Below are some resources I’ve compiled in my 10 or so years teaching service-learning courses. My main approach has been to work with communities who are in need of communication deliverables, such as websites, social media, or internal documentation.
Besides resources geared toward this kind of service, however, below are also general resources for anyone interested in service-learning.
I believe in developing service-learning partnerships that are mutually beneficial, sustainable, and reflective.
First, I develop service-learning courses that align student learning outcomes with community needs. This way there is an organic, reciprocal connection between what students learn in the class, and the deliverables and service they provide for community partners. The key to developing such partnerships is to find community partners whose needs somewhat align with the general knowledge produced in a given course, and then tweaking that course to generate knowledge and deliverables that are of use to specific partners.
While developing a partnership, I also work with the community partner to ensure the work students do for them will be sustainable, meaning able to be carried on by other members of the community if I, for whatever reason, can’t continue to work with them. This is highly contingent on a variety of factors, however, one of the most important being whether or not both the community partner and I want a given project to become sustainable. Some projects are, by necessity, one-offs, such as deliverables created for a one-time event.
Finally, partnerships I develop are reflective, meaning that engaging in exchanges of ideas and skills helps me reflect on my own position as a community member, researcher, and teacher, and helps me generate new ideas for future acts of reciprocity. I also encourage students and community partners to engage in this kind of critical reflection as well.
Community Media Remix.PDF is an assignment for introductory composition, professional writing, or technical communication courses that asks students to develop new media projects with community partners.
Argumentative Community Research Paper.PDF is an assignment for introductory composition, professional writing, or technical communication courses that asks students to create academic research papers that create outcomes for community partners.
Community Partner Digital Presence Analysis + Project Contract is an assignment for advanced composition, professional writing, or technical communication courses that asks students to perform an analysis of a community partner’s existing web presence and then to develop a contract for work they will perform for the partner to help improve this presence.
If you’re having difficulty inventing ideas for deliverables your students might create for community partners, you might want to check out my example student work page, which contains many different types of deliverables students in my classes have created over the years.
The Slot C Database of Service-Learning Opportunities in Technical Communication is also a useful resource for thinking about different kinds of deliverables, and also serves as a connection tool for instructors and non-profits.
SL_Contract_Template.DOCX, a template for a memo of understanding between students and community partners that foregrounds mutual responsibility, professionalism, and reciprocity.
The following links are optimized for academic researchers, who should be able to access all these publications through their libraries (e.g. subscription required). If you are a member of industry–or anyone else who doesn’t have the required subscription–who wants access to any of my articles, please contact me and I can provide you with a free copy.
Inclusive assessment: Toward a socially-just methodology for measuring institution-wide engagement, with Dennis McCunney, is a research article that focuses on how universities can adopt inclusive models for assessing community engagement. Here’s a link to the full article.
Moving from traditional to critical service-learning: Reflexivity, reciprocity, and place, with Dennis McCunney, is a chapter in the book Service-Learning to Advance Social Justice in a Time of Radical Inequality that focuses on how universities can develop situated, critical models for service-learning. Here’s a link to the book.
Helping to build better networks: Service-learning partnerships as distributed knowledge work – with Kendall Leon and Jessica Getto-Rivait, a research article that describes collaborative digital media production as a pedagogical approach to service-learning. Here’s a link to the the website of the journal in which the article appears (article available for $1.00).
Networked knowledges: Student collaborative digital composing as communicative action, is a research article that communicates findings from my dissertation research on student digital composing as a form of client-based service-learning. I argue that effective design of communication within a given communication infrastructure may be more important than access to the most cutting-edge modes and technologies, especially when working with resource-poor organizational clients. Here’s a link to the article (subscription required).
Accounting for prior experiences in service-learning: Helping students develop citizenship through civic histories – with Jessica Rivait, an article in a special issue of Interdisciplinary Humanities on service-learning in which we argue that students’ past experience with nonprofit organizations and community initiatives are important aspects of their identity that should be considered when designing service-learning curricula. Here’s a link to the page of the journal’s website that features the special issue.
Learning with communities in a praxis of new media – with Ellen Cushman and Shreelina Ghosh, a chapter in the book Texts of consequence: Composing rhetorics of social activism for the writing classroom and focuses on the learning potentials and social outcomes for work at the intersections of community media, new media, and community literacy. Here’s a link to the book.
Community mediation: Writing in communities and enabling connections through new media – with Ellen Cushman and Shreelina Ghosh, an article published in Computers and Composition and discusses heuristics for the process of developing community media with local stakeholders as well as the types of composing practices these heuristics can facilitate. One of the case studies in this article comes from my development of a video for the Allen Neighborhood Center. Here’s a link to the article (subscription required).