Psychology 1010 program

April 7, 2015

At the University of Utah, Psychology 1010 excels in simultaneously enhancing students academic learning while exposing them to practices of good citizenship. The PSYCH 1010 team accomplishes this, surprisingly, in a traditionally challenging environment: large classes of young, inexperienced first-year students. Agency surveys, student evaluations, and grades illustrate very positive feedback about both the service and the learning. Dr. David Dodd and two teaching assistants, trained and funded by the Lowell Bennion Community Center, refined the format and process of integrating service-learning into PSYCH 1010, and created a manual for subsequent 1010 classes. What they learned, accomplished, and documented may provide a useful model for other classes and other institutions trying to integrate service-learning into large, multi-section courses.

From their manual, it is clear their success was based on five key pieces: agency involvement, a carefully constructed first week of class, detailed service-learning handouts, strategic writing assignments, and periodic reflection discussions.

Teaching assistants and faculty recruited twelve community partners, sharing the class syllabus and learning about their clients needs (and how those needs related to class content). Agencies participated in student learning by collaborating with faculty and teaching assistants in planning, orientations (in-class and on-site), intervention, and evaluation. Agencies also participated in all four scheduled reflection discussions. Critical, according to students, were the clear, explicit expectations of service-learning presented during the first week of class. Faculty, teaching assistants, agencies, and a past student teamed up to deliver a clear, strong orientation to service-learning and its connection with the class and with citizenship. They focused on service-learning rationale, partnership and class expectations, service descriptions, and work agreements with agencies. On that same day the students signed up with an agency and registered for an on-site orientation.

After they signed-up for service, students (young and often needing firm structure) received their own detailed service-learning folder containing the syllabus, service descriptions, letters of agreement, a grade sheet, deadlines, reflection session questions, and writing assignments. These writing assignments were built on targeted questions asking students to describe how a specific psychological theory was evident in their particular service experience. Therefore, as students served, they were mindful of how their experience related to academic texts. Teaching assistants tracked student learning by reviewing bi-weekly writing assignments and by contacting agency representatives.

Faculty, agency representatives, and teaching assistants, reinforced the service/curricular integration through four 45-minute reflection discussions, as well as regularly referring to the service in lectures. Exam questions also required students to draw from their service experience.

Psych Department web site

University of Utah - UT, Utah
President: Bernhard Machen
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