This past week I read an article titled “The Racialized Erotics of Participatory Research: A Queer Feminist Understanding” by Jessica Fields. For me, just the title of this article raised many questions- and I was most struck by the use of “erotic” in a title of a paper that includes community based research. For those that study sexuality and intimate relationships, this may not be shocking, but for me, I had never seen that term used in research previously.
As I read the article, the term erotic took on a different meaning. Our course facili-structor deemed that he preferred the term intimate, and, perhaps to alleviate some personal discomfort, I took to “intimate” as a synonym.
The authors describe their research with women who are incarcerated and examine the “erotic” or intimate knowledge they found. The intimate is a focus on the deeply personal- the evaporated lines between academic and participant. Yet it’s also epistemological. Born out of the understandings of Audre Lorde, and other queer feminist scholars- the erotic is about bodies, emotions, and desire.
To me this was both incredibly familiar and totally unknown. In my own experiences of being “in community” this is what lies at the heart of it. This deep connection to one another that is in our fully human experience. Yet, as an academic, this seems to dismantle every idea about what “science” is. Not because we can’t measure some of these concepts, but because the erotic is about the relationship between a university researcher with community researchers. That, to me, is the most radical.
As I think about the number of times I’ve asked a student to reflect on their feelings and experiences, I think there is even more importance to ask ourselves these questions. My methods instructor has four goals for us: to be systemic, skeptical, ethical and reflexive. As we deeply engage with our partners, I think we must remain ethical and reflexive of our own relationships, and skeptical about ways of knowing that don’t account for the relationship in our scholarship.
This past week, we began to unpack the ethics of Community Based Work. We read a variety of perspectives on this issue ranging from Institutional Review Board Ethics to EcoFeminist Ethics. Yet, what I, and I hope those who are engaged in community-based practices, find is that this work requires a different set of ethics. For me, I found the idea of Covenantal Ethics helpful in defining this greater call within higher education civic engagement.
At this point, you might be wondering, what are covenantal ethics? Briefly, it’s an concept established by action researcher Anna Hilsen and grounded in the Christian belief in the Covenant. Hilsen argues that argues that having partnership with a community is akin to being “given a gift that can never be reciprocated” (p. 27) because we live in an interdependent world.
I think that this idea is easy to gloss over, and say “well that’s nice.” However, if we really take a moment to unpack this, then be “reciprocal” in our relationship is no longer the goal, but merely the minimum criteria. Reciprocity implies that both parties equally benefit, as though the transaction is fair: our students learn and you gain a report or strategic project. But the covenant says that when we engage with our community partners, we can never repay the gift they are giving us, and therefore we are to act in in their best interests.
The even more radical interpretation says, because they have given and we have received, the needs of our partners superseded our own, even if it opposes the demands of external stakeholders. It calls a commitment to the redistribution of power.
I’m still grappling with what this means for our work as service learning practitioners, and my own values. I find this aspirational, and a guiding principle. Yet, it may also be naïve considering the realities of our work.
We’ve just wrapped up two weeks of class reading for “Becoming a Community Engaged Scholar.” Students within the course each shared a text that has significant meaning for them and their desires to become a community based practitioner (myself included) and provided narrative and discussion for the text. Some texts were what I expected out of such a course, passages from Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” a community literacy essay titled “‘White Guys Who Send My Uncle to Prison’: Going Public with Asymmetrical Power” among others. Yet two pieces that my classmates brought forward have been causing me to reconsider the work we do here in public engagement.
One of my classmates selected Arturo Escobar’s “Thinking Feeling with the Earth.” One quote in particular left me stunned and contemplating the work needed to be done out of institutions like UConn and through our Public Engagement. Escobar claims:
“Perhaps the best starting point for our purposes here is the saying that the contemporary conjuncture is best characterized by the fact that we are facing modern problems for which there are no longer modern solutions.”
