Vincent Tinto’s Schema for Dropout From College, posits “it is the individual's integration into the academic and social systems of the college that most directly relates to his continuance in that college” (96). I have sought to improve student integration through group-centric, community-engaged learning classes, where we spend nearly half our class time serving in the community.
These community-engaged learning courses entail a fair amount of group work. Students are assigned in groups that serve together, do in-class group assignments together, and work on multifaceted group projects. Their time spent outside the classroom serving together, be it driving to a school to read with elementary school kids, or pulling carrots from the campus farm, allows students to opportunity to form deep and meaningful connections with their peers, many of which may have very different beliefs and experiences.
It feels radical to “give up” half our class time traditionally used for covering course content, but the things they are learning as they serve are equally as important as the things we learn when we talk about literature, linguistics, or composition. When I transitioned my ENGL205 Literature and the Moral Imagination class to a community-engaged learning course, we went from simply talking about inequity—particularly in regards to racial inequality—to doing work to improve outcomes for our community members by ensuring they have access to healthy foods. Service learning brings to life our student learning outcomes and allows us to fulfil Xavier’s mission of practicing service rooted in justice and love.
Steckl, Sheena, "Engaging Students in Community" (2023). Celebration of Teaching. 3.