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SERVICE LEARNER

The Benefits of Service Learning: Interviews with Service Learning Faculty

As a Student Coordinator for The Marquette Service Learning Program, it is important to know how our program affects not only our community partners and our students, but also our faculty members who implement Service Learning into their courses. I interviewed Dr. Francesca López and Dr. James Hoelzle about their experiences as Marquette faculty members who take advantage of the Service Learning’s benefits.

Dr. Francesca López is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education who teaches undergraduate classes that focus on child development and psychology (EDUC 1220), below is her testimonial regarding the Service Learning Program.

Chris Casey: What are some of the benefits of Service Learning that you see appearing in your students? In the community?

Dr. Francesca López: It took only one trial with Service Learning to see the benefits in both my students and the community. Students have an opportunity to apply what they are learning in class while fulfilling a need expressed by a community setting.

CC: What kinds of class projects do you do in conjunction with Service Learning?

FL: The course project involves a Service Learning presentation model, research paper, and class presentation. Students select a topic of interest related to human development that would benefit students (of the Milwaukee community), parents and/or teachers at a Service Learning site. For example, Service Learners may model a peer meditation technique or present techniques for coping and managing stress. In addition to a presentation, students will then summarize the research used to inform the presentation.

CC: How does Service Learning help you with your teaching strategies?

FL: One strategy I try to emphasize involves allowing students the opportunity to have choice in their learning, and the Service Learning project is perfectly suited for that.

Dr. James Hoelzle, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences utilizes Service Learning in his cognition class (PSYC 3320). He had this to say about his experience using Service Learning:

Chris Casey: Why do you incorporate Service Learning in your class?

Dr. James Hoelzle: I incorporate Service Learning for a few different reasons. I think it is important for the students to get out into the community and interact with diverse groups of people. I’m optimistic [that] the experience will help them develop professional goals, and grow as an individual. I also like that it is possible to bring students’ experiences into the classroom. Ideally, they will get a chance to observe a range of individuals with different cognitive abilities. In lecture we attempt to bring together those experiences and cognitive theories.

CC: What are some of the benefits of Service Learning that you see appearing in your students? In the community?

JH: I’ve observed that many students are initially hesitant to work with older adults who have memory disorders (or other groups of community members). Over the course of the semester, it seems that students form meaningful relationships with community members, and come to more fully recognize their relative strengths and weaknesses. It is rewarding when a student admits that their initial assumptions were somewhat biased. I’ve received positive feedback from site coordinators that they really appreciate that our students take the time to genuinely interact with their clients. I think the situation is pretty close to being a “win-win”.

CC: What kinds of class projects do you do in conjunction with Service Learning?

JH: I encourage students to maintain a SL journal throughout the semester. Ideally, after each site visit they will briefly record the activities they participated in and attempt to connect the experience to Cognition. At the end of the semester, students work in groups to develop presentations describing their experiences and connections with class. For example, a group might consist of individuals who worked with elementary, middle-aged, and older adults. They might each describe their observations of memory functioning. Collectively, the presentation would be a review of memory functioning across the lifespan. The presentations seem to work as an excellent review for the Final Exam.

CC: How does Service Learning help your students understand the course content or material?

JH: I think SL makes the topic of Cognition more accessible to students. They come to recognize the significance of the topic in everyday life. For example, it is one thing to describe theories of sustained and divided attention, but it is a richer experience to observe the different attention skills in children as they complete homework assignments.

CC: How does service learning help you with your teaching strategies?

JH: It provides an excellent opportunity for student involvement during lectures. We all benefit from hearing about individuals’ SL experiences. These discussions make for a more positive class experience. It makes it easier to discuss the world around us.

The Service Learning Program highly values the contributions of faculty to Service Learning at Marquette. They have a great responsibility in the Service Learning pedagogy and with their help and dedication, students have the opportunity to process their experiences and relate them to their coursework. With the support of faculty members, the Service Learning experience can come full circle for our students, while our community partners receive support and resources.


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