engaging students in macro issues through community-based learning

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of North Texas]On: 09 November 2014, At: 07:38Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of Teaching in SocialWorkPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wtsw20

    Engaging Students in MacroIssues Through Community-Based LearningPaul Sather MSW, ABD a , Barbara Weitz MPA, MSW,ABD b & Patricia Carlson MSW, ABD ba School of Social Work, University of Nebraska ,Omaha, USAb School of Social Work , University of Nebraska ,Omaha, USAPublished online: 08 Sep 2008.

    To cite this article: Paul Sather MSW, ABD , Barbara Weitz MPA, MSW, ABD & PatriciaCarlson MSW, ABD (2007) Engaging Students in Macro Issues Through Community-Based Learning, Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 27:3-4, 61-79, DOI: 10.1300/J067v27n03_05

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J067v27n03_05

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Engaging Students in Macro IssuesThrough Community-Based Learning:

    The Policy, Practice,and Research Sequence

    Paul SatherBarbara Weitz

    Patricia Carlson

    ABSTRACT. This paper describes the revision of a curriculum that wasinitiated to engage and sustain students interest in the macro dimensionof social work practice. Specifically, we describe how two junior policycourses, a senior macro practice course, and a research methods course wererevised to include a service learning approach. This article provides a re-view of the literature and focuses on the development of service learningin two social work courses. Results of subsequent research are discus-sed, indicating service learning provides successful opportunities to en-gage students in macro social work practice. doi:10.1300/J067v27n03_05[Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Ser-vice: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: 2007 by The Haworth Press, Inc.All rights reserved.]

    KEYWORDS. Curriculum, service learning, macro practice

    Paul Sather, MSW, ABD, is Associate Director of the School of Social Work, Uni-versity of Nebraska, Omaha (E-mail: psather@mail.unomaha.edu).

    Barbara Weitz (E-mail: pcarlson@mail.unomaha.edu), MPA, MSW, ABD, andPatricia Carlson (E-mail: bweitz@mail.unomaha.edu), MSW, ABD, are affiliated withthe School of Social Work, University of Nebraska, Omaha.

    Journal of Teaching in Social Work, Vol. 27(3/4) 2007Available online at http://jtsw.haworthpress.com

    2007 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1300/J067v27n03_05 61

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  • INTRODUCTION

    In theory, completion of an education in social work produces a socialwork practitioner who understands how social work research, social wel-fare policy, and social work practice are interrelated. This notion is thefocus of attention on vertical and horizontal integration that guides theCouncil on Social Work Educations evaluation of social work curric-ula, and is the essence of what it means to be a generalist practitioner. Yet,is this desired synthesis of the core elements of generalist practice morean assumption than an actual programmatic outcome?

    The research suggests that this consolidation of the core componentsof social work education by social work students is far from a certainty.A number of authors (Black, Jeffreys, & Harley, 1993; Midgley, 1993;Mosca, 1998; Rompf & Royce, 1994) note that while students are ofteneager to acquire the skills necessary for the direct practice dimension ofgeneralist practice, they are less enthusiastic about the curriculum com-ponents dedicated to social welfare policy analysis, macro practice, andresearch. Kasper and Wiegand (1999) highlight the reluctance of socialwork students to embrace macro content in the curriculum and, also, thelimitations of existing teaching methodologies utilized to acquaint stu-dents with the theory and skill base of macro social work practice. Gilbertand Terrell (2002) express concerns that the knowledge base for socialwelfare policy is often fragmented and does not offer the immediacyand realities of day-to-day social work practice.

    These findings mirror the experience of the authors. Students in re-search, macro practice, and policy courses often have indicated to theauthors that they were failing to make connections between research, pol-icy, and practice. These gaps in students learning were also reflected incourse evaluations. In exit surveys, graduating students typically rankedpolicy, macro practice, and research courses among the least valuableof their educational experiences.

    In an effort to respond to these less than ideal programmatic outcomes,a service learning approach was incorporated into two junior level pol-icy courses, a senior level macro practice course, and a senior level re-search methods course. This article provides a review of the literatureand focuses on the development of service learning in two social workcourses. After integrating service learning projects in two courses, anevaluation was done with the students, the faculty, the university, and thecommunity agency. Results are discussed, indicating service learning pro-vides successful opportunities to engage students work at the macro level.

    62 JOURNAL OF TEACHING IN SOCIAL WORK

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  • LITERATURE REVIEW

    Service learning is an innovative teaching modality which seeks tointegrate students learning in the classroom, with a practical applica-tion of community service. The definition of service learning we use inour program, as adopted by the Service Learning Academy at the Uni-versity of Nebraska at Omaha, states:

    Service learning integrates community service with academic study.Typically, professors design service-learning projects in partner-ship with representatives of community organizations, planningactivities that will meet genuine needs in the community and advancethe students understanding of course content. In the communitysetting, students work under the supervision of community agencystaff; on campus, they reflect on that experience, considering its re-lationship to their reading and research as well as its impact on theirpersonal values and professional goals.

    Our experiences with courses already conducted using a service learn-ing model confirmed Guarascis (1997) observation that service learningengages students in: experiential, active, and collaborative learning; in-tensive writing and reading; ethical and value-centered education; peerlearning; and integration of the community as a laboratory. This activelearning approach tests students knowledge and skills of community-based practice and creates an environment for developing greater socialawareness, civic responsibility, and a service identity (Bok, 1990; Boyer,1990; Elliott, 1994; Greiner, 1994; Kezar, 2002).

    Educators and practitioners agree that students completing an under-graduate degree in social work should be able to intervene strategicallywith individual clients as well as competently assess social problems inthe larger community and collaborate with others to respond to them.Thus, social work education offers an excellent opportunity to integrateservice learning and community-based learning into a curriculum.

    The research of Kasper and Wiegand (1999) not only highlights thereluctance of social work students to embrace macro content in the cur-riculum, but also notes the limitations of existing teaching methodolo-gies utilized to acquaint students with the theory and skill base of macrosocial work practice. As Iacono-Harris and Nuccio (1987) state, the taskthen, is to challenge students to s