Problem-Based Service-Learning (PBSL)

According to this model, students (or teams of students) relate to the community much as ‘consultants’ working for a ‘client.’ Students work with community members to understand a particular community problem or need. This model presumes that the students will have some knowledge they can draw upon to make recommendations to the community or develop a solution to the problem; architecture students might design a park; business students might develop a web site; or botany students might identify non-native plants and suggest eradication methods.

Example: University of Utah
Civil Engineering 571: Traffic Flow Theory

Purpose: Transportation studies encompass a wide range of disciplines. The Traffic Engineering Course has been designed to provide you with an insight into traffic control and management techniques.

Community-Based component: Students in this class provide a needed service: The Millcreek Lion’s Club and the county of Salt Lake have approached me requesting that I work with them to address traffic control problems in the Millcreek neighborhood. Traffic routed improperly has become a safety issue and has greatly contributed to the deterioration in the neighborhood especially for seniors and children. Too much traffic on neighborhood streets has cut off access by foot and isolated parts of the neighborhood from what used to be a more cohesive unit. Students will work with the community residents to understand the problems, then to design traffic solutions. Students will present their findings and solutions to the community and the county in public meetings and will get feedback from both as to how to continuously improve the project.

Related Assignments: In addition to collecting research and designing solutions (presented in a series of reports), students will write about how their designs have been influenced by community concerns.


Sample Assignments from Other Courses:

Problem-based service courses presume that students bring specific disciplinary knowledge to bear on a problem, thereby increasing the potential value of the service to the community. The advantage of the problem-based approach to service-learning is that it provides highly structured learning opportunities for students, often in a series of steps that move students toward developing a specific set of skills. Johanna Poethig and Ryan Sloan’s Large-Scale Digital Mural Art course for instance, asks that students complete a number of individual web assignments before embarking on the community-based group project. Likewise, D. Bloswick’s Ergonomics course asks that students complete a number of assignments that are progressively more involved, each building on the skills mastered in the previous assignments. The advantage to the community is the opportunity to access sophisticated student work that is of potentially great value.

Architecture: Margaret DeWar, Integrative Field Experience.
Service Component: This course asks students to work on community planning teams on one of three projects, with three community partners: the Gratiot Woods Neighborhood, Southwest Detroit Business Association, or Eastside Industrial Council. For example students may chose to work with housing initiatives in Gratiot Woods to address identified community needs in the areas of traffic control, assessing commercial development opportunities or developing a plan for the passing of infill housing development and housing rehabilitation.
Related Assignments: Students are required to make presentations to the community partners and participate in class ‘rehearsals’ prior to the meeting and ‘debriefings’ after the meetings.

Architecture: Kazuo Matsubayashi and Roger Borgenicht, Architecture 602.
Service Component: Students work with ASSIST, an independent, nonprofit Community Design Center that provides services to nonprofit and community groups as well as low income households or persons with disabilities. Students may participate in one of the following projects: Emergency Home Repair, Architectural and Accessibility Design Assistance, Community Planning and Development Assistance, Community Education and Advocacy.
Related Assignments: Weekly reviews of phases of the service project, two preliminary design reviews and a final presentation/report.

Art: Johanna Poethig and Ryan Sloan, VPA 306S Large-Scale Digital Mural.
In this course student’s research public art, collect images, relevant readings and materials pertaining to public art in the community to assist them as they develop a digital mural/public art project.
Service Component: After completing several digital images students create one large final, digital work that seeks to inform the public about a relevant issue or community concern.
Related Assignments: Students must visit community sites and interview appropriate community members. Students must work together to organize their collected resources.

Chemistry: David Henderson, Environmental Chemistry.
Service Component: Students serve throughout the semester in a local business, agency or organization on a project related to a relevant environmental topic
Related Assignments: Students also participate in a media project working in select teams on specific environmental topics. Students research the manner in which the topic is presented in the media, and the gravity of the environmental issue to local communities.

Communication: Michael Holmes, Communication in Organizations.
Service Component: All students complete a communication needs assessment for a local organization involved in disaster response and emergency management.
Related Assignments: Field Progress reports, and exams.

Communication: Rufus Cadigan, Communication 210: Basic Forms of Oral Communication.
This course is designed to assist students in developing effective communication skills fundamental to small group discussion, interviewing, oral interpretation, story telling and public speaking.
Service Component: Students will research initiatives for graffiti abatement and present their findings to representatives from the city of Rockford Illinois.
Related Assignments: A logbook accounting for time spent on specific activities, a reflection journal and a reflection paper.

Communication: Lynne McVeigh, Children’s Television Production Workshop.
Service Component: Students work with a youth group to produce media for young people.
Related Assignments: Students will develop public service announcements for the Fearless Theater Company, a community children’s theatre. The PSA’s will be part of ‘Count Me In!’ a national advertising campaign designed to raise consciousness about access ’“ the needs of people with disabilities to be provided with all the services and benefits of community life.

