210. Gale eBooks, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3403200552/GVRL?u=modestojc_main&sid=bookmark-GVRL&xid=23387472. Accessed 4 May 2022.

Problem Details

Who are those affected by this problem?

Students are primarily affected by the lack of resources for service learning because they are bound to textbooks and classrooms instead of being encouraged to apply the content they learn in various courses to the real world, which can effectively lead to genuine reflection and growth if implemented. Although modern technology can grant students opportunities to research careers and educational opportunities, there are often only a limited number of contextualized and experimental assignments built into public or community education. This limits the opportunities for students at any stage of their education to receive quality experiences in engaging activities to aid in their decision in choosing a career which best suits their interests. Experience is often regarded as one of the most effective methods for students to learn; however, students feel limited by their contextualized coursework in modern times. Students need more opportunities to apply the knowledge they gain from their courses to the real world and their future careers. Instructors are also affected by these educational limitations because of the disengagement of students with instructional content. Without resources, instructors cannot fully provide quality and up-to-date information to students about service learning which limits valuable learning opportunities for instructors and students. Which in turn limits the relationship between students, instructors, education, and the community. The community is affected because there is always an ongoing need for volunteers to address community problems and aid community members struck by tragedy. The lack of structured civic engagement opportunities impacts all three constituent groups. A large portion of the community are students and as such are the future workforce regionally and globally, thus by connecting students and instructors to their community and vice versa, all would be able to work towards creating a better and innovative community they are proud to be members of and call home.

How often does this problem occur?

This is an ongoing problem because there is always a portion of students assigned service learning in courses and the growing requirement for experience when students apply for jobs and internships. Therefore, students, educational instructors, and the community are experiencing a snowball effect from the continuous lack of effective implementation of service learning.

How long has the problem been going on?

Service learning has always been used as a teaching approach at MJC by a variety of instructors, and as a result, the problem of not having quality resources for students has existed potentially for decades.

Is the problem disrupting the community? How?

The lack of service learning resources and opportunities for students disconnects MJC from their own community, which ultimately prevents students from becoming active citizens. Most young people and students are taught what defines an active and morally upright, driven citizen; however, many are unable to put into practice what they have learned in educational institutions. Therefore, creating a deficiency in a portion of the community population who are unable to contribute to society because they do not fully understand their role as both a community member and global citizen.

Is the issue perceived as a problem by the community at large?

The lack of participation in the community and the need for volunteers is perceived as a problem for the community at large, but the issue of the lack of resources for service learning at MJC is not because there is not enough information circulating within the surrounding community about the advantages and positive outcomes of a college integrating and institutionalizing service learning in the college curriculum.

Is the problem limited to certain geographic areas?

This is not necessarily limited to certain geographic areas; however, the immediate area around Modesto Junior College would most likely experience the most benefits at first.

Who are the Stakeholders, those wanting this problem to be fixed?

The stakeholders are students, educational instructors, and the community. Students want an updated and meaningful curriculum with more dynamic and experimental learning opportunities. Educational instructors would like to see their students grow exponentially through the opportunities they provide through quality resources. Communities are continuously in need of volunteers to help coordinate and execute efforts to improve the state of the community at hand. Furthermore, future generations become stuck in an evolving cycle created by previous generations’ negligence in facing their current limitations with education.

Addressing the Problem

Are you aware of any solutions, approaches, or efforts to tackle this problem?

Many universities and community colleges in the United States already incorporate service learning into their curriculum. Primarily, a number of post-secondary educational institutions provide a web page on their main website describing service learning projects and opportunities. Remarkably, “[s]tudies show…more than 4 million students from more than 20,000 schools participate in service-learning” (“Service-Learning”). Thus, an effective solution for not only MJC but the overall community would be to create a website explaining and promoting service learning to all members of the community, as well as serve to create efficient networks within its members. This website would be a product of service for educational instructors to integrate service learning into their courses and for students to pursue unique and meaningful service learning projects developed from their own creativity and realities under the guidance of experts. Ultimately, a service learning website would support a community hub for students and educational instructors alike to evolve with the expansion of knowledge and to solve real community problems which are in need of more attention. Bibliography “Service-Learning.” Service-Learning | Youth.gov, https://youth.gov/youth-topics/civic-engagement-and-volunteering/service-learning.

What are the obstacles you are aware of to address the problem?

The primary obstacle is engaging students and educational instructors who are unaware of service learning and convincing them to consciously make a decision to allow themselves to be exposed to the world with the goal of learning. Consequently, another challenge is engaging the community and its leaders to participate in service learning by becoming collaborators or sponsors of a service learning website and service learning itself. One of the most challenging obstacles would be constructing a physical establishment supported financially by city leadership, a private investigator, or MJC’s council. As all three groups would have to decide if allocating funds to maintain and staff a service learning office or department is financially available.

What are the success criteria that could be defined to address this problem?

A successful launch of a service learning website for the community would be a major criterion for success because it directly provides resources to inquirers of service learning and begins bringing attention to the necessity of service learning in the daily lives of citizens. Fostering a strong connection and partnership between a student, their mentor or educational instructor, and their community would be a significant success because it would create a streamline to connect and address community needs while students further their education. An increase in student engagement with their education demonstrated by increases in GPA, persistence, retention, and qualitative data (e.g., the Community College Survey of Student Engagement or CCSSE) would also be an indicator of success for MJC.