Service-learning allows students to interact with and support their local community while advancing necessary skills in their given field, in this case, Technical Communication. The potential benefits of service-learning include work experience for students, a dynamic and untraditional teaching experience for instructors, and the community partners gain as much, if not more, then they would from traditional, non-learning community service. However, these benefits are often incremental. For example, the community partners may only gain the additional human resources of working with students and possible exposure for their brand. Any larger or long-term goals may not be met in the short time students are required to work with community partners for their learning programs.
In my experience with a service-learning project, I saw many of these benefits firsthand. However, the larger goal in working with my group’s community partner was to secure them a grant by writing a proposal. By the end of the course, our completed grant proposal had failed to net any potential investors for our community partner. Ultimately, my group members and I received the experience of working with a community partner and engaging in community service, but the partner organization did not secure a grant via our participation. This is not an unusual experience, as grant proposals, whether from professionals or students, rarely result in successful funding. This begs the question: does success matter in service-learning opportunities? Alternatively, does the student’s learning experience take precedence over the service provided?
In this presentation, I will detail my service-learning experience in the context of the challenge faced in reaching our community partner’s ultimate goal of receiving a grant, discussing both the losses and benefits of the partnership from both perspectives.
Gill, Vikram N., "Defining Success in Service-Learning" (2019). 2019 Symposium. 8.
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