TED Conversations

Kamren Kubesh

Organizer @ TEDxUMN, Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A.


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Can education utilize the "community issues" as learning experiences through problem solving, while simultaneously providing a service?

This question is pulled from a concept I have been struggling with in higher education. I have been trying to develop strategies to solve this divide between the education and local communities. There are many real-world experiences that could be taken advantage of by educators and students by providing a service to the community.

Do you have any examples, ideas, or thoughts?

More recently I found some text in a book called Pattern Language, where there is a small mention of how some are placing the public and education together. I by not means support the ideas/events mentioned, but use it as a conversation starter. Text stated below:

Network of Learning
"Carnegie Commission reports, the last year has brought forth a series of important documents which show that responsible people are becoming aware of the fact that schooling for certification cannot continue to be counted upon as the central educational device of a modern society. Julius Nyere of Tanzania has announced plans to integrate education with the life of the village. In Canada, the Wright Commission on post0-secondary education reported that no known system of formal education could provide equal opportunities for the citizens of Ontario. The president of Peru has accepted the recommendation of his commission on education, which proposes to abolish free schools in favor of free educational opportunities provided throughout life. In fact he is reported to have insisted that this program proceed slowly at first in order to keep teachers in school and out of the way of true educators."


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    Apr 8 2014: I'm not sure who Martin is, but I'll give it a go...haha.

    I'm not sure what the 'approval process' looks like from place to place, but it was a 24 hour turn around for our request for a 3-hour service learning course. Literally submitted a proposal, and it was accepted within the next 24 hours, and we offered the course the following Spring. Some may be more or less cumbersome, but at a Big 10, Research 1 institution, It was actually pretty easy.

    Part of the problem is that it isn't always something that needs to occur 'in the classroom.' But, in terms of what can be controlled, there are many faculty in fields that COULD be taking a service-learning approach, but simply aren't. Faculty aren't rewarded through promotion & tenure by pedagogy, practice, or student learning -- it's research at this level that has weight. And, a lot of research has a lot of public value. That said, students struggle to find these things on their own, largely because the demands on their time take them many different places. Some of the most motivated students to make a difference in community often times have the most aggressive curricular and co-curricular schedules. It takes resources for faculty and staff to develop programs that work with these schedules, and then these programs then have to demonstrate that their are high impact and students are learning.

    I also think that there are a lot of faculty who simply aren't comfortable with that pedagogy -- and monitoring service work and interfacing with community members is more time consuming than 'traditional classes.' If it's not rewarded in the process, it's hard for a Department Head to justify. That said, there are some GREAT examples of folks who are doing experiential learning on a broad scale (http://vimeo.com/68388753, for instance) that could be examples of how to replicate the learning and provide community capital as well.

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