As we are called to tackle the grand challenges of our present world, I find myself calling for a deeper level of creativity needed to do this work. The training many of us received through the scientific method, the so called “gold-standard” may be too rooted in a drive toward modern solutions that we’re missing important knowledge and ways of knowing coming from our community partners and the questions our scholarship can and should be solving.
I read this work in tandem with the Gloria Anzaldúa’s seventh chapter of “Boarderlands,” which among the many important reflections, examines the power of the Mestiza’s lens in building an inclusive, whole world. Based on my own background and education, I’ve often felt as though the lens of “Community Based” teaching and research has often deemed too “radical” for the work of the academy. Anzaldúa’s chapter reminded me that there are many people that already view the world this way and have been for generations. It is the world of academia, that has negated these understandings that are needed for our our research to be Relevant, Responsible, and Reciprocal.
Greeting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison! My name is Garret Zastoupil, and I graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2017 with a Master’s Degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs. I began working with UConn’s Office of Public Engagement during my graduate work, and am continuing to work with OPE as I pursue a PhD in Human Ecology: Civil Society and Community Research. My research interests are in the civic purposes of higher education, trying to better understand how we develop an educated citizenry and improve public engagement.
This semester, I’ve been asked to share thoughts about living in both worlds, and I’ve happily agreed to do so! This semester I’m engaged in a seminar course titled “Becoming a Community Engaged Scholar.” I have the privilege of engaging with a group of fellow graduate students to explore what it means to practice community engagement. We began the course by reading “Liberating Service Learning And the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement” by Randy Stoecker. The book, and our group, is grappling with the promise and pitfalls of higher education and where our priorities lie. Stoecker (2016) calls for a re-prioritization of civic engagement in higher education, decentering student learning for social change. Which, based both on my training in UConn’s HESA Program and my work with with Public Engagement, has fundamentally challenged my beliefs about this work.
At first, I grappled with the seemingly paradoxical nature of this. How we can prioritize social change over student learning, especially as educational institutions? Yet, this is a false choice: social change or student learning. It can be both, it’s just more challenging, and requires more courage from us as educators, researchers, and community members to get into the mess. At the heart of Stoecker’s book is the idea the sociological concept of “knowledge-power” asserting that our role as academics is to expand who has access the power to create knowledge by including community members into our own knowledge production through our teaching, learning, and research. What then, could triangulating academicians, students, and community members in the knowledge production process mean for social change? That is the question I’ll leave with, because that is where our course is.
Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) is a learning philosophy grounded in the Socrative and Deweyan educational theories that centers “learners constructing knowledge through active investigation” (Jennings, 2010). IBL was born out of science education (see diagram to right), focusing on the scientific method. The specific of this model are: (a) orientation to concepts, (b) conceptualization of main course ideas to generate hypothesis, (c) investigation through the scientific method, (d) development of conclusions, and (e) discussion of findings through communication and reflection (Pedaste, et al., 2015).
Instructors determine the level of structure provided throughout this process and tends to be dependent on the developmental needs of students. Generally, IBL falls into three primary classifications based on the level of structure provided by the instructor: problem-based (least structured, students create inquiry), project-based (moderately-structured, faculty scaffold inquiry), and case-base teaching (most-structured, faculty control inquiry) (Adimoto, Goodyear, Bliuc, & Elli, 2013; Mills & Treagust 2003; Prince & Felder 2007). Structure refers to the level control students have in establishing their inquiry projects. An important feature of inquiry-based learning is that teachers and staff are “co-learners” who engage in instruction and creation of new knowledge through their research on teaching with IBL.
Scholars within the teaching and learning field have critiqued minimally-structured IBL for not recognizing that students are often novices with content, and therefore are unable to cognize both the content and the process of IBL in an effective and efficient manner (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Additional critiques of IBL assert that not all students’ learning styles are honored through IBL (Healy Kneale, & Bradbeer, 2005). However, most research and discussion on IBL is focused on its applications within the K-12 education system, making both the relevance and critiques limited within the context of higher education.
