Developing a Model for Engaged Scholarship: Faculty Theories of Campus Community Collaboration in Service-Learning Partnerships
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This study explores faculty theories of service-learning as a teaching methodology in higher education. While there has been considerable increase in the understanding of how service-learning positively impacts students, there is a shortage of research on faculty experiences utilizing service-learning pedagogy. Because it is known that faculty involvement and commitment is essential to implementing groundbreaking forms of curricula and pedagogy, this research seeks to better understand faculty perspectives of campus community collaboration in service-learning partnerships. The study investigated faculty engaged in service-learning and used a multiple case study design involving descriptive qualitative methods rooted in faculty perspectives utilizing constant comparative analysis and coding in the tradition of grounded theory. Data consisted of interviews, course materials, and documents related to community placement protocol at one large Pacific-Northwest university. Findings across five research questions, which supported previous studies, established that faculty utilizing service-learning pedagogy are motivated by their adherence to values of social justice, individual awareness of positive student outcomes, and dedication to civic responsibility by meeting community defined needs through educational practices. Two new findings, which can augment the research literature, are (a) the perceived role that institutionally supported outreach to the community could play in restoring public trust, exhibiting genuine awareness of community need, and benefiting the overall credibility of the institutional mission and (b) the identification of faculty tacit theories of why community partners fade away during the student placement and perceived best practices for addressing the problem. Faculty’s identification of perceived barriers to implementing and sustaining service-learning pedagogy supported previous research and suggested a new finding that while excellence in pedagogical practices existed within the institution, lack of a centrally supported mechanism for collaboration may have thwarted growth of innovative and beneficial strategies. Research-to-practice suggestions include prospective policy implications for faculty who utilize service-learning in courses or would like to cultivate the professional potential to include a scholarship of engagement into their teaching strategies. Faculty theories of best practices and policy improvements for service-learning pedagogy delineated in the study have potential utility for entities who develop, initiate, organize, and support innovative campus community collaboration.