Monday, March 21, 2016

The World Classroom: Experience of Learning at LCC, Part 1

Last night I caught a vision of what experiential, hands-on education can look like. For three hours, in the Centre for Engage Inclusion, I met with Patty Ayers, Kamar Hamilton, Paul Hernandez, Anne Heutsche, and Kali Mujamdar, and we learned how effective student learning happens through a Service Learning paradigm and application. 

Service Learning is not new, but it remains a unique pedagogy that uses student community involvement and activity to achieve specific learning objectives in a given academic course. While it may appear similar to community service, Service Learning is not simply about helping people and communities in need, important as that may be. Rather, it’s about learning how to integrate and translate traditionally classroom-bound academic study into the broader social, political, and economic environment. 

Ayers, Heutsche, and Mujamdar have been teaching and talking about Service Learning for a while now. With the arrival of Paul Hernandez, LCC’s Chief Diversity Officer, new blood is reinvigorating old efforts. Hernandez has a history of working with at-risk K-12 populations, inspiring them to imagine themselves succeeding in college and university contexts, and teaching them practical skills that can turn higher-education aspirations into reality. 

As I write, Service Learning is gaining precious momentum at LCC and in the broader Lansing area. We are cultivating connections with Eastern, Grand Ledge, and Eaton Rapids High Schools, for example, by training our sociology and history students to work with at-risk students at those schools. Our students develop the skills they need in Service Learning workshops to communicate effectively with Eastern students about the possibilities of their academic careers beyond high school. The high school students, in turn, provide important information that the LCC students can use to further their research activities—ethnographies and local histories, e.g. 

When I expressed some reservations that perhaps my writing and literature courses were not quite right for Service Learning, interested though I was, Hernandez reassured me that “Service Learning is for everybody.” There is not an academic discipline imaginable that can’t be turned in the direction of Service Learning. Neither does such pedagogy need only deal with other educational institutions. When it comes to Service Learning, the world is our oyster, and the only limits lie in the imagination itself. 

In future blogs, we will continue to explore advantages of ‘experiential’, active education, and how it can be used to advance higher education here at LCC and beyond. 

If you would like to discuss Service Learning, contact Tim Deines at or stop by the CTE, TLC Room 324.