Learning from Community: Community Outcome Assessment Best Practices and Insights in Global Service-Learning

We write to share an upcoming opportunity at the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement Annual Conference. This year the conference takes place November 6 – 8 in Omaha, Nebraska. One of the pre-conference sessions, which will take place from 9 – 3 on Wednesday, November 6th, will focus on community impact assessment in global service-learning. As you know, this is an incredibly important area in which we all have room to grow. Check out the description below and register here. We hope you can join us.


Eric Hartman, Providence College
Richard Kiely, Cornell University
Cynthia Toms Smedley, Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns
Nora Reynolds, Temple University
Mireille Cronin Mather, Foundation for Sustainable Development
Micah Gregory, Amizade Global Service-Learning

Session Description:
Despite the increased attention to and burgeoning participation in Global Service Learning (GSL), there has been very little effort to systematically determine how well and in what ways short-term, immersive volunteerism and various forms of global service-learning contribute positively to community development (Ruiz, Warchal, Chapdelaine, & Wells, 2010).  While reciprocity, partnership, and respect for community are salient within the mission of GSL (Chisolm, 2003; Kiely & Nielsen, 2004) and many of these programs consider participatory approaches in their program design (i.e., working with and not for communities), there remains very little research to evaluate its actual effects on host communities. Thus, the ethical practice of global service learning and global volunteerism requires participants and institutions to examine their potential impacts on host communities, particularly in developing country settings, and devise methods of research that capture the experience and voice of the community.

This workshop will: (1) share current lessons learned on community impact assessments within the fields of service-learning and international development, and (2) offer participants the opportunity to collaboratively workshop, advance, and strengthen their own research and evaluation designs for community impact assessment within immersive global service-learning programs. The day will begin by demonstrating how four recent global service-learning research and evaluation efforts were developed (Cronin Mather, 2013; Hartman & Chaire, 2012; Toms Smedley, 2013; Reynolds, 2013), how they drew from insights from the service-learning field as well as from other fields (i.e., community and economic development, engineering), and lessons learned through their implementation and iterative improvements. The session will turn quickly to how this leading edge research supports, complicates, or negates assumptions regarding best practices in global service-learning (Bringle, Hatcher, & Jones, 2011; Hartman, Kiely, Friedrichs, & Boettcher, 2013) and then focus the majority of the time in the afternoon on how workshop attendees can develop their own partnership evaluations, drawing on established best practices, new insights, and rubrics developed specifically for global service-learning research.

As a result of the session, participants will be able to:

1.      Describe and explain diverse research methods and pedagogical tools for assessing how global and immersive service-learning programs impact communities in a variety of contexts;

2.      Identify how approaches to community engaged research can be used to assess community needs and assets, evaluate program impact and inform policy; and

3.      Design a research and/or community assessment plan in collaboration with fellow participants and facilitators.


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