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The Transformative Potential of Experiential Education in Montana and Beyond Daisy Rooks Department of Sociology University of Montana.

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Presentation on theme: "The Transformative Potential of Experiential Education in Montana and Beyond Daisy Rooks Department of Sociology University of Montana."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Transformative Potential of Experiential Education in Montana and Beyond Daisy Rooks Department of Sociology University of Montana

2 Overview What is service learning? Case study: SOCI 442 Challenges of service learning – For students & instructors The transformative potential of experiential education

3 What is service learning? Experiential education is a philosophy…in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities. – Association for Experiential Education

4 What is service learning? A method of teaching and learning in which students, faculty and community partners work together to enhance student learning by applying academic knowledge in a community-based setting. Student work addresses the needs of the community…while meeting instructional objectives through faculty-structured service work and critical reflection…At its best, service learning enhances and deepens students’ understanding of an academic discipline by facilitating the integration of theory and practice, while providing them with experience that develops life skills and engages them in critical reflection about individual, institutional, and social ethics. – University of Montana

5 Case study: SOCI 442 Course – SOCI 442: Inequality and Social Justice Service Learning: Hunger and Homelessness – Taught in collaboration with Poverello Center – Spring 2010 to present Taught 5 times

6 Case study: SOCI 442 Students – Between 8-12 – Undergraduates with one graduate student – Rigorous application process

7 Cause study: SOCI hour weekly seminar Sessions on: Poverty, hunger, homelessness, policy, research methods Academic content 39 hours 3 hours per week Reflection Written, verbal Service Qualitative Ethnographic fieldnotes 7 to 13 sets Semi-structured interviews Research

8 Challenges of service learning For students – Time-intensive – Biases/assumptions often get in the way – Challenging to take initiative – Difficulty managing uncomfortable situations

9 Challenges of service learning For students: Managing uncomfortable situations – “S walked back to the other side of the kitchen and the younger gentleman drying dishes turned his attention to me. He asked if I was a student and I told him I was…He then made a quick switch of topics and asked if I’ve ever seen a play at the university. I told him I used to watch plays all the time, but haven’t been in a year or so. The man nodded his head and all his attention was on me. I got the feeling that he could hardly wait for me to finish my sentence because he was so excited to agree with me. At that moment I began thinking the man may have a disability. He was extremely friendly, but something just was not connecting. I can’t really put my finger on it. The man then began [talking about] how great the plays are. He then stammered out, “Do you want to go with me sometime?” Student fieldnote 2012

10 Challenges of service learning For students: Managing uncomfortable situations – “This question took me completely off guard. I paused for a second trying to think of the appropriate response. There was no threatening manner about him and I don’t even know if he was inappropriately asking me out or just wanted to go see a play. After getting my thoughts together I responded with a simple, “No, I don’t think so.” The man smiled and nodded his head and returned to drying the dishes. The disconnect was still there and I was not sure where to go with the conversation, so I just kind of smiled and awkwardly walked out of the room.” Student fieldnote 2012

11 Challenges of service learning For instructors – Time-intensive – Emotional labor – Collaborating with agencies

12 Transformative potential How can experiential education: – Help students understand the root causes of social problems? – Challenge students’ preconceived notions? – Help students envision solutions to social problems?

13 Understand root causes Do you stay here at the Pov? I try not to. Why is that? I have PTSD. I have problems with people, I have almost been choked to death, so people touching me around my neck…I can go off bad…I have almost been stabbed in my stomach a few times while I’ve been on the street, so anyone touching me around my stomach…I am very sensitive to it and I will snap, you know. Interview with “Doc”

14 Challenge preconceived notions “A blonde woman was sitting on the couch opposite of the doorway. I noticed immediately that she had long French manicured nails. C did not introduce me by name, but instead said simply ‘If you don’t mind, she will be sitting in and observing how we do our screenings.’ The blonde woman nodded her head, and with a wave of the hand said ‘that’s fine with me’…I have to admit upon seeing her nails, I thought ‘what a waste of money!’” – Student fieldnote 2012

15 Challenge preconceived notions “The woman revealed that she had filed several orders of protection, but her husband never followed them and she was too scared to call the police. She decided to run with both her daughter and son. After a month, her daughter’s father found out she was homeless with his child, so he went through child protective services and gained custody of the daughter. She was really angry about this and with a loud voice and gesturing wildly with her hands said ‘This man never, NEVER, showed any interest in being a father before. He never even came to visit her. My daughter should be with ME, not HIM.’ She looked down and was gently touching her manicured nails with her fingers. She said sadly ‘the last time I saw my daughter I gave us both manicures. We deserved a day to relax together’…After she said that I felt incredibly sad and guilty that that thought had even crossed my mind.” – Student fieldnote 2012

16 Envision solutions “It’s interesting to me what is donated [to the food pantry]. A couple things I picked up weren’t even expired. A lot of the things on the shelf had passed their “Best by” date…It was amazing the great stuff they had in there. It was amazing to me that it wasn’t all gone. All sorts of varieties of chips, canned veggies, cereals, even some organic broths, granola and things.” Student fieldnotes 2011

17 Envision solutions “No Relationships for Residents; Community for Campers” “Unique Challenges of People Experiencing Homelessness with Mental Illnesses” Experience of being homelessness “Poetry at the Poverello: A Look at Therapeutic Exchange and Intellectual Engagement Among the Homeless” “A Shelter from Privacy and Freedom” Shelter policies, programs “Homelessness and Stigma: A Look Inside The Poverello Center “The Costs of Chronic Alcoholism on the Homeless and Missoula” “Friend or foe: Exploring How the Family Contributes to or Ameliorates Homelessness” Causes and consequences


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