Health Sciences: Sally Zieler, Health of Women.
This class uses a ‘service-based’ curriculum, with an objective of involving students in public health activism.
Service Component: Working in small groups, students identify, evaluate and summarize scientific research on a specific topic pertaining to the health of women with a goal of moving this knowledge to forms useful for private and pubic action.
Related Assignments: Students will write about what is known and not known about a particular health or disease experience for a readership that includes social and political advocates for health of women, local and federal politicians, and women wanting information for themselves. In partnership with the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN), the class will produce reports on up to 8 specific topics.
4 projects: 1) Domestic violence prevention, working with Dorcas Place and the Women’s Center of RI, 2) Accessing alternative childbirth resources, 3) HIV and women, 4) incarcerated women, providing services in the women’s prison at the ACI.
Questions to address in research: (syllabus includes a paragraph of questions/guidelines in each area) I. Epidemiology, II. Diagnosis, III. Treatment, IV gendered experiences, V. Policy recommendations
Two 1-2 page written responses to readings
Group statement ’“ A statement of the group project, including names, phone numbers and email addresses of group members, name of group organizer, name of project, schedule of submission of written drafts for each section, statement of how the group will meet these goals. All projects are submitted to the National Women’s Health Network.

Computer Science: Ruth Small, IST 662, Instructional Strategies and Techniques for Information Professionals.
Service Component: Students identify a community organization and develop a training session related to information or technology that can benefit the organization or community constituents.
Related Assignments: Four assignments in different areas of instructional strategies and techniques, e.g., a distance learning mini-lesson using the web.

Education: Kerri Heffernan, SOC 304 Sociology of Education.
Course examines the sociological factors that are related to education, schooling and school reform.
Service Component: Students are paired with low-income parents enrolled in ABE, GED or ESL course at an urban Head Start facility. The pair work together for 10 weeks designing a series of weekly, family-based literacy activities that seek to reinforce particular, age appropriate literacy concepts for the parents child (children). The parent-student teams utilize different children’s book each week to guide the activity. In the first five weeks the student and parent present the material together to small groups of children (including the parents child or children). After 5 weeks the student must gradually remove herself from the reading activity group, transferring leadership for the group to the parent. Students and parents are required to organize and coordinate a large family literacy celebration at the end of the 10 weeks to showcase and celebrate the children’s and parents work.
Related Assignments: Students must complete three papers that tie the course reading into the service experience (the first paper and the third are read and evaluated by the community partner and the instructor). Students must also complete a group ‘resource project’ for the agency ’“ a collection of the best projects from the 10 weeks of books (projects are voted on by the parents and the students).

Engineering: D. Bloswick, Mechanical Engineering, Ergonomics.
Service Component: Students work on nine diverse ergonomic projects designed to assist an elderly population in the local community. Projects include designing: a folding/portable ramp or system to allow a person in a wheelchair to access a van, a device to help a person in a wheelchair to move from the wheelchair to a standing or semi-standing position, a device to hold a book or a newspaper for an individual with poor hand function, a stair climb assist device and a device or system to allow a user with weak hands to insert and remove plugs from the wall and/or connect a plug to an extension cord. Other projects include analyses of: patient handling in burn unit at University of Utah hospital, lifting hazards in the sterilization unit at hospital, and lifting hazards for nursing personnel in local nursing home.
Related Assignments: Five quizzes, one exam and project report and a project presentation.

Environmental Science: Douglas Thompson, Environmental Studies/Geophysics, River Hydrology and Hydraulics.
Service Component: Students develop a restoration design for a channel on the Connecticut College campus in hopes of addressing a community erosion problem.
Related Assignments: Students will present their findings to local community representatives from the local wetlands commission, a fisheries biologist, a civil engineering consultant, and college representatives.

Health Sciences: Cindy Garthwait, Explorations in Gerontology.
Service Component: All students design a research instrument for nursing home residents. This instrument will be administered to the residents and the results will be compiled into a written product that can be used by anyone wishing to learn to be supportive of older persons as they face the challenges of nursing home placement.
Related Assignments: Reflective journals, two papers that compare the service experience to course readings.

Health Sciences: Vicki Ebin, Community Health Education.
Service Component: Students work in small groups designing a health education program for a specified target group to address a specific health concern.
Related Assignments: The course requires students to complete two papers one on Community analysis, diagnosis, program focus, and a Health Education Action Plan.

Physical Education: Anne Rothschadl, RLSR 335, Recreation Programming.
Service Component: All students plan, implement and evaluate a recreational program with a community agency.
Related Assignments: Students present an in-service to the class, complete an assessment of the community agency in which they worked.

Physical Education: Claussen Swynn Powell, PRTM 305, Safety/Risk Management /Sport Law.
Service Component: Students work with an agency to complete a risk management assessment and develop a risk management handbook. Students work in small groups of 3-4, and various groups work within the same agency. Each group will be responsible for a different segment of the risk management process.
Related Assignments: Projects may include designing a detailed map and site assessment, creating a staff training presentation video, writing a human resources policy and procedures manual, creating appropriate accident/incident reports, designing a relevant programming plan and a useable transportation plan, and writing press releases, public service announcements or newsletter articles about the agency.

Urban Studies: Phil Emmi, Planning for Metropolitan Regions.
Service Component: Students design a multimedia map of the urban wilderness in conjunction with Future Moves, a local civic organization advocating balanced approaches to transportation and land use.
Related Assignments: Students develop community design concepts to improve relationships within the urban fabric, including transit-oriented developments, pedestrian pockets, traffic-reduced commercial zones and mixed-use urban activity centers.