Dreams and Innovations: Student Success and Service Learning

I just returned from two weeks of back-to-back conferences. West coast to east coast and back. I’m frazzled but ignited. That was a lot of travel and airports and sessions and workshops to take in. Ideas were swirling. My hope is that writing will help me process it all and clear my mind.

 Achieving the Dream: Orlando

Our college signed up last year for this national initiative aimed at improving equity and student success. Colleges learn how to identify gaps in achievement and tailor interventions that can impact the most students. The big push in the early stages is looking at disaggregated data (race, class, gender, for example), collecting new data, and engaging faculty.

What was I doing there? Well, I’m part of the college’s “Data Team.” Though we’re looking at the college as a whole (success rates in classes, persistence rates from term to term, etc.), I’m interested in the library’s role in success and retention. It is obvious to me what the library’s role is in student engagement and in connection to the college as a whole. I hear about all the innovative things librarians are doing in the areas of orientation and first week/first year experience programs to get students engaged and connected early on. It seems less clear and obvious (to me) how to concretely link the library to college success overall—how to correlate library use (book checkouts & database sessions, studying in the library, reference transactions) concretely to increased success numbers. One place to start (and we are just starting to do this) would be to compare student grades in classes where there was intense library support to student grades in classes where there wasn’t.

 Innovations: Anaheim

I flew back to California to attend Innovations 2014. The League for Innovation in the Community College puts on this conference annually and there were many inspiring forums and round table discussions. By day two I reached an oversaturation point, unable to focus on all the concepts swirling in my head. One idea took root, though: Service learning. I’ve heard of this concept before but it really clicked for me at the conference. What a wonderful way to empower students and encourage community and civic engagement! For those new to the concept, it was explained to me as a pedagogy where opportunities for community service are built into classes and programs. I’m excited to try this out in the Info Competency course I teach—perhaps having the class create a resource list for a local business.

I’d love to hear about other ways Service learning is being built into your classes!

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