Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Partnerships

Service-learning and civic engagement frequently involve partnering with someone outside your setting. Partners can be peers in a different setting (e.g., faculty/teachers from separate campuses) or they can be colleagues in different roles (e.g., faculty/teachers and agency directors). These partnerships provide an avenue for faculty and teachers to apply course content in community settings and an avenue for agencies to benefit from the work of faculty/teachers and students. Successful partnerships frequently have win-win outcomes.

Below is a description of the work of the P3 Service-Learning Group, including a history and case examples of partnering in the local community.

History of the P3 Service-Learning Working Group

The American Psychological Association's Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and the Education Directorate launched a new initiative in 1998 entitled, " The Psychology Partnerships Project: Academic Partnerships to Meet the Teaching and Learning Needs of the 21st Century (P3)." The P3 project was designed to foster collaboration among psychology teachers in high schools, two-year colleges, four-year colleges and graduate schools and between psychology teachers and other psychology professionals, teachers in other disciplines, business organizations and community groups.

In June of 1999, 118 invited psychology teachers convened for The National Forum on Psychology Partnerships held at James Madison University. During the week-long forum, participants were assigned to a working group to address one of nine critical educational issues: assessment, instructional technology, curriculum, faculty development, academic and career advising, diversity, research, partnerships and service learning. The fact that service-learning was included as one of the nine critical issues for the new century indicates that the American Psychological Association recognized the value of service learning in meeting future disciplinary priorities and needs.

Although service-learning was included as a critical issue in The National Forum on Psychology Partnerships, the 11 members of the service-learning working group discovered that there was marked variation in the understanding of service-learning among the four high school teachers, the two community college professors, and the five college and university professors that made up our group. Through our meetings, we learned more about how the cultures of each educational setting supported or discouraged the use of community work. We also realized that many of the other 118 participants at the forum did not know much about service-learning. During lunch or discussion groups, team members would often be asked, "What exactly is involved in this service learning? It's just like volunteering, right?" In preparing our team proposal for further work we realized that it was critical to address the basic question of what is service-learning, how do you do it, and why do it. We also recognized the many ways in which the service-learning approach could complement and expand the other eight issues being studied at the forum. We defined service-learning and attempted to place it in the broader context of psychology education.

Following the June meeting we scaled down our ambitious proposal for the P3 forum to what seemed more manageable. We focused on the development of teams in our local communities so we could experience first hand the process of collaborating across academic levels on service-learning projects. Around this time the Campus Compact, a national organization dedicated to supporting service-learning, had received funding from The Pew Charitable Trust to develop service-learning in and through the academic disciplines. Our P3 project seemed to fit with the aims of the grant so we applied and received joint funding from Campus Compact and the American Psychological Association to complete our projects. The purpose of the Campus Compact/APA grant was to establish service-learning as a credible pedagogy within the discipline of psychology reflecting the developmental continuum from high school through graduate school. Our objectives were:

  • To define service-learning at the various educational levels

  • To demonstrate effective service-learning models at different levels

  • To outline ways in which service-learning meets the objectives set forth by national initiatives in psychology education.

  • To explore the developmental sequence of service-learning across the various educational levels.

We attempted to meet these objectives through three different levels of collaboration. During our stay at the P3 forum in June 1999, our working group began to address these issues through group discussions. These discussions continued throughout the year via conference calls and a listserv. The second level of collaboration took place in local communities through finding team partners and the creation of a workable project. The third level of collaboration involved connecting to other initiatives at the American Psychological Association that could sustain and enhance service-learning approaches. The present website represents a final product linking service-learning and psychology and celebrating the work begun by the service-learning working group at the P3 conference in June 1999.

Members of the Service-Learning Working Group
Beverly Burton
Instructor, Project Director
of Service Learning
Piedmont Technical College
Greenwood, South Carolina
Donna Killian Duffy
Professor of Psychology
Middlesex Community College
Bedford and Lowell, Massachusetts
Susan Dutch
Associate Professor of Psychology
Westfield State College
Westfield, Massachusetts
Randy Ernst
High School Teacher
Lincoln High School
Lincoln, Nebraska
Lani Fujitsubo
Associate Professor of Psychology
Southern Oregon University
Ashland, Oregon
Marigold Linton
Director, American Indian Outreach
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
Barbara Loverich
High School Teacher
Hobart High School
Valparaiso, Indiana
Nick Romano
High School Teacher
Victor J.Andrew High School
Lockport, Illinois
Jeanne Turner
High School Teacher
Linn-Mar High School
Marion, Iowa
John Velasquez
Associate Professor
University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas
Belinda Wholeben
Assistant Professor
Rockford College
Rockford, Illinois

Case Summaries

The outcomes of the APA/Campus Compact grants to establish and assess service-learning partnerships are presented on this page. Projects were developed and implemented over a period of 12 months. In the first phase (January 2000-January 2001), six P3 Service-Learning Group members reported on the development of their local team and outcomes of their projects.

In the second phase, dissemination of the grant work was the primary goal. Rather than produce a written document (i.e. monograph) that would have limited exposure to the psychological community, the decision was made to disseminate via the APA website where thousands of readers could be reached. During the summer of 2001, three P3 SL members were interviewed to systematically gather their reflections on the process of team formation and project development. In the three cases below, you will find their report and their interviews. These three projects were selected to represent partnerships in extensive, long-term projects across the three academic settings (high school, community college, 4-year college/university). Following the three cases, the interviewer reports the qualitative outcomes of three cases, e.g. lessons learned and commonalities.

Building Service-Learning into a Capstone Course (PDF, 14KB) Lani Fujitsubo, Southern Oregon University (OR) E

Expanding Partnerships in an Advanced High School Psychology Course (PDF, 16KB) Barbara Loverich, Hobart High School (IN)

An Interdisciplinary Community Gardening Project (PDF, 16KB) Beverly Burton, Piedmont Technical College (SC)

Lessons Learned from these Cases (PDF, 9KB)

The two cases below represent service-learning projects that can be implemented on a time-limited basis (i.e., one semester). These cases are particularly helpful for psychology educators new to service-learning and/or who have limited time and few or no current partners.

Adapting Service to a Two-Week Course (PDF, 4KB). Susan E. Dutch, Westfield State College (MA)

Service-Learning Option for a Nine-Week Psychology High School Course (PDF, 7KB) Jeanne Turner, Linn-Mar High School (IA)

As part of the APA/Campus Compact grant work, a new partnership emerged with faculty involved in the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program at the University of Georgia. The following case studies link service-learning to the Preparing Future Faculty program and to graduate courses.

The Role of Service-Learning in Preparing Future Faculty: The UGA Model

Preparing Future Faculty [PFF] for Psychology
Meeting of the Southeastern Psychology Association — March 2001
Organizational Effectiveness and Change (OEC)
Instructor: Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D. — Fall 2001

The Role of Service-Learning in Training Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (PDF, 65KB)

Community Based Research (CBR) provides a concrete way to incorporate community experiences into research courses. In the following partnership, supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Campus Compact, a psychologist-sociologist team describe their integration of CBR into undergraduate research courses.

The Infusion of Community-Based Research into Undergraduate Research Courses Michelle Ramirez, Ph.D. and Robert Shea, Ph.D.