Faculty Author Talks: Reconceptualizing Faculty Development in Service-Learning/Community Engagement

Written by Sophia LaCortiglia, Service-Learning Graduate Assistant

On Tuesday, October 9th, Dr. Becca Berkey, Director of Service-Learning at Northeastern kicked off this semester’s Faculty Author Talk series with a vivacious description of her latest publication “Reconceptualizing Faculty Development in Service-Learning/Community Engagement,” a book that delves into the intersection between educational/faculty development professionals and service-learning/community engagement professionals. The talk was interactive, encouraging the audience to think critically about their preconceived notions about educational development and service-learning/community engagement.

To start, Dr. Berkey explained the process for how this book came to be, and noted how many professionals collaborated to create the final product. The book uses qualitative methodological approaches, namely emergent design, collaborative inquiry, scholarly personal narrative and transpersonal and heuristic research. These approaches were used to set up a question and answer format, so that it would apply the widest range of readers, namely in the target audience of service-learning and educational professionals.

The book begins by inviting readers to reflect on a transformative experience they had in their professional, personal, or educational history. This experience is then broken down, and the book directs readers to notice the intersectional nature of the experience. For example, the book draws out the question of how that experience relates to the values that the reader currently places on education, or how that experience shaped the reader’s consciousness of identity. That experience, and its effects on the reader, are further expanded upon in Parts 1 through 4 of the book.

Part 1 speaks to the “messy and complex” nature of service-learning and community engagement. The two interact with each other in multiple ways, creating a tangled web of interconnectivity that Dr. Berkey helps readers navigate through with visuals. The complex nature of who a service-learning/community engagement professional will interact with and in what context is condensed to a chart, differentiating between the different groups and organizations. This section of the book helps the reader develop a much deeper understanding of the balance needed to operate successfully as a service-learning/community engagement professional.

Part 2 builds off of this deeper understanding, and starts showing readers various models for faculty development. This section of the book is a toolkit for service-learning/community engagement professionals, as it contains examples of course models, resources for faculty support, and a cost-benefit analysis that measures the money, time, and effort that one would realistically need to invest in a faculty development project. Also included in this part are case studies from various higher education institutions, covering methods of support for professional development to examples of mission driven, low-cost, and creative practices that service-learning/community engagement professionals can use.

Part 3 looks further into the challenges in pedagogy and partnership within service-learning and community engagement. The book is a great resource for more professionals from all different disciplines who interact with service-learning and community engagement, and this area of the book explains how those various disciplines can also benefit from these opportunities. There are course designs from STEM fields, for example, as well as from large class sizes. These examples are coupled with a breakdown of specific elements of a service-learning/community engagement partnership, identifying the best ways to ground course design in impactful and meaningful community practices.

The final part of the book, Part 4, shapes the changes that are happening in educational development, going into detail on specific changes and explaining how they all work to better service-learning and community engagement. Topics such as community engaged scholarship, scholarship of teaching and learning, and scholarship of engagement are explained and discussed, and the book encourages readers to bring about these changes in their own experiences with service-learning and community engagement.

Dr. Berkey summed up the book by encouraging the audience to do the same, and to think critically about the ways that service-learning and community engagement can impact a variety of disciplines and fields of study. Aside from being an excellent tool for professionals to use when developing their own service-learning/community engagement methods, the book is also informative for students navigating through their own educational experiences and interactions with service-learning and community engagement. As a student myself, I am interested to see how my newly expanded knowledge in service-learning and community engagement can not only help my community, but also how it can impact my own learning experiences.

Missed Becca’s talk? Check out her presentation slides here or buy the book here!

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