Abstract




Exploring the Intersections of Interdisciplinary Teaching, Experiential Learning, and Community Engagement: A Case Study of Service Learning in Practice

Jennifer Culhane
Virginia Tech
(jculhane@vt.edu)

Kim Niewolny
Virginia Tech
(niewolny@vt.edu)

Susan Clark
Virginia Tech
(sfclark@vt.edu)

Sarah Misyak
Virginia Tech
(smisyak@vt.edu)


Abstract:
In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called for more interdisciplinary and community-engaged approaches to teaching and learning in the agricultural and life sciences to better respond to the food system challenges of the 21st century. As a result, institutions from across the nation have responded with a number of experiential learning and service-learning frameworks and practices aimed to enhance the academic experience for both student and community stakeholders. Sustainable agriculture education, with its explicit focus on experiential learning, interdisciplinarity, and values-based programming, has emerged as a promising approach to strengthen the fabric of agriculture and life sciences education. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the complex role of service learning as a central approach to undergraduate teaching and learning where interdisciplinary teaching, experiential learning, and community engagement are core goals. Specifically, we conducted a single embedded case study of a sustainable agriculture education program at a land grant university to explore how this triad was organized and possible service learning outcomes. Our case study was informed by semi-structured interviews of faculty and community partner stakeholders, participant observations of faculty and students, and secondary data analysis of course syllabi and other programmatic artifacts. Despite different understandings and practices of service learning by faculty within this, we found a common core of best practices. We conclude with criteria and best practices to guide teaching and learning from this triad perspective.






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