Service-Learning Office Announces Fall 2018 SLIM Report Findings
By Patricia Cason
Each semester, VCU’s Service-Learning office invites students enrolled in a service-learning class to participate in the Service-Learning Impact Measure (SLIM) evaluation. The survey asks for their feedback on the service-learning course they completed that semester and helps improve future service-learning courses at VCU. During the fall 2018 semester, 453 students responded to the survey, which encompasses questions about academic learning, civic learning and career readiness.
Key findings indicated that most service-learning students believe that their service-learning classes helped them apply their personal and classroom learning to new situations. Results from the 2017-18 SLIM evalation showed that 87 percent of service-learners believed their service-learning course allowed them to apply their personal skills and knowledge to new situations, and more than 80 percent agreed that their service-learning course enabled them to recognize how theories and conceptual models could be applied in real world situations.
One respondent, Gwendolyn Rogone, described how she was able to apply the skills she developed as an English major to teach students in her service-learning course. Rogone served as an undergraduate teaching assistant (UTA) in Assistant Professor Mary Lou Hall’s UNIV 200 class in the fall semester. The UTA positions are given to students who are successful in their Focused Inquiry courses, and UTAs take a service-learning course, UNIV 291, as part of the position.
“I was able to talk to students, both individually and within a group, about sources, the importance of not including bias within their own work, and also help them talk about the subjects they were writing about and topics that should be included within their papers,” Rogone said. “This service-learning course taught me the importance of being able to communicate with students, and the importance of leadership but also knowing when to let others lead, and to just step back.”
Many service-learning courses also focus on developing students’ civic engagement, promoting awareness of social issues and active and informed citizenship. The 2017-18 SLIM report found that 77 percent of service-learners described their service-learning class as raising their awareness of local, state, national or global issues that need to be addressed, and 75 percent said their service-learning class helped them become a more active and informed citizen.
Sam Taylor, a sophomore Interdisciplinary Studies major with a focus in human-centered design, focused on empowering Richmond residents to get involved in the community in his service-learning class. In fall 2018, Taylor took “Middle of Broad” (better known as “mOb”), a class taught collaboratively by instructors Kristin Caskey, Sandy Wheeler, and Camden Whitehead.
In the mOb class, service-learning students from the mOb design lab collaborated with community partner, Storefront for Community Design, to create posters and print media to illustrate the concept of Tactical Urbanism and its applications in Richmond.
“Tactical Urbanism is a term that covers a multitude of low-cost projects that make long term, impactful changes to community spaces,” Taylor said. “Our goal with the collection was to empower Richmond residents to get involved with their neighbors and local government.”
In addition to helping community members, Taylor said he’d highly recommend the course to other VCU students. “It isn't for artists, it's for everyone,” Taylor said. “We all should have our hand in the process of community design, and Middle of Broad offers a great first step to the cross-section of service-learning and design.”