Inquiry Based Learning in Higher Education
Aditomo et al. (2013) identified eight primary forms of Inquiry Based Learning in Higher Education that vary along dimensions of both research applicability and practice/content orientation. The eight forms identified are: role playing, enactment of practice, applied research, simulated applied research, discussion-based inquiry, lecture-based inquiry, simplified research, and scholarly research. The focus on the research process and scholarly projects noted above aligns with the larger goals of higher education, to both create new knowledge and prepare students for lifelong inquiry (Sproken-Smith, Matthews, & Angelo, 2007). Brew (2012) documented the need for instructing faculty to strengthen the links between teaching and scholarship by using an integrative model that has striking similarities to Inquiry Based Learning, showing the potential for IBL to serve as an effective to blend instruction and research. Implementation of this synergy within higher education occurs on various scales, with individual class projects as the granular level to entire institutional cultures such as Hampshire College (Justice, Rice, Roy, Hudspith, & Jenkins, 2009).
The United States, the movement toward integrated teaching and learning came into the national spotlight with both “Scholarship Reconsidered” (Boyer, 1990) and The Boyer Commission’s “Reinventing Undergraduate Education” (1998). In the latter publication, Inquiry Based Learning is emphasized numerous times through curricular recommendations focused on Research-Based Learning, Inquiry Based First Year Experiences, Capstone Experiences, and a general reprioritization synergy between teaching and research within the faculty reward systems. Specific studies of Inquiry Based Learning in Higher Education are minimal, with most published scholarship focusing on case studies with little empirical data.
Service Learning as IBL
Absent from nearly literature on Inquiry Based Learning is the alignment between IBL and service learning. Service Learning is defined as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities” (The Carnegie Foundation). Service learning is based on Dewyan philosophies of education, with a learning process grounded in Kolb’s model of experiential learning. Scholars have identified three primary forms of service learning: direct service learning, indirect service learning, and advocacy based service learning (Furco, 1996). In direct service learning, students are placed into community sites and come in contact with people and service, whereas indirect service learning involves less contact with community members and service is often performed through full or partial research projects. Advocacy/Civic Action service learning is indirect and action-oriented, often with an emphasis on changing public policy or educating the general public or specific stakeholders around a community-partner identified issue.
Based on the definition of Inquiry Based Learning established above, certain features of service learning must be included for Service Learning to fall within Inquiry Based Learning. The most ambiguous form of service learning, Direct Service Learning, may not be inclusive of the investigatory nature of IBL. While direct service activities such as office support at a non-profit provides a rich learning environment, if the service experience is not grounded in exploration of academic questions created or co-created by the student, IBL is not met. Indirect service learning is more likely to align with IBL as students often engage on a research driven project with parameters established by their instructors and community partners. While the most extreme believers in IBL would find limitations based on the students’ more limited ability to shape their inquiry, the method, process, and applicability of this form of service learning fall in line with problem-based inquiry.
Moreover, indirect service learning experience often fit into a variety of disciplines and student learning experiences including capstones, community-based action research, service internships, and problem-based service learning (Heffernan, 2001). Many of these iterations of service learning follow the research progression described in the Inquiry Based Learning Process. One strong alignment between Service Learning and IBL is that the service learning experience creates opportunity to maximize the integration of teaching and scholarship for faculty, by conducting research with students and community partners through community engaged scholarship (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995). However, intentional effort must be made by faculty who are seeking to bridge learning and scholarship with community partners to prevent exploitation and assure a relevant and reciprocal partnership.
One area of limitation between the two theories is the focus of learning as noted in the discussion above. IBL prioritizes student learning, whereas SL requires that instructor balance competing interests between students and community partners’ needs, ultimately limiting the level of control students’ have over their projects and experiences. Another major difference between the two learning philosophies is their orientation toward social justice. Service learning, as a scholarly field, is moving toward a social justice oriented approach toward instruction (see Butin, 2015; Mitchell, 2008; Stoecker, 2016) whereas little within the specific literature on IBL is speaking to equity. On the whole, service learning allows for further alignment of teaching and scholarly practices and for integration of inquiry-based student learning.
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