In spring 2017, we launched a multidisciplinary service-learning course that involved students from three different disciplines representing technology, people, and process at a STATE university. Each Tuesday students learned discipline-specific technical content separately, and each Thursday they worked remotely with food pantries through distance technology to conduct a needs assessment centered around the food pantry’s capacity, logistics, social issue awareness, civic education, engagement and outreach. Research data showed our first year project was a success in engaging students with satisfactory learning outcomes, but the project’s open-ended problem structure caused some confusion among students. Based on the result, our second-year (2018) service-learning project was centered around people and process, but the problems were pre-identified by food bank agency liaisons and vetted by faculty in advance. We continued our partnership with the Food Bank and food pantries within the network, including new and returning food bank agencies from the pilot year, with a newly added incentive of competitive awards of project implementation funds.
The second-year improvements included: student population change (due to one faculty member withdrawing); new course elements such as hunger-related knowledge quizzes (to increase awareness of hunger issues); project preference & skills surveys (to facilitate multidisciplinary team building); mandatory field trip visits to Central STATE Food Bank (to improve student-agency engagement and provide learning opportunity); a project celebration ceremony (to recognize winners and fund solutions). After analyzing data collected via pre-& post surveys, critical reflections, course evaluations during spring 2018 semester, we firmly believe that the changes and improvements we made have strengthened our partnership with community partners and expanded the level of impact on community as well as on our service-learning students. We received more positive feedback (from both students and partner agencies) regarding project design and structure. We continue to explore the impact of multidisciplinary collaboration on student’s personal, interpersonal, cognitive, and academic development.
[We would like to participate in the special session of Engagement in Practice moderated by Dr. Juan Lucena]
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