Friday, October 29, 2010

Can Students Speak Out for Change? Advocacy and Dissemination with Transformational Learning

Transformational learning combines the insights that students derive from community-based service-learning with principles of social justice. Students not only learn about societal inequalities when professors use this approach to teaching, but students also use lessons learned in the course and field to become agents of change.

There are many ways in which students in transformational learning classes can disseminate their knowledge or advocate for policies to create greater equality for people who are often disenfranchised. Importantly, students’ first-hand interactions at their community sites provide them with a potent tool – individual stories – that can promote advocacy.

For example, students can write or meet with their elected officials to share how social policies and inequities impact the people whom students assist at their service-learning sites. Students can also use transformational learning to raise public awareness about the plight of those who are disenfranchised and inspire others to act.

As an example, transformational service-learning was a cornerstone of Youth Violence Seminar and Outreach offered by Dr. Steven Meyers in the Department of Psychology. The course addressed youth violence, its causes, and programs that reduce its occurrence. This class incorporated an advocacy service-learning experience, in which undergraduates each spent 25 hours in Chicago neighborhoods conducting interviews to explore youth violence. Students then used the information they gathered to heighten awareness and to promote social change regarding the issue by contacting their legislators, writing to newspapers, and developing Internet resources, which you can see in this posting.

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