Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Faculty Involvement
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 10,
Number 1
(2006)

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Campus-Community Involvement
Student Leadership: Making a Difference in the World
Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve
Berea College: Learning, Labor, and Service
A Developmental and Capacity-Building Model for Community Partnerships
The Power of a Sustained Relationship between Community Partners and Colleges and Universities
Faculty Involvement
Prequel to Civic Engagement: An African American Studies Research Seminar
Service Learning and Policy Change
Facilitating Student Growth as Citizens: A Developmental Model for Community-Engaged Learning
Student Experience
An Intentional and Comprehensive Student Development Model
Bonner: More Than a Model, a Lived Experience
Relationships First
Commitment to a Cause
Institutional Leadership
Preparing to Serve
Checklist from the President’s Chair
Curricular Transformation
LifeWorks and the Commons: A Model for General Education
The Case for Studying Poverty
Research
Engaging with Difference Matters: Longitudinal Outcomes of the Cocurricular Bonner Scholars Program
Resources
Resources for Civic Engagement
Serving, Voting, and Speaking Out: Bonner Students Reflect on Civic Engagement

Facilitating Student Growth as Citizens: A Developmental Model for Community-Engaged Learning

By Elizabeth Paul, interim provost, the College of New Jersey

Editor’s note: A longer article about the use of community-based research at the College of New Jersey, “Community-Based Research as Scientific and Civic Pedagogy,” appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Peer Review.

The Trenton Youth Community–based Research Corps (TYCRC), a Bonner leader program at the College of New Jersey, developed out of my interest in deepening undergraduate students’ understanding of social justice, educating them for responsible citizenship, and helping them understand research as a tool for social change. TYCRC engages students in community-based research (CBR) that helps nonprofit organizations make a difference in the lives of children living in poverty. The expectation in CBR is that all partners are both teachers and learners, working side by side to effect social change.

Initially, TYCRC was a one-semester course in community-based methods in which students completed a small demonstration research project. This was a familiar pedagogical model that comfortably allowed me to experiment with engaging undergraduates in CBR. However, I quickly felt the frustrations of compressing an important developmental process into an unreasonably short window of time. CBR involves more than just learning about research methods, and it requires more than the artificial constraint of one semester. Additional developmental goals include catalyzing and supporting students’ deepening cultural and social awareness, as well as developing their identity and sense of efficacy as citizens.

TYCRC is now a three-semester program. Students first enroll in a course entitled Downtown: Inner-City Youth and Families, which was developed out of my struggle to jumpstart the developmental process necessary to prepare students to engage in an intensive CBR partnership. This course involves participation in a community-based citizen advocacy course as part of a campus-based course. Through visits to community agencies and neighborhoods, the course provides initial exposure to inner-city social and economic realities and introduces students to the mission and strategies of human services organizations that serve inner-city youth and families.

The Downtown course builds student familiarity with and care for the community and its citizens, fueling students’ respect for social service agencies as well as their motivation to join in the effort to make a difference. Students are then poised to begin a yearlong CBR partnership in which they accomplish major research projects with and on behalf of their community partners.

The second and third semester courses engage the students in deeper learning and identity development, particularly around the interwoven identities of partner, citizen, and public scholar. The partner identity involves developing independence, personal responsibility, and individual efficacy within the context of positive interrelationships. Between the second and third semesters, students often experience a turning point when they begin to comfortably participate as full and responsible partners in the project.

Students learn that in order to be an effective citizen, you must also be an effective partner. In developing their citizen identity, students combine the skills they developed as partners with an increasing awareness of social issues and context. They learn together with community members how to be effective in a particular context and, in the process, develop a deep commitment to and concern for the communities in which they are working.

Developing into a public scholar involves growing both as a partner and a citizen. It provides students with an opportunity to pull from their professional identity and skills to enhance their contributions to a community, while at the same time learning and deepening their research skills. They learn that research can be an effective tool for community engagement. The identity of public scholar addresses the intersection of research and active citizenship, wherein research is recognized as one of many tools for contributing to social justice and engaging with a community. When given space to develop personally and intellectually, students can move from being distant outsiders to engaged, compassionate, and effective citizens.

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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